UK weight loss supplements ads deemed misleading

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition, In vitro, In vivo

A weight management food supplement claiming fat-binding powers has
been told to alter its marketing strategy by the UK advertising
watchdog.

Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which self-regulates the UK advertising industry, upheld seven complaints lodged against supplements manufacturer Goldshield Healthcare Direct over advertising for a product called LIPObind. The supplement contained French supplier, Bio Serae's Neopuntia weight loss cactus extract, and had been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK as a medical device. It also met the requirements of the European Medical Devices Directive. Breaches ​But ASA noted the Directive did not harmonise EU law relating to the advertising of medical devices. The MHRA had approved fat-binding and weight management claims for the supplement but the ASA said Goldshield had gone too far with some of the claims it was making in its advertising and therefore recommended amendment. Bio Serae distanced itself from the claims and agreed Goldshield's ad was "highly exagerated and misleading"​ and breached the medical device status the product had been granted by the MHRA. "This is a communication mistake made by Goldshield which we unfortunately cannot control in any way,"​ Bio Serae spokesperson Karen Jaunatre told NutraIngredients.com. When notified of the potential breaches by the ASA, MHRA said claims that included, "Helps to Suppress Appetite", "Helps to Decrease Food Cravings"​ and "Helps Lower Blood Cholesterol",​ were outside of the product's "stated scope or purpose." ​In response, Goldshields had offered to remove these claims as well as the claim: "There are no gimmicks, no fad diets, no additional exercise routines that have to be undertaken, in fact you can still indulge yourself with your favourite treat every now and again."​ ASA said Goldshield had failed to produce enough evidence to back all the claims it was making in its advertising, including the central claim: "The NEW Clinically Proven Fat Binding Pill ... A pill that has been tried and tested and proven to bind fat".​ It said the claim implied LIPObind had been clinically tested to bind fat, when no such trials existed. "We considered that, because they were for a weight reduction product, that claim, and the other claims made for the efficacy or action of LIPObind, should be backed by rigorous trials on people,"​ ASA said in its verdict. ASA said Goldshield's submissions in defense of its adverts were insufficient, as much of it referred to the effects of dietary fibre consumption as well as studies on the effects of eating leaves and pectins. "We noted, however, that many of those studies were in vitro and that the in vivo studies had been carried out on obese, diabetic or ileostomy subjects or hamsters and guinea pigs,"​ it said. An in vitro study sent in support of Neopuntia suggested an "effectiveness for an application of Neopuntia within the framework of meals rich in fat content". ​But two further Neopuntia studies did not "constitute robust substantiation".​ In conclusion ASA said: "We considered that, to substantiate the claims, we would need to see robust in vivo evidence that showed a direct link between the specific LIPObind formula and it binding fat, suppressing appetite, decreasing food cravings and lowering blood cholesterol for healthy people. We considered that we had not seen that and concluded therefore that the ad was misleading."​ Goldshield was also censured for advertising a "freephone" telephone number that was not in fact free. The company said it had mistakenly printed the wrong number and it had been amended.

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