ASA targets menopause claims with AI assisted crackdown

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Dmitri Otis | Getty
Dmitri Otis | Getty

Related tags Advertising

The UK’s advertising standards authority (ASA) has warned supplement firms they must remove ads which make claims to treat or cure the symptoms of menopause, as part of a wider AI-assisted campaign.

The offending Facebook adverts by Rejuvit Labs and FemTech Healthcare were clocked in April 2024 as part of the ASA’s AI assisted Active Ad Monitoring system, which proactively searched for online ads making claims about the treatment of symptoms of the menopause.

Weight gain and hot flashes

Rejuvit Labs was picked up for two ads for its Rejuvit Menopause Relief supplement. The first included a customer testimonial that stated, “Around 2-8 weeks after my first capsule, I already had extra room in my pants (everyone was asking how I lost weight), I felt more energized, and the hot flashes [sic] were gone […] I just keep feeling better, healthier, and happier”.

The ASA stated: “We considered that consumers would understand these to be claims that the product could treat symptoms of menopause, including resolving menopause-related weight gain, increasing energy levels and stopping hot flashes.”

The second ad opened with the claim “I’m 55 […] Menopause sucks so bad! Not to mention the hot flashes [sic] and joint pain I’ve had for over 7 years. […] the tummy or gut area is so bloated and big […] That’s precisely how Katy felt when she entered menopause". Further text stated, “Many women think weight gain and muffin tops during menopause are typical and can’t be stopped. Along with bloating, low energy, and digestive issues”.

The ASA considered this would be understood by consumers to mean that the Rejuvit Graceful Ageing supplements could be used to treat symptoms of the menopause, in particular weight gain, bloating, low energy levels and digestive issues.

“Both ads included a range of claims that the supplements could treat or cure symptoms of the menopause, both in general terms and in relation to specifically described symptoms.”

The firm did not respond to the ASA’s enquiries.

Low energy and poor sleep

The FemTech Healthcare ad promoted its Key for Peri + Menopause capsules.

The ad stated: “It’s the most comprehensive menopause support supplement that’s out there”…“[F]rom helping with mood, to brain fog, to hot flushes, to night sweats, to just all over, feeling so much better, more energy, and better sleep, that’s what every woman wants”.

The ASA stated: “Consumers would understand these to be claims that the product could treat symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, namely brain fog, hot flushes and night sweats as well as helping to resolve low energy and poor-quality sleep. The ad therefore made claims that the supplements could resolve symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.”

According to the ASA, such claims were claims to treat disease, which were prohibited for food and food supplements.

Exaggerated claims

Femtech Healthcare Ltd t/a KeyForHer said the ad did not use the words ‘treat’, ‘cure’ or ‘prevent’ in relation to symptoms of menopause or perimenopause.

The firm provided a list of the ingredients and highlighted authorised claims on the Great Britain nutrition and health claims register (the GB Register) relating to those substances. They also provided an overview of the other ingredients and the studies that had been conducted on them for their health effects.

The claim “contributes to the normal function of the immune system” is authorized on the GB Register in relation to vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, folate, zinc, selenium and iron. The claim “contributes to normal cognitive function” is also authorized on the GB Register in relation to zinc, iron and iodine.

While the ASA understood that the product contained sufficient quantities of all these vitamins and minerals to meet the conditions of use for both of these authorised claims, it said health claims must be presented “without exaggeration”.

The authority considered the ad’s claim ‘supports your immunity’ would have a different meaning to the authorized claim ‘contributes to the normal function of the immune system’.

“The latter made clear that the nutrients played a role in the normal function of the immune system, whereas by removing the reference to “normal” function, the claim in the ad implied they boosted the immune system,” it stated. “We therefore considered the claim exaggerated the authorised claim and was unlikely to have the same meaning for consumers as that of the authorised health claim.”

For the same reason, the ASA considered ‘supports cognitive function’ also breached the Code.

Additionally, it noted health claims in ads must be clearly attributed to the specific nutrient named in the authorised claim rather than imply that it related to the product as a whole.

Menopause marketing advice

The ASA advises whilst the menopause itself is not a medical condition, it is likely to consider the symptoms of the menopause to be conditions for which medical supervision should be sought (rule 12.2​).

Therefore, treatment claims for menopausal symptoms, such as those made in relation to therapies​, should only relate to therapies which are carried out under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional (Happy Homeopathy​, 11 June 2014).

It advises claims that a product can treat the symptoms of the menopause are likely to be regarded as medicinal​ in nature.

Medicinal claims can only be made for a medicinal product licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), for instance, or for a medical device​ (Rule 12.1​). Claims must be backed by evidence​.

In 2019, the ASA ruled against an ad which stated that a magnet product was “proven to reduce or completely eliminate menopause symptoms in over 71% of women”. Due to the lack of clinical evidence to support the claims, the ASA ruled that the ad was misleading (Ladycare Lifetime Ltd, 26 June 2019​).  

Food supplements which are offered as nutritional support for women during the menopause may only make health claims​ listed as authorised in the GB NHC Register​.

In 2021, the ASA ruled against an ad which stated that “Mother, 52 who was left exhausted by severe menopausal symptoms claims a ‘super supplement’ made her feel better in a WEEK”. (Lyma Life Ltd, Sept 2021​). The ASA considered this was a (specific) health claim for the purposes of the Code because it implied the food supplement provided the beneficial health effects of helping with symptoms of menopause. Because the ASA had not seen evidence that demonstrated the claim was authorised on the GB Register, the complaint was upheld on that basis.

Related topics Regulation & Policy Women's health

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