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No, you can't electrocute your belly fat away

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TrimX electrical fat stimulator
TrimX electrical fat stimulator
Luma Life

Indiegogo has a long and unhappy history of being the internet's home for misbegotten and specious health gadgets, and its latest addition is no exception. The TrimX electrical fat stimulator promises to target the most stubborn fat deposits on your body and essentially blast them away with gentle waves of electrical current (and regular exercise). It's just like the litany of ab-firming belts from the likes of Slendertone — which the US FDA clears only for therapeutic use and not weight loss — only this one is supposed to stimulate the fat rather than muscle.

Touted as "the world’s first fat spot reduction wearable technology,” the TrimX is "clinically proven to allow you to gain control over your body." Think about that for a second: clinically proven to do something as unscientific as "gaining control over your body." The Indiegogo page cites a 10-week, triple-blind study that supposedly showed TrimX users losing 4.7 times more fat around their targeted areas than a placebo-controlled group that also experienced general fat loss. But it offers no details like number of participants or any other hard data. I wouldn't mind knowing how the placebo group lost weight, which sounds just as effective as this TrimX setup.

We're expected to believe that both test groups lost the exact same amount of fat, but TrimX helped its users pick the area it was taken away from. This sort of ridiculously unlikely precision is as much of a red flag as the sprinkling of random happy phrases like "mental clarity," "sleep quality," "sex life," and ultimately just "happiness." These all just hang out impassively atop pictures of people exercising in a gym, leaving the reader to make the implicit connection to the product.

Look, weight loss and body image are serious topics and substantial issues in the developed world, but technological shortcuts to achieving your physiological goals basically don't exist. The FDA's reluctance to approve electrical muscle stimulators for fat reduction, even though they do work your muscles, is testament to that. As the regulator unequivocally states, "no EMS devices have been cleared at this time for weight loss, girth reduction, or for obtaining “rock hard” abs."

This Indiegogo campaign is sloppily put together, presenting no scientific evidence to underpin its revolutionary claims, and it asks the not inconsiderable amount of $189 plus shipping from the earliest backers. What's more, it even has a built-in excuse to not ship you anything for months (or ever): deliveries of the TrimX are dependent on obtaining regulatory approval in each region: "International shipments will take place after the appropriate clearance from the relevant government certifications has been received."

The best independent evidence I could find to support the TrimX idea that spot-reducing fat is a real thing is this study from 2007, though its conclusion is limited to the observation that fat around active muscles gets more blood flow and lipolysis than fat around passive muscles. In other words, if you want to lose weight, going to the gym might help speed that along. But this silly contraption? I think not.