Man’s Ear in Close Up

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TOKYO, Japan — In a new study, Japanese researchers have discovered an intriguing method that might help overweight individuals lose weight — a special form of ear acupuncture using tiny metal beads. This approach, according to the study, stimulated the outer ear of clinically obese men. After just three months, these men saw a reduction in their waist circumference by an average of four inches. Additionally, their body fat levels and body mass index (BMI) also dropped when they combined this treatment with a restricted diet.

This method of acupuncture doesn’t use traditional intradermal needles; instead, it employs simple metal beads.

“Since these tiny metal beads are attached to six points on the outer ear that stimulate nerves and organs which regulate appetite, satiety and hunger, this type of acupuncture does not require complex knowledge or skill,” says Dr. Takahiro Fujimoto from Clinic F in Tokyo, Japan in a media release.

The doctor further mentions that this method of weight loss has been utilized in Japan for more than 30 years. The principle behind this treatment stems from traditional Chinese medicine, which posits that the health of an individual is reliant on the flow of “qi” (or energy) within their body. This energy is believed to travel along invisible pathways, known as meridians, that are found throughout the body, including the ears. Disruption or blockage in the flow of qi can negatively impact physical and mental health.

ear beads to stimulate weight loss
Ear acupuncture using tiny beads – rather than traditional needles may help overweight people shed the pounds (Credit: SWNS)

Auricular (ear) acupuncture therapy operates on the theory that the outer ear represents all parts of the body. By placing thin needles or beads at certain points, typically along meridian lines, it is thought that the flow of qi can be restored, resolving any blockages or disruptions. This restoration is believed to assist with various health conditions. The technique has been previously employed to treat drug addiction, aid in smoking cessation, and facilitate weight loss.

Although the exact workings of this mechanism remain unclear, existing studies suggest that ear acupuncture may help regulate the endocrine system, modulate metabolism, enhance digestion, and mitigate oxidative stress. These potential benefits provide a scientific basis for the positive outcomes observed.

The study builds upon previous research involving overweight Japanese women, who, when treated with ear acupuncture using beads, lost significantly more weight than those who did not receive the treatment. Importantly, the women were able to maintain their weight loss for six months post-treatment.

Weight loss could be just 6 beads away

The new study involved 81 overweight or obese Japanese men, between 21 and 78 years-old, all of whom had high levels of unhealthy abdominal fat. These men had the 1.5-millimeter metal ear beads placed on six points of their outer ear. The beads were kept in place using surgical tape to maintain continuous, uniform pressure on each of the six acupuncture points.

The beads were replaced twice a week during hospital visits, and participants were given dietary guidance and weighed regularly. Participants were also asked to halve their total food intake during the three-month treatment period and keep a record of their meals in food diaries.

The study found substantial differences after three months, with participants losing an average of four inches off their waist circumference and four percent of total body fat. Measures of unhealthy abdominal body fat also fell, while BMI decreased by almost three from an average of 28.4 kg/m² to 25.5. These results underline the potential of this simple, bead-based ear acupuncture as a tool for weight loss.

“Our findings suggest that acupuncture on the ear may aid weight loss when paired with diet and exercise,” says Dr. Fujimoto. “It’s likely that acupuncture has a positive effect by curbing cravings and appetite, improving digestion, and boosting metabolism.”

The researchers are presenting their findings at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Dublin, Ireland.

South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.

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