A couple of scientific studies back up the use of auricular acupuncture in weight loss. According to one study conducted at the University of Adelaide in Australia in 1998, "Acupuncture stimulates the auricular branch of the vagal nerve and raises serotonin levels, both of which have been shown to increase tone in the smooth muscle of the stomach, thus suppressing appetite." In this study, a group of 60 obese subjects were split into two groups, with only one of the groups receiving acupuncture treatment. The treatment consisted of a simultaneous stimulation of the Shen Men and Stomach points. The results showed that the acupuncture group was more likely to experience a reduced appetite and to lose weight than the control group. Another study published in the journal Medical Acupuncture in 2003 found similar results, with the experimental group losing three times more weight than the control group.
Skeptics point out that the placebo effect -- a term used to describe the phenomenon of something working because you believe it's going to work -- is an possible explanation for all of these positive results. Some of the more amusing skeptics offer up pain as the reason why ear stapling may result in weight loss -- if you've got a staple in your ear, you're going to be too focused on how much it stings to remember you want to eat.
Whether you think it's going to work or not, there are some things to keep in mind if you're thinking about giving ear stapling a shot. First, piercing anything on your body can lead to an infection, and piercing cartilage increases this risk. Also, piercing can be a big deal if you hit a nerve or other important body structure. So don't take the procedure lightly. Second, ear stapling is not well regulated (if it's regulated at all). Don't just walk into somebody's house who has a medical-looking setup and submit to getting stapled. Find someone who is a certified acupuncturist trained specifically in ear stapling. And most of all, remember that even the most ardent supporters of ear stapling say it works best if you also eat healthy and keep yourself active. It's likely that you'll achieve similar results if you leave out the staple and just focus on the food and exercise.
For more information on ear stapling, acupuncture, weight loss and related topics, see the next page.