T Nation

Another Myth Gone

Fed Fraud Fighters Target Ab Belts

By JENNIFER LOVEN .c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (May 8) - You can't get washboard abs just by strapping an electronic exercise belt around your waist and pushing a button, the government says.

But since several companies have used just such claims to sell an estimated $100 million worth of the belts to millions of American consumers, the Federal Trade Commission is taking the companies to court.

The agency announced Wednesday it has filed three federal lawsuits, two in Las Vegas and one in San Diego, against the marketers of three ab belts - the AB Energizer, Ab Tronic and Fast Abs.

``These electronic abs gadgets don't do a thing to turn a bulging beer belly into a sleek six-pack stomach,'' said FTC Chairman Timothy Muris. ``Unfortunately, there are no magic pills, potions or pulsators for losing weight and getting into shape. The only winning combination is diet and exercise.''

The belts have been sold primarily through heavily aired 30-minute informercials on national cable television stations; two of the belts also were advertised in shorter commercials and in print.

The infomercials feature photos of trim models, as well as testimony from fitness experts, doctors and users touting how well the belts work to produce sculpted midsections. ``Now you can get rock hard abs with no sweat,’’ said one.

The belts cost between $40 and $120, earning the companies about $100 million so far, Muris said.

The advertisements claimed that the devices will cause well-defined abdominal muscles, bring about a loss of fat and inches, and are at least as good as, if not better than, conventional exercise, the FTC said.

The government suits, filed Tuesday, alleged that the claims were false, and thus the sales fraudulent.

Jeff Knowles, an attorney for Ventura, Calif.-based United Fitness of America and Parsippany, N.J.-based Tristar Products Inc., said their Fast Abs product was pulled from the market - as were all ads - about two months ago because it was not economically competitive.

He said the companies will discuss a settlement with the FTC, but do not believe they defrauded their customers. The devices came with instructions that included suggestions for exercise and healthy diet.

You have to take things in complete context,'' Knowles said.We feel that it’s a good product.’’

The eight companies named in the other two suits could not immediately be reached for comment.

David Fiegal, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said there is no evidence such belts can change the shape or appearance of muscle.

The FDA has approved similar devices for sale in the United States, sold as Slender Tone and Compex Sport, but for an entirely different purpose. The electronic muscle stimulation the belts use can help professional athletes or physical therapy patients keep their muscles from tiring as quickly and allow longer exercise, Fiegal said.

The marketers of the belts targeted by the FTC have not applied for FDA approval, he said. His agency is in the process of alerting the companies that their products are not being legally sold. The FDA could eventually force the products to be pulled from the market.

The companies also often failed to provide timely refunds, despite having made ``money back guarantees’’ to consumers, the FTC alleged.

The lawsuits seek refunds for consumers of the belts, and a halt to advertisements containing false claims.

I wonder if people actually believed these things would work, or if they were so lazy they just willed themselves to believe they would so they would not have to exercise.

my GNC here sells the ab energizer, and not biotest… go figure…

I find it hard to believe that any one was surprised by this report.

My father actually bought one of these. It would not even operate. he was afriad to tell me how much he paid for it. He’s 58 and still believes in the waist belts as a tool to losing fat. he’s tried body wraps, etc. I tried to get him to go to the gym yet he only does bicep work and other light pumping exercises.

I walked into work the other day, just getting back from the gym. And a gaggle of all the women in the office were sitting up front talking about how great these ab belts are… and how all of them are going to get one.

I just shook my head and walked by.

That’s so unbelievable. My mom said she saw the commercial and was tempted by the promise they made, but when she thought about it, she couldn’t see how wearing a belt can make her waist line slimmer. She said, “If you pig out and never exercise, wearing an over-priced belt’s not going to make you thin!”

Still, it’s nice to see that the FTC is on the ball. Now if the FDA would just follow suit…

There was an article here in T-Mag that was all about these electronic ab belts. Pretty illuminating and not entirely negative.

Actually, my girlfriend’s father bought an Ab-tronic and then never used it (of course). She brought it over one day and we had some fun playing around with it. My opinion is that it’s pretty much useless for any type of bodybuilding activity, but that it might somehow profitably be incorporated into sex. You know, place an electrode on each butt cheek, turn on the current and let the machine do the work. Anyone have any opinion on this idea? Any other similar ideas? Avoids, I KNOW you’ll have something to say about it…

I know some people who own a couple of these ab belts and they talked me into putting the thing on. I tried it out and I definitely did get some good deep contractions in the abs. I even felt a little soreness the next day. Although obviously these machines aren’t going to do anything to burn fat i imagine they possibly might have some use for rehab purposes in people that need to strengthen the abs but aren’t able to do so in traditional fashion.

I like that idea char. Something tells me you already tried it though. Here’s another one to try. Put the electrode on the back of your gf’s neck during an alternative type of carnal activity. Make sure she takes her teeth out though.

Another way to capitalize on lazy people. You will get strength, but only in the position you sit or lay in when having this machine on. So unless you go through every degree of trunk flexion, dont bother and just do your Power Breathing.