The TV advert for the UK weight-loss plan firm stated: "LighterLife Fast is a fantastic way to help keep your weight in check. It's 5:2 dieting made really simple. Two days a week you replace your usual food with four nutritious LighterLife Fastpacks. You'll get 100% of the RDAs of vitamins and minerals in just 600 calories, and you can't do that with ordinary food."
The complainant challenged whether the claim that 600 kcal of ‘ordinary food’ could not provide the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for vitamins and minerals could be substantiated and was therefore misleading.
ASA concluded that the advert’s voice over was likely to be understood by viewers to relate to “consumers' ability to devise such a diet themselves rather than as an absolute claim that it was not possible at all”.
In its defence, LighterLife UK presented a theoretical diet consisting of fish and mollusc as well as portions of quark, spinach, mushrooms, rye bread, strawberries, nuts, raisins and sunflower seeds, amounting to 743 kcal – similar to that submitted previously to Clearcast as part of the advert approval process.
While the two submitted theoretical diets differed slightly, both amounted to over 100 kcal more than the amount claimed for the products. ASA noted that the company’s own diet plan had required extensive research using nutritional databases by its in-house nutritionists and while the products incorporated conventional foods the combinations needed to secure 100% of the RDAs would not generally be described as ‘ordinary’.
ASA said this alone was not substantiation enough, yet its own research revealed an article from the Nutrition Bulletin stating that ‘conventional’ food diets below 1000 kcal per day “could not be constructed to provide all micronutrients on a daily basis”. The article said that even for nutrition experts it would be "extremely difficult" to create such a daily diet in 600 kcal of ‘ordinary’ food.
“Given that we understood it was extremely difficult for nutrition experts to devise such a diet, we considered it would be highly unlikely that an average consumer would readily be able to do so,” ASA wrote.
Last month the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released an opinion that laid out what a low-calorie diet replacement regime should contain. The opinion stipulated 600 calories and 30 g of carbohydrates and a minimum 75 g of protein per day. This report was not referenced in the ASA ruling.