There’s hope if Christmas over-indulgence leaves you with an unsightly spare tyre – because acupuncture on the ear will banish it, say researchers.
They found it helped overweight people slim down within eight weeks, especially around the midriff.
One treatment, which involves inserting needles 2mm deep on five points around the outer ear, was particularly effective at tackling a bulging waistline. But even targeting one spot termed the ‘hunger’ point produced results, they said.
Participants in a two-month study saw their body mass index (BMI) drop by up to 6 per cent and also had less body fat and a smaller waist, says a report published online in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine.
So-called auricular acupuncture therapy is based on the understanding that the outer ear represents all parts of the body.
It was first used in France in 1956 by Dr Paul Nogier, who noticed that a patient’s backache was cured following a burn to the ear.
In the UK, acupuncture may be offered as traditional Chinese therapy using needles at certain points on the body to boost energy or in a Westernised form of electro-stimulation to release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
Researchers at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, South Korea tested the traditional method on 91 overweight adults, who were all put on the same diet.
Almost a third dropped out before the eight weeks were up, 15 of whom were in the sham treatment group, suggesting they found it harder to regulate their hunger and cope with the restrictive diet, say the authors.
Among those who kept going there was a 6 per cent drop in BMI in the five-point group and 5.7 per cent in the one-point group.
Waist circumference fell, with the largest drop seen in the group on the five-point treatment. There were also significant differences after four weeks.
Previous research has suggested the treatment raises the metabolic rate, alters hormones or suppresses appetite by releasing natural painkillers.
But Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, said: ‘It is hard to think of a treatment that is less plausible than ear acupuncture.
‘Consulting an acupuncturist will reduce your cash but not your body weight.’