Another thing I need like a hole in my head

Desperate dieters turn to ear stapling to control their appetites.

Published August 1, 2008 4:45PM (EDT)

You know what sounds painful? Having your ear stapled. There's just something about imagining two tiny, metal teeth sinking into the cartilage directly over my ear canal that makes me shudder and wince. The sting of getting my upper-ear cartilage pierced (and the infection that followed) in high school was enough for me, thanks.

Regardless of what I think, the Web is buzzing about ear stapling. Often (but not always) practiced as a part of auricular acupuncture, the technique is supposed to curb appetite and encourage weight loss. In an article that elucidates the theories behind ear stapling and evaluates its effectiveness, How Stuff Works explains that the piercing is thought to either release endorphins or stimulate an ear-abdominal nerve pathway that forms in the womb. Acupuncture specialists claim that it affects the "zero point," a part of the ear they believe is tied to the stomach.

How Stuff Works examines a few studies that seem to vindicate the practice but cannily points out that the results could also be due to the placebo effect. It is, after all, pretty hard to do a double-blind study on a treatment that involves poking holes in subjects' bodies.

Personally, whether it works or not, I can't get too excited about ear stapling. First of all, I don't fancy walking around with a bizarre-looking strip of metal hugging a decidedly awkward part of my head. (I've gotten rid of the other cartilage piercing, too, in case you're wondering.) And what's more embarrassing than having your choice of accessories announce to the general public that you're trying some kind of effortless weight loss fad? It's sort of like wearing a T-shirt that tells people you're on the grapefruit diet. Call me old-fashioned, but I think I'll stick to exercise.

By Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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