select search filters
roundups & rapid reactions
before the headlines
Fiona fox's blog

expert reaction to conference poster looking at ear acupuncture with beads and weight loss in Japanese men

A conference poster (not a peer-reviewed paper) presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) looks at ear acupuncture with beads and weight loss in Japanese men.


Dr Graham Wheeler, Statistical Ambassador, Royal Statistical Society, said:

“Whilst receiving ear acupuncture, the investigators asked participants to cut their food intake by half.  It’s not unreasonable to expect that this major dietary change was the main reason participants lost weight.  Since the investigators did not compare their results to a similar group of men who reduced their food intake but did not receive ear acupuncture, this study does not show us the impact of ear acupuncture on weight loss.”


Les Rose, Retired Clinical Research Scientist, and trustee of HealthSense, said:

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.  The existence of qi and meridians, is an extraordinary claim which has never been validated.  That would indicate that this study should be of the highest quality.  However it has not been peer reviewed, and lacks most of the established controls against bias.  It does not provide robust evidence for acupuncture as a treatment for obesity.”


Dr Adam Jacobs, Senior Director, Biostatistical Science, Premier Research, said:

“The authors themselves tell you all you need to know here: the study “can’t prove causation“.

“There was no control group, and participants were given dietary advice, so there is no reason to think that the acupuncture had anything at all to do with the weight loss.  It seems far more plausible that the dietary advice, along with frequent clinic visits to review how the dietary advice was going, was responsible for the weight loss.

“The authors state that the acupuncture “restores the flow of qi“, but no-one has ever demonstrated what qi is or even that it exists, much less how acupuncture would restore its flow.”


Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, Emeritus Professor of Statistics, University of Cambridge, said:

“This study showed that a group of men who were taught how to lose weight, and who were monitored regularly, managed on average to lose weight.  It shows nothing whatever about the beads, and therefore seems a complete waste of time for everyone concerned.

“I can’t fathom why this would be at a scientific conference, let alone press released.”


Prof Edzard Ernst, Emeritus Professor of Complementary Medicine, University of Exeter, said:

“Ear acupuncture is built on assumptions that fly in the face of science.  The new study is less than convincing and is far remote from being sound evidence.”



Poster title: ‘Effects of an obesity treatment program using auricular acupuncture stimulation with beads on weight loss in Japanese men’ by Takahiro Fujimot et al. was presented at the European Congress on Obesity.

This work is not peer-reviewed and there is no paper.



Declared interests

Dr Graham Wheeler: “No conflicts of interest to declare.  I am a Statistical Ambassador for the Royal Statistical Society.  I am employed by GSK and hold an Honorary Senior Lecturer post at Imperial College London.”

Les Rose: “I am a trustee of HealthSense (charity 1003392), and a retired clinical research scientist. I have no conflicts of interest to declare.”

Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter: “No conflict of interest.”

For all other experts, no reply to our request for DOIs was received.

in this section

filter RoundUps by year

search by tag