It’s hot out there and while consumers are busy choosing those revealing summer outfits, they might be considering doing away with that extra layer of body fat. So, before claiming weight loss results, check out the rules and remember that claiming your product could result in targeted weight loss, could land you in hot water!
1) What evidence do you have?
Genuine consumer experiences in the form of before and after photos or testimonials
are obviously a great way to market your product. But tread carefully because testimonials and the visual impression given by before and after photos alone, don’t count as adequate substantiation. Any claim made for the effectiveness of a weight-reduction method or product may well need to be supported with rigorous trials on people (13.1). See Weight control: General
2) How much is too much?
It’s not acceptable to claim that people can lose precise amounts of weight within a stated period of time (13.9). But, if you include claims which state that people have lost an exact amount of weight, ensure you state the time period involved (13.10). Any stated weight loss must be compatible with good medical and nutritional practice (i.e. a rate of weight loss no greater than 2Ibs a week, for the normally overweight).
3) Legs, Bums and Tums
Claiming that a non-surgical product could result in weight lost from a specific part of the body will often cause problems for marketers as it did for The Slimline Clinic who promoted their “Non-Surgical Ultrasonic Liposuction therapy” by stating, “Inches lost from Stomach, Back, Hips, Legs & Arms” (13.9).
4) Are you targeting the obese?
Obesity (defined by a BMI of more than 30 kg/m2) is frequently associated with medical conditions, so be careful that you don’t inadvertently offer specific advice or treatment for it unless it’s under suitably qualified supervision (13.2). Regarding one “Smash the Fat” ad, not only was suitable evidence not provided to prove the method was effective, but the advertiser who had studied obesity as part of his personal training qualification, wasn’t considered suitably qualified. See Weight: Obesity.
Earlier this year, CAP consulted on a proposal to allow marketers promoting lifestyle weight loss programmes to make references to obesity in their ads. The results of the consultation are now being considered by CAP and an announcement will be made in the autumn, so keep any eye out for any potential rule changes!
5) “Weight loss” is a health claim
A health claim is one which states, suggests or implies that a relationship exists between a food, supplement or soft drink and one’s health. Health claims for foods shouldn’t be made unless they are compatible with an authorised claim listed on the EU Register of nutrition and health claims. So you’ll need to comply with the Food rules too! Marketers who have previously run into problems with the ASA have made claims like “weight loss shake” and “shown to increase...muscle hormone levels, deposit more protein in muscle tissue, increase strength and muscle mass...”
To be on the safe side, you could quote the authorised claim in the ad verbatim, and of course you should market it in accordance with the conditions of use for that claim. See Weight control: Food and Food Supplements.
Don’t forget, while it could be acceptable for other products, health claims that refer to a rate or amount of weight loss aren’t allowed for foods (15.6.6).
6) Vitamins and Minerals do not contribute to weight reduction
…but, you could offer dietary supplements as a safeguard to adequate intake as long as you don’t attribute any potential weight loss to particular vitamins and minerals (13.6)
7) “Cellulite” is simply subcutaneous fat
While some may strive for a dimple free appearance, we haven’t seen any evidence that non-invasive products, particularly, creams, wraps, garments and electrical stimulation devices have any effect on cellulite. If you think you can prove it, be prepared to hold rigorous product specific evidence to show that fatty deposits can be successfully treated.
When Rodial Ltd stated "Get Mila Kunis' Esquire look with this intensive formula that helps reduce the appearance of cellulite fast…” the ASA found that the ingredients in the cream just didn’t measure up to those claims. See our Guidance on Substantiation for Health, Beauty and Slimming Claims.
8) Tight-fitting garments could offer short-term loss of girth but don’t confuse this with weight reduction
Groupon claimed that their “Weight loss” hot pants “Using Celu-Lite™ technology” were “designed to aid clients in their transformation into a smaller Russian doll self...” but no evidence was held to prove this. Nor was evidence held to prove that a “Fit Britches” garment could improve metabolism, blood flow and stimulate the body's lymphatic draining system. Currently, we remain unconvinced that garments can reduce cellulite or melt fatty deposits away. See Weight control: Garments.
9) Lose weight and keep it off?
It’s the ultimate victory, but as far as your ads are concerned, avoid implying that consumers can’t fail, or that weight loss is permanent with claims like “guaranteed inch loss” and “you won’t put an ounce back on” (13.8).
10) “Complementary” weight control
There is little convincing evidence that complementary therapies can help with weight loss. In particular, if you’re promoting a hypnotic gastric band, ensure that you don’t undermine the need for consumers to control calories and have the will to achieve their goals. See Weight control: Complementary therapies
This list isn’t exhaustive, so to read around this topic, see our other “Weight Control” entries.