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Cracking Down on Caffeinated Underwear

— November 7, 2016

What a time to be alive! Assisted by profligate use of fossil fuels and inspired by generous subsidies, we are awash in cheap carbohydrates. Commodity corn is used to make corn syrup, to fatten feedlot beef, and as the main ingredient in all kinds of junk food. At the same time, we’ve become far more sedentary, resulting in about two-thirds of Americans being overweight. Generations of progress in labor-saving innovations that would be the envy of our hard-working ancestors has led us to this place, but we’d be much healthier if we hadn’t tried so hard to get here. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an easy way out of this jam: something that required no dietary changes and no exercise, but which would render us more shapely with minimal effort? Enter Wacoal, (former) makers of caffeinated underwear!

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Wacoal claimed their shapewear would “slim the body and reduce cellulite,” since the garments “incorporated microcapsules containing caffeine, retinol, ceramides and other active principles.” Principles seem to be what the company was actively lacking, since the caffeinated underwear didn’t work as promised. Wacoal recommended wearing the shapewear (which, frankly, had to be fairly uncomfortable) for eight hours a day, seven days a week, for 28 days, in order to lose two inches off the hips and an inch off the thighs, but according to the FTC, “the average reported reduction in hip circumference was less than one-fourth of an inch and the average reported reduction in thigh measurement was less than one-sixth of an inch.” Bummer.

Ad copy for Wacoal's caffeinated underwear. Image courtesy of
Ad copy for Wacoal’s caffeinated underwear. Image courtesy of

A California suit filed last week by several district attorneys’ offices alleges that there’s no reliable scientific basis to Wacoal’s claims, and a settlement was reached the same day, with Wacoal agreeing to pay the California counties $350,000 in civil penalties. The FTC had already harshed Wacoal’s buzz in 2014, resulting in a fine of $1.3 million.

When even Natural News throws you some shade for not having actual science behind your claims, your bogus bum wrap isn’t just getting a bum rap. And when you have to lie about getting an endorsement from Dr. Oz, your caffeinated underwear has hit rock bottom.

Hangtag from the Wacoal iPant, the caffeinated underwear that Wacoal claimed helped wearers lose inches. If the active ingredient was still present after 100 washes, how much of it was actually absorbed by the body anyway? Image courtesy of
Hangtag from the Wacoal iPant, the caffeinated underwear that Wacoal claimed helped wearers lose inches. If the active ingredient was still present after 100 washes, how much of it was actually absorbed by the body anyway? Image courtesy of

Since diet hucksters lurk around every corner, the FTC issued a guide to help media outlets suss out unbelievable advertisers. This “Gut Check” reference lists seven types of false claims that can help anyone evaluate whether or not a diet product (such as an herbal supplement, patch, cream, or, you know, magic underwear) is legitimate. Quoting from the guide, the FTC considers it a false claim if a product:

  • Causes weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise;
  • Causes substantial weight loss no matter what or how much the consumer eats;
  • Causes permanent weight loss even after the consumer stops using product;
  • Blocks the absorption of fat or calories to enable consumers to lose substantial weight;
  • Safely enables consumers to lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks;
  • Causes substantial weight loss for all users; or
  • Causes substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin.

Keeping the caffeinated underwear gnomes at bay with a good BS detector is a good first step towards any real weight loss goal. Somewhat more difficult, yet far more likely to produce results, is losing weight the old fashioned way, through a careful diet and increased physical activity. (Check with your doctor to see if that combination is right for you, because dammit Jim, I’m a writer, not a medical professional.) It’s also possible to do something really radical: completely ignore the industries that profit from maximizing bodily insecurity and negative self-images, and instead, love yourself just the way you are. And if you want a cup o’ joe, don’t make it a DD!


$350K Settlement Reached Over ‘Caffeinated Underwear’ Claims
Maker of caffeine-infused underwear pays to settle suit disputing claims they shrink cellulite
Caffeinated underwear makers’ weight loss claims scrutinized by FTC
FTC Takes Action Against Unsubstantiated Caffeine-Infused Shapewear Weight-Loss Claims
Gut Check: A Reference Guide for Media on Spotting False Weight Loss Claims
Caffeinated Underpants Won’t Make Your Butt Smaller
In the Matter of WACOAL AMERICA, INC., a corporation. (PDF)
Farm bill: Why don’t taxpayers subsidize the foods that are better for us?
The Value of Eliminating Sedentary Lifestyles
Loving Yourself When You’re Too Fat, Too Skinny, Too Tall, or Too Short

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