An ad for Slimspired clinic’s TriLipo treatment, a fat reduction treatment, seen in the national press on 18 July 2017, was headed “Clinic’s ‘miracle machine’ causes summer bum rush!”. Text stated “A central London clinic has been forced to keep longer hours in order to deal with the popularity of its new Summer Bum Lift! Demand for the non-invasive, no-needles and no-downtime procedure has rocketed since the arrival of the clinic’s new, revolutionary machine. It features the very latest ‘Tri-Lipo’ technology, which combines Radio Frequency, Muscle Activation Therapy and Mechanical Pressure … the results are nothing short of incredible … dramatic results … the clinic uses the same technology on a range of treatments … Whatever area of the body our clients are unhappy with, the motivation is the same: people want to look their best! And this technology is a quick way of doing that without the need to work out at the gym”. This was accompanied by three photos of a woman’s bottom and thighs, labelled “Week 1”, “Week 3” and “Week 6”. The caption stated “Insane results! From ‘big and beautiful’ to ‘half the size and happier’ in just 6 weeks! Whether you want a perkier posterior or a trimmer tummy, call the specialists at Slimspired now”. A box embedded within the text was headed “The ‘no-gym’ solution to a flatter tum” and accompanied by “Before” and “After” images of a woman’s midriff. Text stated “Slimspired’s non-surgical alternative to liposuction delivers fast results safely … and without exercise! The technology targets fat cells through Tri-lipo technology, allowing them to be removed from your body naturally with the help of your liver. There is no pain, no needles, no surgery, no downtime … This pain-free procedure takes just 30 minutes and results are visible, even from your first session”.
The complainant challenged whether the claims that the product could reduce fat and aid weight loss were misleading and could be substantiated.
MedSpa Pro Ltd t/a Slimspired said the ad had been designed in response to a previous complaint which was upheld by the ASA in relation to their 3D Lipo treatments. Slimspired said they had purchased the TriLipo machines because of the medical grade accreditations and robust clinical trials for this technology.
Slimspired said they had moved away from making claims to instead focus on how busy the clinic was as a result of the new machines they had. They believed that there were a few claims in the copy highlighted by the ASA but that these were substantiated by clinical trials carried out on the device. They stated the Slimspired programme used both the TriLipo device and calorie deficits to achieve inch loss results on targeted areas of the client’s body by reducing overall circumference and fat layer thickness.
Slimspired stated they had never claimed that the device itself could affect weight loss. There would be a small weight loss as a consequence of treatment, however they also insisted their clients consumed a deficit of calories compared to what they burned while under treatment, depending on their Body Mass Index (BMI). This allowed the treatment to be effective, as overeating would prevent it from working. The calorie restrictions they required were stated within the body of the ad. Slimspired said they had added a prominent disclaimer stating that TriLipo would not cause weight loss. They believed consumers would be able to differentiate between the specific, targeted inch loss they offered and more traditional whole body weight loss products.
They provided one clinical trial, testimonials, a paper describing the product from the manufacturer and comments from the supplier of the device, and CE certification documents in support of their claims.
The ASA noted the ad referred to a “Summer Bum Lift”, “a perkier posterior or a trimmer tummy”, “the ‘no-gym’ solution to a flatter tum” and stated “whatever area of the body our clients are unhappy with, the motivation is the same: people want to look their best!”, as well as presenting before and after images of a woman’s midriff and bottom/thighs, which appeared to show a reduction in fat. In combination with the claims about the popularity of the treatment, description of how it “removed fat cells from the body”, and more general references to its benefits such as “dramatic results” and “miracle machine”, we considered that consumers would understand the ad to mean that TriLipo treatment could reduce fat from various targeted areas of the body and aid in weight loss without the need to exercise. While we noted that the ad mentioned diet and exercise requirements that should be adhered to in combination with the treatment, we considered the overall focus was on the effect of the device. We considered such claims should be supported by robust evidence, including clinical trials of the treatments on people demonstrating the efficacy of the treatment.
We acknowledged Slimspired’s assertion that they had added a disclaimer to the ad stating the treatment did not result in weight loss. However, we did not consider that would be sufficient to counteract the overall impression given by the ad.
The Lipofirm Pro device used to administer the TriLipo treatment was a CE-marked medical device. The documentation was supplied to the ASA, however, we noted that CE certification alone was not sufficient to support the fat reduction and weight loss efficacy claims made in the ad.
We assessed the clinical trial provided by Slimspired, which tested the device referred to in the ad. It was carried out on 25 female participants, aged 24–55 years, with at least moderate abdominal cellulite, as assessed on a four-point visual scale. The subjects underwent six weekly treatments using a device that combined radiofrequency and muscle activation technology. The results indicated a significant reduction in abdominal circumference at one week and four weeks following the end of treatment, compared to baseline, as well as a significant reduction in abdominal subcutaneous fat thickness as measured by ultrasound.
However, we noted that the trial was not double-blinded or placebo-controlled. Furthermore, the sample size was relatively small. While the participants had been selected based on the appearance of abdominal cellulite, there was no information provided on their BMI at baseline, or other demographic characteristics that could influence the results. The average weight at baseline was provided. However, the range of weights among participants was not disclosed, and neither was the range of circumference or subcutaneous fat reduction results made clear. We noted that the participants had been instructed to maintain their normal diet, exercise programme and lifestyle, but also that weight should not fluctuate by more than 2 kg compared to the previous month. We therefore considered it was not possible to separate the effect of the device itself from that of other interventions participants might have undertaken. Finally, we noted that the study only measured the effect of the treatment on the abdominal area while the ad made claims that consumers were likely to interpret as meaning the TriLipo device could reduce fat from other areas of the body. We considered that the evidence provided was not sufficient to support the claims made in the ad as consumers were likely to understand them. We concluded that the claims had not been substantiated and therefore breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.
Objective claims must be backed by evidence, if relevant consisting of trials conducted on people. Substantiation will be assessed on the basis of the available scientific knowledge.
Medicinal or medical claims and indications may be made for a medicinal product that is licensed by the MHRA, VMD or under the auspices of the EMA, or for a CE-marked medical device. A medicinal claim is a claim that a product or its constituent(s) can be used with a view to making a medical diagnosis or can treat or prevent disease, including an injury, ailment or adverse condition, whether of body or mind, in human beings.
Secondary medicinal claims made for cosmetic products as defined in the appropriate European legislation must be backed by evidence. These are limited to any preventative action of the product and may not include claims to treat disease. (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products) and 13.1 13.1 A weight-reduction regime in which the intake of energy is lower than its output is the most common self-treatment for achieving weight reduction. Any claim made for the effectiveness or action of a weight-reduction method or product must be backed, if applicable, by rigorous trials on people; testimonials that are not supported by trials do not constitute substantiation. (Weight control and slimming).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Slimspired to ensure that they did not state or imply that TriLipo treatment could reduce fat or aid weight loss, unless they held robust clinical evidence to substantiate their claims.