Today we take a look at “slimming belts” which are often advertised as a way to remove belly fat by simply wearing them.
When we evaluated the Tummy Tuck Belt back in January, we wanted to see if we could duplicate marketing claims that the product removes belly fat without any lifestyle change. In our evaluation, the product did not work. Since then, we have heard from many readers about that product and others like it. So we decided to delve further into the question of whether slimming belts work, or if they provide any benefit at all.
What type of belt?
There are currently two popular categories of abdominal belts on the market. One type, such as the Tummy Tuck Belt, promises belly fat reduction by merely applying a cream and strapping on a belt. The other type, such as the Flex Pro, delivers Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) to the midsection (also known as NEMS, or neuromuscular electrical stimulation) in order to build stronger abdominal muscles.
We found no studies that proved the effectiveness of non-electronic slimming belts. In fact, Tummy Tuck Belt offers no clinical evidence that their product works. Even their before and after photos are “recreated” according to their FAQ.
A single study is highly cited to promote the effectiveness of Slendertone EMS-type belts. The study by Dr. John Porcari of the University of Wisconsin, La-Crosse found that participants using the Slendertone belt saw an increase of abdominal endurance and an overall more “toned” look to their midsection. The study, however, also noted, “There were no significant differences in body weight, BMI, or skinfold thickness over the course of the study in either group.” It was also stated that, “…even though the subjects felt that their abdomens were stronger and firmer, they didn’t perceive themselves to look any different because they did not lose any subcutaneous fat.”
Porcari’s study found that EMS belts showed improvement in abdominal muscles, but no improvement in the reduction of belly fat.
2002 FTC Actions
In 2002, the Federal Trade Commission charged three top selling EMS ab exercise products at that time with making false claims. AB Energizer, AbTronic, and Fast Abs received complaints involving false advertising claims that their products could develop “six pack” or “washboard” abs with no exercise.
Porcari’s study addressed the 2002 charges, stating that, “The lack of positive results was attributed to the poor quality of the stimulators themselves and the uncomfortable nature of the stimulation…”
There are two complaints filed with the FDA against Slendertone. One regarding exploding batteries, and another in which an implanted cardiac defibrillator malfunctioned. (See here for example)
Livestrong has suggested that, although slimming belts may not help you lose fat around your midsection, they may help you improve your posture: “Wearing the slimmer belt on a daily basis can help you sit straighter, which can lead to a reduction in back pain.”
As a corset
If one dons a slimming belt with the idea that it will simply compress and contain belly fat into a smaller area – in the manner of a corset – then some slimming belts may actually be beneficial in this manner.
It has been suggested that slimming belts, by compressing the stomach, may help give the wearer the sensation of being full while donning it. There is no evidence to support this claim, and it isn’t known if wearing a slimming belt during a meal (or immediately after) is even safe or recommended.
There is no evidence that slimming belts remove belly fat. There is a highly-cited study that EMS-type belts may increase abdominal muscle tone, but these belts were not shown to remove belly fat. Some slimming belts may have peripheral uses, such as compressing belly fat or improving posture.
Have you used a slimming belt? Let us hear from you in the comments below.
- FTC Charges Three Top-selling Electronic Abdominal Exercise Belts with Making False Claims (Federal Trade Commission: May 8, 2002)
- The Effects of Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation Training on Abdominal Strength, Endurance, and Selected Anthropometric Measures (Porcari, et al, Journal of Sports Science and Medicine: 2005)
- What are the benefits of slimmer belts? (Livestrong: December 20, 2010)