ASA Adjudication on The Healthy Bowels Company Ltd
The Healthy Bowels Company Ltd
Unit 10 Tile Cross Trading Estate
Tile Cross Road
21 July 2010
Health and beauty
Number of complaints:
A magazine ad for a fibre supplement stated “Healthy bowels? … taking Lepicol, a totally natural product, with its combination of gentle plant fibres, probiotic cultures and prebiotics, can make it easier to keep your bowels healthy”.
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the claim "Lepicol ... can make it easier to keep your bowels healthy" could be substantiated;
2. the claim "But fibre on its own is not enough to ensure healthy bowels. You also need a number of different strains of healthy bacteria. Lepicol itself contains 5 different cultures", misleadingly implied that probiotics (such as those in Lepicol) were necessary to have healthy bowels; and
3. the claim "Lepicol, a totally natural product" breached the Code because it implied it was effective merely because it was natural.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
1. The Healthy Bowels Company Ltd (HB) said Lepicol contained psylllium husks, which were a soluble fibre, and a combination of pre-and probiotics. They said the government were trying to increase daily consumption of soluble fibre and believed that taking Lepicol could contribute to that initiative. Because psyllium husks had a high absorbency rate, HB believed it was an efficient source of soluble fibre that could improve digestive transit time. They also said that Lepicol contained a prebiotic formulation of pure fibre (Inulin), which they argued increased fibre intake and stimulated the production of important probiotic bacteria. Furthermore, HB said that Lepicol contained five strains of probiotic bacteria which were also vital for bowel health. HB sent summaries of trials conducted on those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for the use of soluble and insoluble fibre and probiotics on bowel health.
HB believed there was a synergy between the three ingredients in Lepicol and believed the ingredients had the ability to enhance the effect of the other. They pointed to the summary of a study on how psyllium and probiotics interacted with one another and said that when used alone there was no reported benefit. However, when they were used together, HB said the study showed an improvement for those with IBS. HB therefore believed that for those who suffered with constipation, Lepicol would make it easier for them to improve transit time.
2. HB believed the claim simply clarified their view that probiotic bacteria were also good for bowel heath, in addition to fibre. They explained that whilst it was well established that fibre was good for bowel health, because the research into probiotics was relatively recent, not many consumers yet associated them with good bowel health, so the claim was intended to highlight their importance.
3. HB said that the ad merely stated Lepicol was a natural product and did not believe the ad implied it was effective solely because it was natural.
The ASA considered that the ad gave the impression that the specific formulation of Lepicol could help bowel health, rather than increased fibre intake per se. We therefore expected to see product-specific evidence to support the claim. We noted the study summaries sent by HB on the individual ingredients in Lepicol, their interaction with one another, and their effect on bowel health, but understood that the studies were conducted on those with existing digestive illnesses, such as IBS, and not healthy adults. We noted that we had not seen evidence to demonstrate that the specific composition of Lepicol could improve or maintain bowel health and therefore concluded the claim "Lepicol ... can make it easier to keep your bowels healthy" had not been substantiated and was likely to mislead.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) 50.1, and 50.20 (Health and beauty products and therapies).
2. Not upheld
We noted that the ad stated "But fibre on its own is not enough to ensure healthy bowels. You also need a number of different strains of healthy bacteria. Lepicol itself contains 5 different probiotic cultures which will provide your bowels with a broad based support" and considered that readers were likely to interpret the claim to mean that different strains of bacteria contributed to the maintenance of healthy bowels and Lepicol contained some of these. We considered that the claim did not imply that readers would be unable to have healthy bowels unless they consumed Lepicol or another supplement containing probiotics and therefore concluded the ad was unlikely to mislead on that point.
On this point, we investigated the ad ad under CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) 50.1, and 50.20 (Health and beauty products and therapies) but did not find the ad in breach.
3. Not upheld
We acknowledged that the ad claimed Lepicol was a "totally natural product". However, we considered that the ad did not go as far as to suggest or imply that Lepicol was efficacious simply because it was natural. We therefore concluded that the ad had not breached the Code on that point.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code clause 50.5 (Health and beauty products and therapies) but did not find it in breach.
The ad must not appear again in its current form.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)