Five issues related to four circulars and two press ads were investigated by the ASA, all of which were upheld.
The authority concluded that the brand was making claims which stated or implied that the supplement could prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, anxiety, and depression, and had anti-inflammatory effects.
The brand also made health claims that referred to the recommendation of an individual health professional.
According to CAP (Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing), claims that state or imply a food, drink or supplement prevents, treats or cures human disease are not permitted under any circumstances. Reduction of disease claims are allowed but only if they appear on the EU Register and only if they are presented clearly without exaggeration.
Health claims that refer to the recommendation of an association are only allowed if that association is a health-related charity or a national representative body of medicine, nutrition or dietetics.
Kristy Coleman, food law expert at Greengage, states: "The ads were found to be irresponsible and caused undue fear and distress without justifiable reason in their approach to Alzheimer’s disease and preying on the vulnerabilities of those concerned about it or suffering themselves.
"Interestingly, the product contained ingredients which were considered to be medicinal by function, but the product was not a licensed medicine and therefore could not be marketed as such. Medicinal claims and indications are only for medicinal products licensed by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), or under the auspices of the European Medicines Agency (EMA)."
The first ad was an eight-page circular for Lucy Memory Power seen in Healthy for Life in September 2022, titled “Lucy Memory Power PREVENTION and ANTI-AGING”, and “SPECIAL EDITION ALZHEIMER’S AND DEGENERATIVE DISEASES”.
The front page featured an image of a man and a woman with anxious expressions, and the top section of their heads were depicted as having been fragmented into small pieces.
Claims overlaying the image included, “Your BRAIN is your IDENTITY You can SAVE it! There is still time”, “Preserve your BRAIN and Mind!” and “AN Innovation CITICOLINE MOLECULE WHICH STOPS THE AGING OF your brain”.
A text box stated, “Researchers have succeeded in developing a formula to protect the brain from BRAIN AGING and to PREVENT AGING from occurring”.
The second page featured a list including, “Memory loss”, “Language disorders”, “Disorientation”, “Loss of interest”, “Loss of judgment”, “Mood swings”, “Lost Objects”, “Change of personality”, followed by the statement, “And you, where are you? To find out take this quick test. At first, we don’t worry: a little forgetfulness… an absence of a few seconds, a feeling of disinterest… However, these symptoms are not trivial and can be the first signs of a cerebral, [sic] disorder”.
A text box headed “Cognityl” stated, “A key active ingredient […] stimulates the vitality and renewal of neutrons. It eliminates the waste that blocks their connections, restores all the nutritional and chemical balances of the brain… and protects you against the risk of Alzheimer’s. Cognityl increases neuronal turnover by 26% and increases the energy use of the brain by 13.6% in a 6-week trial carried out on adults aged 60 and over”.
The circular included a page headed “How does the Alzheimer’s disease set in?”, with information about the causes and stages of the disease.
It stated: “…some drugs have just been decommissioned due to the economy. However, there is great hope! An exceptional treatment based on Citicoline has just seen the light of day […] it prevents cerebral aging, and it repairs the beginning of neuronal damage due to Alzheimer’s disease. This treatment […] is called LUCY Memory Power”.
It went on to state “When the first symptoms appear, the disease has already begun to operate silently. It is therefore necessary to act as soon as the first changes (memory, behaviour, etc) occur. A true elite treatment, Lucy Memory Power gives very promising results when the disease is caught at its beginning”.
A further page featured a list of ingredients, including Cognityl, claiming it “improves intellectual performance and increases the level of concentration”,
It listed Rhodiola and claimed this is “widely used as an antioxidant and natural remedy against sleep disorders and fatigue […] protects our cells with its anti-inflammatory effect and has a positive influence on the cardiovascular system.”
It stated ashwagandha can ”calm and improve quality of sleep and resistance to stress”,
It claimed Brammi “is able to stimulate brain functions”, Lion’s Mane “has an excellent reputation as a natural protection against dementia. Also, may help to relieve mild symptoms of depression and anxiety”, Maritime pine bark extract has “an anti-inflammatory effect”, L-Theanine “rebalances the production of various neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine” and L-Tyrosine “contributes to the proper functioning of the nervous system”.
A press ad, seen in the 31 December 2022 edition of the Daily Mail’s Weekend supplement, was titled “A DOCTOR help rebuild an ageing brain that loses its good oxygenation over time […]”. The ad featured an image of a man in a white lab coat and wearing a stethoscope with the product on his hand. It also featured an image of a human brain and below that, two images of MRI scans; the first with the caption, “Memory lost”, and the second stating, “Memory recovered”.
The ad stated, “DR. THOMAS S. CROWLEY knows better than anyone the human brain and how it works. He is the greatest specialist in the world in his field […] He kept his notes for 17 years and ended up breaking his silence at a recent medical conference […] He presented a capsule that can help restore the memory and protect the brain”.
Further circulars, published in Home Shopping Selections, Woman’s Weekly and Daily Mail, included a similar advert.
Seven complainants challenged whether ads made claims that stated or implied that Lucy Memory Power prevented, treated, or cured human disease, in particular Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and anxiety.
Interested in learning more about regulation around cognitive health claims?
NutraIngredients will host its newly branded Active Nutrition Summit in Amsterdam from October 9-11.
An evolution of the brand's prominent annual Sports & Active Nutrition Summit, this year’s event will provide delegates with insights into the increasingly holistic and mass market view of sports nutrition, from some of the leading names in the industry.
Content pillars will cover all the hottest topics in the industry today, including: cognitive health, women’s health, life-stages nutrition, and personalisation.
Kristy Coleman will provide a presentation on the topic of red tape around cognitive health claims in the supplements and functional foods market.
Direct Response Marketing Group Ltd t/a Wellform said the product supplier had provided documents and reports relating to the claims in the ads. They provided a report which included the title and summary of research papers and clinical studies, some of which related to ingredients contained in Lucy Memory Power, including Cognityl. They also provided further product information - including ingredients lists and the packaging copy for Lucy Memory Power - and an email in Portuguese dated May 2021, which they said was authorisation to sell the product from the manufacturing government.
Wellform said the copy and ads had been provided by a US copywriter who, in the interest of anonymity, could not provide further details of the customers featured in the ads.
The ASA told Direct Response Marketing Group Ltd t/a Wellform to ensure their marketing communications did not state or imply that a food supplement could prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss or anxiety, or promote unlicensed medicines in future. They must also ensure that any specific health claims made in relation to foods and food supplements were authorised on the GB NHC Register.
The authority told Wellform they must not make health claims that referred to the recommendation of an individual health professional. Unless they held documentary evidence demonstrating they were genuine and the contact details for the person who gave it. the testimonials or endorsements also must not appear.