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Ab Belt Device Claims False, says FTC
No six-pack abdominals from pulsating devices 
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Dateline: 05/09/02

You cannot "get rock-hard abs with no sweat," said the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in filing false advertising complaints in federal court against the makers of three widely advertised electronic abdominal exercise belts. 

Charged with false advertising were marketers of the AB Energizer, AbTronic, and Fast Abs devices, all which claim to use electronic muscle stimulation (EMS) to give users "six pack" or "washboard" abs without exercise or effort. 

"For years, marketers of diet and exercise products have been preying on overweight, out-of-shape consumers by hawking false hope in a pill, false hope in a bottle, and, now, in a belt," stated FTC Chairman Timothy J. Muris in a press release. "Unfortunately, there are no magic pills, potions, or pulsators for losing weight and getting into shape. The only winning combination is changing your diet and exercise."

Airing on national cable TV stations, the 30-minute infomercials used by the defendants to sell the devices were among the ten most frequently aired commercials in weekly U.S. rankings, airing well over a thousand times. In the commercials, fitness experts, personal trainers, models and athletes suggest that their own often-displayed set of "rock-hard" abs were a result of using the belts. The devices have also been advertised in national newspapers, magazines and direct mail circulars.

10 minutes = 600 sit ups? Not, says FTC
Specifically, the FTC alleges that advertisements for the three ab devices, selling for from $40 to $120, falsely claimed that:

  • the ab devices cause fat loss and inch loss;
  • the ab devices will give users well-defined abdominal muscles (e.g., "rock hard," "six pack" or "washboard" abs); and
  • use of the ab devices is equivalent to (and, for AbTronic and Fast Abs, superior to) conventional abdominal exercises, such as sit-ups or crunches.

Not safe for everybody
FTC also charges that while extolling the total safety of the devices, the defendants failed to inform consumers of possible health risks associated with use of the ab belts. The FDA warns that the devices should not be used by persons with certain conditions, including implanted pacemakers or other implanted metallic or electronic devices, swollen or inflamed areas (such as phlebitis), or cancerous lesions. In addition, the safety of using the devices during pregnancy have not been established, said the FDA.

Consumer Tips
Since filing these complaints, the FTC has updated two consumer publications about exercise equipment: 

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