Monday, January 14, 2013

Did Britain Just Draft the World's Toughest Weight Loss Advertising Guidelines?


Check this out. In the UK their Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the folks who write and maintain UK's advertising code just published new guidelines regarding the advertising of weight loss products and services.

What's no longer allowed?
  • Claiming that people can lose a precise amount of weight in a specific period of time.
  • Claiming that spot reduction exists.
  • Advertising weight loss products or services to minors.
  • Implying that weight loss will be permanent.
  • Implying that weight loss will be easy.
  • Implying that a person can eat whatever they want and still lose.
  • Suggesting certain foods can help you lose specific amounts of weight.
  • Making claims about services or products not supportable by means of evidence.
  • Utilizing testimonials that suggest more than 2lb/wk weight loss.
  • Utilizing products that purport to "bind fat".
  • Implying vitamin or mineral formulations are beneficial to weight loss.
  • Implying that a product or procedure will remove "toxins" from the body.
And lastly there's this amazing statement,
"Obesity is frequently associated with a medical condition and a treatment for it must not be advertised to the public unless it is to be used under suitably qualified supervision."
Though it doesn't describe what "suitably qualified" means, I can only pray it will be used to shut down some of the snake oil salespeople who prey on the vulnerable by selling hope in place of help.

Wish we could see this sort of care and consideration here in North America (but please don't hold your breath).

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  1. As a Brit myself, I often hear complaints from fellow natives about how we are a "nanny state" with rules and regulations that are "over-the-top", especially when it comes to Health and Safety - but at the same time, all it takes is one quick trip abroad for you to suddenly realise just how beneficial all this "nannying" actually is!

    I am thankful for guidelines like this, as it never ceases to amaze me how much advertisers flat-out lie in America and other parts of Europe, particularly.

  2. I already "self-regulate" when it comes to claims made by weight loss program or products (cough*PGX*cough). My current red flags terms are: "belly fat" and "detox/cleanse/flush." I do take issue with this one, though: "Implying that a person can eat whatever they want and still lose." You absolutely CAN eat whatever you want and still lose - you just can't however MUCH you want.

  3. Anonymous9:39 am

    You are right! Wow, just fantastic!

  4. Anonymous10:08 am

    Thanks for posting this, it's good to hear that somewhere in this world there will be responsible advertizing.

  5. Anonymous10:22 am

    The one I want to see abolished most is the ability to lose more than 2 pounds a week. My friends sell a weight loss plan(multi-level marketing)and the constant facebook is how the average weight loss is 10 pounds on the 24 day program. I only lost 4 pounds and felt like a failure, although I only needed to lose 6 pounds anyway. The same friends advertise that they are once again on the 24 day plan and they lose the same 10 pounds what looks like six times a year on facebook. That and the Biggest Loser program seems so wrong.

  6. This is a GREAT use of gov't powers. Instead of enacting food bans or taxing single food categories, set up rules that make it difficult for snake-oil salesmen to peddle their bottles of false hope.

    My only concern is with the concept of "suitably qualified" . Who decides what suitably qualified means?

    Do we assume that an MD is required to make statements about weight loss products and services?

    Or a phd in bio-chemistry?

    I work with doctors and researchers on a regular basis...and yet, two of the smartest people I know re weight loss and body transformation are "juiced-up' bodybuilders with high-school educations...and a ton of real-world experience and self-taught scientific knowledge.

    I would also question whether being suitably qualified to dispense weight loss advice guarantees that a person wouldn't sell snake-oil.

  7. I completely support these new guidelines as these may prevent lots of gullible people falling into the trap of those 'weight loss factories' which, more than often, make people lose money rather than weight.

  8. Those look like great guidelines to me. I agree though with Doug. If that was passed in Canada, I'd have a concern about who is deemed as 'suitably qualified'.

  9. Within 4 hours of reading this I passed an Herbal Magic, Dr. Bernstein and a HCG clinic. Perhaps Canada can adopt these same guidelines and put all of these charlatans out of business for good.

  10. I don't like having government agencies dictating what we can say because they base the rules on what they believe to be the true, which is currently far from scientific. For example, the rule that says you can't use testimonials from anyone saying they lost more than 2 pounds a week. I lost 2 pounds a day on low-carb! And I've kept it off for 13 years.

    I was recently involved in helping with a commercial for a sugar substitute and we were told that we could not say anything bad about sugar, only that it had calories and carbs. We could say that it might help with carb counting for diabetics, but we could not say that people should not eat sugary desserts, only that they should "eat fewer desserts," with or without sugar.

    One cookbook author told me that they (the FDA) would not let him tell the truth about how he lost weight with a low-carb diet. He lost almost 300 pounds, starting when he was in a wheelchair, but he couldn't say that because that was "impossible." He had to include some mention of exercise in his ad or they would not let him show it. They said such claims were not supported by research studies, but they would not look at any studies that contradicted what they already believed.

    1. I think they're confusing research with dogma

  11. Real change happens on a macro level when public opinion gradually shifts. If we were exposed to fewer crazy claims and more truth, we may see people moving toward effective solutions for weight management and away from the hard-sell quick fix.

    1. I think that the move away from the quick fix and toward sensible solutions is something that needs to start happening in a whole bunch of areas...not just obesity/weight loss.

      We looooovvvvve the quick fix