Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
What is the Atkins Diet?
Sometimes called the Atkins Nutritional Approach, the “Atkins Diet” has, over the years, attracted quite a lot of publicity. In short, the plan traditionally involves four phases, the first of which, the ‘weight loss’ phase, instructs ‘dieters’ to restrict their carbohydrate intake to 20grammes of ‘net’ carbs a day for a minimum of two weeks while continuing to eat foods high in protein and fat such as eggs, beef, olive oil and butter. Dieter’s only carb intake should come in the form of salad greens and other green vegetables (broccoli, green beans, spinach and asparagus).
What claims are likely to be problematic?
The Code states that a weight-reduction regimen is commonly one in which the intake of energy is lower than its output i.e. dieters use more calories than they consume. To date, neither CAP nor the ASA has accepted that a ‘diet’ based on monitoring the consumption of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbohydrates alone can result in weight loss. Whilst participants of an Atkins Diet may lose weight, CAP believes they achieve that weight loss by consuming fewer calories. Subsequently, any weight loss claims for Atkins diets would need to be supported by robust clinical evidence.
The Code also states that marketers must be able to show that their diet plans are nutritionally well-balanced (rule 13.5). To date, neither CAP nor the ASA has seen convincing evidence that the Atkins Diet is nutritionally well-balanced and are aware of concern that risk factors are attached to it, for example orthostatic hypotension, gout, kidney failure, haemorrhoids, diverticulosis, polyps and colon cancer. A report appearing in the Cleveland Clinical Journal of Medicine identified those risk factors, indicated the diet was low in fibre and stated that restricting or omitting types of carbohydrate “can lead to deficiencies in vitamins, minerals and other essential micronutrients”.
In addition to holding evidence to demonstrate that the diet plan is nutritionally well balanced, marketers should not claim that the diet is “safe” unless they hold robust evidence.
Also see CAP advice on Weight control: General