WASHINGTON - You can't get washboard abs just by strapping an electronic exercise belt around your waist and pushing a button, the government says.
But because several companies have used 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 government suits, filed Tuesday, alleged that the claims were false, and thus the sales were fraudulent.
The lawsuits seek refunds for consumers of the belts, and a halt to advertisements containing false claims.
AP story by Jennifer Loven
10-07-2002, 12:39 AM
How do you find out more information about this? Because I hate to admit it but I bought one of the Fast-abs.
10-07-2002, 12:36 PM
It will likely take a while for them to resolve this within the courts. We'll watch for any progress!
Here is an article from the July FDA Consumer regarding these products...
'Six-Pack Abs' Electronically?
You've probably seen the ads on television that promise "six-pack abs" without a workout. Can you really tone your muscles using an electrical muscle stimulator while lounging around the pool like the models on TV?
In May, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed complaints against three manufacturers of these devices, alleging that they have made false claims in their advertising, seen in heavily aired infomercials on national cable television, shorter television commercials, and ads in the print media.
The unfounded claims cited by the FTC include the promise of "six pack" or "washboard" abs without exercise, claims that the devices will give users a trimmer waist or cause fat loss, and that use of the device is equivalent to (or better than) regular abdominal exercises, such as sit-ups or crunches. The FTC complaints also allege that the advertising claimed falsely that the stimulators are safe for all to use, and did not disclose adequately the possible health hazards for some people.
Here's more information about the devices, what they can and can't do, and how they are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
Q. Why does the FDA regulate electrical muscle stimulators?
A. Electrical muscle stimulators are considered medical devices under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Under this law and the agency's regulations, the FDA is responsible for regulating the sale of all electrical muscle stimulators in the United States. Therefore, firms must comply with appropriate FDA premarket regulatory requirements before they can legally sell their stimulators. Most electrical muscle stimulators (EMS devices) that have been reviewed by the FDA are intended for use in physical therapy and rehabilitation under the direction of a health-care professional. If a company wants to sell EMS devices directly to consumers, the company needs to show the FDA that the device can be used safely and effectively in that setting.
Q. These electrical muscle stimulators are advertised not only to tone, firm, and strengthen abdominal muscles, but also to provide weight loss, girth reduction, and "rock hard" abs. Do they really work?
A. While an EMS device may be able to temporarily strengthen, tone or firm a muscle, no EMS devices have been cleared at this time for weight loss, girth reduction, or for obtaining "rock hard" abs.
Q. Is the FDA concerned about the unregulated marketing of these devices?
A. Yes. The FDA has received reports of shocks, burns, bruising, skin irritation, and pain associated with the use of some of these devices. There have been a few recent reports of interference with implanted devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators. Some injuries required hospital treatment. It is very important that these devices be properly designed, manufactured, and labeled with clear and complete instructions for use and that all users follow the instructions carefully. The FDA is also concerned because many of these devices have cables and leads. If those cables and leads do not comply with electrical safety standards, there is the possibility that users and other household members could be electrocuted. The FDA is currently investigating firms that are illegally marketing EMS devices.
Q. What does FDA regulation accomplish?
A. Before they may legally sell their devices, firms that market EMS devices must be able to demonstrate that these products are as safe and as effective as similar devices that are legally marketed. Devices may be marketed only for uses that are established for the device or for uses that the firm can support with data. At this time, the FDA is not aware of scientific information to support many of the promotional claims being made for numerous devices being widely promoted on television, infomercials, newspapers, and magazines.
Q. Why should I select an electrical muscle stimulator that is legally marketed according to FDA regulations?
A. Electrical muscle stimulators that have not met FDA requirements are illegal, and the FDA has not determined whether or not they are properly designed, manufactured, and labeled to provide reasonable assurance that they are safe and effective.
Q. Does that mean that it's unsafe to use an electrical muscle stimulator that has not met FDA requirements?
A. Using a product that has not met FDA requirements isn't necessarily unsafe or dangerous. But it could be. The FDA has received reports of injuries and interference with other critically important medical devices associated with the use of unregulated products. Unregulated devices also may have safety problems associated with cables and leads that can lead to accidental shock and electrocution of users and other household members, including children.
Q. If I use an electrical muscle stimulator that has met FDA regulatory requirements, will it give me the same kind of effect that lots of sit-ups, stomach crunches and other abdominal exercises will?
A. Using these devices alone will not give you "six-pack" abs. Applying electrical current to muscles may cause them to contract. Stimulating muscles repeatedly with electricity may eventually result in muscles that are strengthened and toned to some extent but will not, based on currently available data, create a major change in your appearance without the addition of weight loss and regular exercise.
Q. But hasn't the FDA cleared electrical muscle stimulators to treat medical conditions?
A. Yes. The FDA has cleared many electrical muscle stimulators for prescription use in treating medical conditions. Doctors may use electrical muscle stimulators for patients who require muscle re-education, relaxation of muscle spasms, increased range of motion, prevention of muscle atrophy, and for treating other medical conditions that usually result from a stroke, a serious injury, or major surgery. Again, the effect of using these devices is primarily to help a patient recover from impaired muscle function due to a medical condition, not to increase muscle size enough to affect appearance.
Q. Are there any over-the-counter EMS devices that have met the FDA's regulatory requirements?
A. Yes. At this time, Slendertone Flex, marketed by BMR NeuroTech Inc. of Phoenix, has been cleared by the FDA for toning, strengthening and firming abdominal muscles.
10-10-2002, 10:09 PM
They did a report on this on 20/20. My husband wanted to buy one, until he saw show on TV.
11-21-2002, 05:10 PM
I only wish I had seen the show before buying one as well. What a dope I am. Guess that's just a lesson though. Good thing the FDA is cracking down and no more people are getting scammed (I'm just glad that I didn't buy the expensive one!)
02-17-2003, 03:42 PM
Yeah, I am guilty too. But I stupidly bought more than one type thinking I was doing something wrong with the 1st one when it did not work well. You know those things especially hurt when you turn it to the higher setting, even when you use enough gel, really, lol!! But the funniest thing that I think all of us learned that bought one is that by the time that you have to take the extra time to adjust the belt around the different parts of the body, like the stomack, back, shoulders, arms/pecs, different parts of each leg, butt, your waist, knees, etc., at 10 minutes per part, my God, I could have had a decent workout that really worked and that did not zap the heck out of my body, lol!!! I am not that big, but in different parts of my body that had more fat, that belt really hurt worse, and it electrified the daylights out of the fatter areas and the only thing I noticed when I took the belt off was pinkish / red skin where I had irritated the skin to death.
You know, the thing is, that I used to really love to exercise and had always been about a size 6 most of my life until my lower back surgery in 2000, that still left me with lots of pain, even after the operation therefore I did not exercise, got depressed and ate bad foods, and the weight piled on. I guess I thought that since I could not exercise I would sit back and watch tv and zap away the lbs, - Yeah, right????
Good News is now I am feeling some better and so I can exercise so I am taking it off the good old fashioned way, by using my treadmill and Gazelle glider for about 30 - 45 minutes and the workout energizes and does not "electrocute me", ha!!