Buyer Beware the Brassage? The Naked Truth About 'Healthy' Underwear

ABC News examines underwear that claims to banish cellulite, drain toxins.

March 30, 2009 — -- Attention women: What if you could detoxify your breasts and get rid of cellulite by wearing a special bra and panties? Some clothing manufacturers are suggesting that their products can do just that.

The Brassage, billed as a revolutionary "wellness bra," retails for as much as $59. It's produced by Intimate Health, an apparel company run by Christina Erteszek, the daughter of famous lingerie designer Olga.

"I have seen a lot of breasts in my life, more than any man could dream of," said Erteszek, who claimed to be wearing a Brassage during her interview with ABC News.

Regular bras could be hazardous to your health, she says, because they trap toxins in the breasts. Her Brassage, however, has "massaging" bumps sewn into the sides that "stimulate lymphatic flow," flushing those toxins away.

Asked if she is implying the Brassage helps prevent breast disease, Erteszek said, "Yes. Of course." But, she went on, "I say, 'help to prevent.' I'm making no medical claims that it does prevent."

Unsupported Claims

There's no evidence the Brassage helps prevent anything. And there's no scientific data to support Erteszek's statements, according to breast cancer researcher Dr. Susan Love, clinical professor of surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"We really have no data that toxins are accumulating in the breast tissue every day, and that they are not being allowed to drain out because of people wearing bras," Love said.

The Brassage Web site says the Brassage is "doctor designed" and patented. But the inventor of the "micro-massaging" bumps in the Brassage is not a medical doctor; he's a chiropractor.

Underwear That Prevents Cellulite?

Solidea, the catalog company that carries the Brassage, also sells Micro-Massage Anti-Cellulite panties, tights and tummy bands. The Brooklyn, N.Y., company imports the support hose from Italy.

A promotional DVD claims, "The special three-dimensional relief fabric effectively models and reduces cellulite on the buttocks, hips, thighs, and legs."

No Evidence That Anything Cures Cellulite

Other advertising says you can, "Forget the diet and say goodbye to cellulite."

Solidea claims its compression clothing is clinically proven to break down, liquefy and drain fat melting inches off tummy, hips, and thighs and even cure cellulite.

A cellulite solution may be the Holy Grail of skin care, says New York City dermatologist Dr. Doris Day, but "there's nothing convincing to date that cures cellulite. There's nothing that I've seen. And believe me, I look. Because once it's there, I will be doing it, I will be offering it, I will be so excited about it. But it's not there."

When making claims about their product's potential to banish cellulite, Solidea often cites a clinical study published in an obscure Italian medical journal. When an ABC News called the principal investigator of the study, the doctor said he never authorized Solidea to use his study for marketing anti-cellulite underclothes.

He says he has now demanded Solidea remove the study from its Web site.

Taking Off Inches?

Solidea also cites a study done by New York plastic surgeon Dr. Howard Bellin, in which Bellin says 85 percent of women reported "... definite significance in the reduction of cellulite."

But Bellin only looked at 42 women. His cellulite study has another drawback, too. Bellin said he does not know of a definitive test to measure cellulite.

Bellin thinks the underwear works better at reducing inches than cellulite. "I would say the anti-cellulite property is modest," Bellin says, "the inch-reduction is astonishing. Really surprised me."

Bellin believes that the anti-cellulite underwear is neither a significant advancement nor a complete misrepresentation.

"I would say you're somewhere well in between that," Bellin says. "It's not a major medical breakthrough, but it's not crackpot because I saw with my own eyes these patients have improvement from their cellulite. As for the claim on the Solidea DVD that it cures cellulite, even the company says they don't believe that one."

Huge Underwear Profits

Max Hauer, the owner of Solidea USA , says all they're claiming is the underwear does provide temporary results in the appearance of cellulite, a claim substantially less impressive than those advertised on the DVD. In any case, Solidea can report one clear result: money. Projected sales for 2008 were about $11.5 million.

The Brassage wellness bra, on the other hand, is not doing so well. The Brassage is no longer manufactured. And after ABC News began asking questions, Gaiam, a major retailer stopped selling the product, which is just fine with cancer researcher Susan Love.

"I would love to have a way to prevent breast cancer," she said. "If it came from wearing a special bra, or standing on your head for 20 minutes a day, I would be the first one out there promoting it. But we need hard science to answer these questions, not just hypotheses, not just speculation, but real studies."

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