UK ASA rules against botanical marketing

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Benign prostatic hyperplasia Prostate

Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo biloba
UK firm Healthspan has been told to amend marketing materials for herbal-based blends after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found advertorial materials in breach of its fair marketing code for making medicinal and unauthorised claims.

The article, titled ‘Top 10 supplements for healthy ageing - Different supplements suit different people at different stages of their lives’ featured claims for herbs lycopene and ginkgo biloba as well as saw palmetto and glucosamine.


For a ginkgo biloba-erectile dysfunction link, Healthspan said that because the information appeared in the form of magazine articles it fell outside the scope of the ASA’s Committee of Advertising Code (CAP), but the ASA asserted this was not the case because Healthspan had forwarded them direct to its customer base.

“…we considered the articles were ads and were in the remit of the CAP Code,”​ the ASA wrote. “Because of that, and because we considered the ad made a medicinal claim for a product for which we had not seen a valid marketing authorisation, we concluded that the ad was in breach on this point.”

Lycopene-prostate health

For the claim: "Lycopene is also well-known to have a protective effect on the male prostate gland” ​the ASA said such claims could be made if backed by sufficient science but this wasn’t the case in this situation, despite Healthspan submitting a randomised, double-blind and placebo controlled trial that, “looked at the effect of taking a Lycopene dietary supplement on 40 men aged between 45 and 70 years.”

The ASA said: “We noted that it appeared to show that, after six months, Lycopene had inhibited the progression of benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) in those men. The study was, however, described as a pilot study and had looked at men who had already been diagnosed with BPH.”

“Because of that, we did not consider the study had been conducted on a sufficiently broad section of the population to conclusively substantiate the unqualified claim in the ad and concluded that the ad was misleading on this point.”

Glucosamine-joint health

A claim that stated “Glucosamine can greatly improve joint health by promoting the formation of new cartilage" ​was ruled against because the ASA because of inconclusive animal and human data.

“We noted that the trials Healthspan had cited did not conclusively prove that glucosamine greatly improved joint health by promoting the formation of new cartilage,”​ the ASA said.

Other claims

Claims that​ginkgo biloba, “provides unique antioxidants that help to improve blood flow to the brain"​ and that saw palmetto could benefit benign prostate enlargement were also found to be unsupported.

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