IN SHORT: You don’t have to venture far online to come across a quick weight-loss fix. But magnetic clip-on earrings advertised on Facebook, with the promise they’ll make you look thinner, aren’t even a quick fix – they’re pure bunkum.
More than 400,000 Facebook users have viewed a video advertising magnetic clip-on earrings which supposedly make the wearers look thinner.
The video is vague about how the “MagneTech acupuncture” earrings are meant to work, although it implies that they “shrink” parts of the lymphatic system. This is part of the immune system, which protects the body against disease.
Magnetic earrings may be fun accessories, but will they radically change the shape of your body? We took a look at the real science behind this.
Scam ‘weight loss’ jewellery advertised online
Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, a complex part of the body that helps to filter foreigh particles from the blood and fight disease. They are sometimes inflamed in a sick person but they don’t play a role in burning fat, and should not be inflamed if you are healthy.
The clinic recommends visiting a doctor if swollen lymph nodes “have appeared for no apparent reason; Continue to enlarge or have been present for two to four weeks; Feel hard or rubbery or don't move when you push on them” or “are accompanied by persistent fever, night sweats or unexplained weight loss”.
If the swelling causes difficulty breathing or swallowing, you should seek urgent medical attention.
Swollen lymph nodes are most often caused by a bacterial or viral infection or, less commonly, by cancer. Aside from treating the underlying infection, the Mayo Clinic recommends “the passage of time and warm compresses”. They make no mention of magnetic jewellery.
Magnetic jewellery won’t have any clinical effect, let alone dramatic weight loss
False claims about jewellery that can magically make a person thinner are common online. In August 2022 fact-checking organisation Lead Stories debunked claims that a magnetic “lymph detox” bracelet could cause rapid weight loss by raising a wearer’s body temperature and “burning” fat.
Several experts told Lead Stories that this claim was false and unscientific, with one calling it “total nonsense”.
The video was posted with links to websites which claim that the magnetic earrings remove “blockages” in the lymphatic system, by improving blood flow. This is supposedly possible because the trace amounts of iron in blood are affected by the magnets.
SBM has written about one widely reported, though at the time unpublished, study on the subject. It showed that extremely powerful magnets could, under very particular circumstances, allow blood to flow more easily in a test tube. But these test conditions tell us very little about how blood behaves in the human body.
The study used an extremely large electromagnet, about as powerful as the electromagnets in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines commonly used in hospitals. As MRI safety videos and other demonstrations show, these magnets are extremely powerful. They exert far more force than would be safe or practical for a pair of earrings or other jewellery – just imagine metal objects flying at your ears as you went about your day!
Magnetic jewellery uses much smaller, less powerful, static magnets which, as SBM writes, “would not be expected to have any effect on nerve function or blood flow”.
This kind of magnet has been repeatedly found to have no noticeable effect in relieving pain and no effect on blood flow. (It should however be noted that these studies have typically been conducted on very small groups.)
The magnetic jewellery adverts claim that improved blood flow will “detoxify” lymph nodes and reduce swelling. But with no evidence that magnetic jewellery can affect blood flow, as well as misrepresenting how the lymphatic system functions, this claim is false.
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