If you've ever scrolled past an ad for ear seeds on Instagram, you might be a little skeptical. Plenty of people claim that putting these tiny magnets inside your ear can help with weight loss, along with a host of other ailments. But do they really work?
The answer might surprise you. While using ear magnets alone isn't going to help you drop a jean size, they could be a helpful supplement to a sustainable weight-loss plan, some experts say. Here's what you need to know.
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What Are Ear Magnets?
Ear magnets or ear seeds are tiny metallic balls or pellets used in acupressure, the traditional Chinese medicine practice of using points on the ear to stimulate certain channels of the body. The practice, called auriculotherapy or ear seeding, is similar to ear acupuncture. But instead of using needles, ear magnets or seeds are adhered to the ear and gentle pressure is applied, explains Gabriel Sher, Chief of Acupuncture at ORA in New York.
"According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the ears are considered to be a microcosm of the body. When we work on certain points on the ear, we work on the corresponding organ system of the body," Sher explains.
Some of those points correspond to the vagus nerve, the nerve running from the brain to the colon that plays a role in regulating involuntary functions like digestion and heart rate. According to TCM, stimulating this nerve with ear magnets can help with processing stressful emotions, which in turn may make it easier to stick with healthy habits that can support weight loss, says Kim Peirano, DACM, LAc, a licensed acupuncturist in San Rafael, California.
"Mitigating stress and managing it are a big key to being consistent with reaching our weight-loss goals. That's how acupuncture and acupressure can help with weight loss," Peirano says.
Do Ear Magnets Help With Weight Loss, Really?
There's not a lot of science behind using ear magnets to lose weight. But the studies that have been conducted suggest this kind of auricular acupressure could be helpful.
One June 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis in Medicine concluded that utilizing the practice for 12 weeks was tied to lower body weight and body mass index, particularly when people also stuck with a healthy diet and exercise program.
Another study, published May 2019 in JMIR mHealth and uHealth, found that participants lost body weight and body fat and reduced their waist circumference after eight weeks of at-home auricular acupressure.
Mainstream weight-loss experts agree there may be a role for ear seeding when a person is trying to lose weight. "In conjunction with a healthy diet and moderate exercise, ear magnets can help people lose some extra body weight," says Felix Spiegel, MD, a bariatric surgeon with Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas.
The key is treating ear magnets as a bonus tool to support tried-and-true weight-loss methods like eating right and exercising — not relying on the magnets alone. "Used as a 'magic treatment,' they have not been proven to result in any meaningful weight loss, either short- or long-term," Dr. Speigel says.
How to Use Ear Magnets for Weight Loss
Unlike acupuncture, which involves the use of needles, acupressure and ear seeding are safe to try at home.
It's easy to find ear seeding or ear magnet kits online (try NAO Wellness 24k Gold Ear Seeds, $28 at Amazon.com, or Kanjo Acupressure Ear Seeds, $49.99 at Amazon.com), which typically come with instructions for how to place the seeds on your ear. After putting them on the specific acupressure points, you can stimulate the points by pressing on the seeds several times an hour, Sher says.
Many ear seeding or ear magnet kits come with acupressure maps outlining the various pressure points you can stimulate. Yintang and Heart 7 are thought to calm the heart and the mind and strengthen the mind-gut connection, says Sher, while Shen Men may reduce cravings and Stomach 36 can help regulate digestion.
Placing the seeds on these precise spots on your own can be tricky, though. "It's safe and easy to do on your own, but it would be great to have a friend apply them for you," Pierano says.
You can also consult a licensed acupuncturist if you have questions or need additional guidance on getting the magnet placement just right.
More Tips for Long-Term Weight Loss
Again, you're most likely to get a boost from ear seeding when it's part of a comprehensive weight-loss plan that includes healthy changes you can live with long-term. That comes down to:
- Pay attention to what you eat. "Controlling your calorie intake is extremely important," Dr. Spiegel says. Aim for three square meals a day that are rich in protein, fiber and healthy fats, which will help you stay fuller longer.
- Exercise regularly. As little as 20 minutes a day may be helpful for reaching your goals, says Dr. Spiegel. Any activity that gets you moving regularly fits the bill, just be sure to include both cardio and resistance exercises.
- Get enough shut-eye. Yes, getting enough sleep is helpful for weight loss. There's research to show that sleep deprivation can ramp up hunger hormones and make us crave less-healthy foods.
- Get a handle on your stress. When we're stressed out, we're less likely to exercise, sleep well and make healthy food choices — all of which are crucial to healthy weight loss.
- Be patient. Sustainable weight loss doesn't happen overnight. "Gradual lifestyle changes are the most important thing," Dr. Spiegel says.