Weight control: Complementary therapies


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Published
Jun 3rd '24
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Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) understands that there is little convincing evidence for the effectiveness of complementary therapies for reducing body weight. See guidance on the level of substantiation expected in health, beauty and slimming claims for the evidence the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) expects.

 

Hypnotherapy

The ASA and CAP are likely to accept that hypnotherapy might be able to help subjects who really want to succeed in controlling food addictions or cravings, however, marketers must implicitly or explicitly state that willpower plays a role, and should not suggest that achieving that control is easy or guaranteed (Rule 12.8). Marketers should not imply that hypnotherapy alone causes weight loss, and nothing in the ad should undermine the need to control calories (Leamington Hypnotherapy Clinic, 27 March 2013). See Health: Hypnotherapy.

 

Marketers promoting hypnotic gastric bands should ensure they do not guarantee results. Prominence must be given to the role of the diet and ads should not give the impression that dieters cannot fail or can eat as much as they like and still lose weight. In May 2023, the ASA ruled against a social media post which stated “We currently have our ‘Hypnotic Gastric Band Program’ on special offer. Our Hypnotic Band has been used by thousands of people worldwide. It provides the perfect solution for people who are not able to exercise or do not want to forbid certain foods from their diet”, “Order now and have it to use whenever you are ready to make your hypnotherapy weight loss journey” and “95% Success Rate”. It featured before and after photos of a woman who was visibly slimmer in the second image and the claim “Virtual Gastric Band 3 week program. 3 weeks is all we need”. because the advertiser was unable to provide evidence that the advertised product acted like a gastric band, had a 95% success rate or would result in noticeable weight loss within three weeks (Pure Clear Minds Ltd, 10 May 2023).

 

Other therapies

The ASA ruled against an ad for chiropractic treatment which stated, “A re-charged nervous system, Increased energy levels, Improved immune function, A healthy toned body?” because while it understood that chiropractic treatment could influence muscle tone, the objective claims in the ad would need to be supported by a high level of scientific evidence, which had not been presented (Advanced Wellness Chiropractic Clinic, 1 May 2013). See Chiropractic.

 

The ASA also received complaint that a therapeutic couch could break down cellulite, as well as decompose fat, produce the same effect as running 20-30 km, burn up to 1000 calories and improve the cardiovascular system. The ASA considered that the ad contained breakthrough claims that required a body of robust scientific evidence, such as clinical trials conducted on people, in order to substantiate them, which the advertiser was unable to show (Nuga Best UK & Ireland, 30 March 2011).

 

In April 2013 the ASA upheld a complaint about an ad for Crystal therapy, which claimed to treat a variety of conditions as well as making claims about weight loss because the marketer was unable to substantiate their claims (Spirit Walker Crystals, 17 April 2013). See Crystal therapy.

 

In the past the ASA has upheld complaints that challenged the weight loss claims made about traditional Chinese methods, and it has seen no evidence to suggest that acupuncture, acupressure or herbal treatments can result in weight loss (Chinese Medicine Centre, 14 January 2004; Acu Herbs Chinese Medicine Centre, 3 April 2004, and Great Chinese Herbal Medicine Ltd, 7 December 2005). See Therapies: Chinese herbal medicine or traditional Chinese medicine 

 

Homeopathic products

Rule 12.20 of the Code states that homeopathic medicinal products must be registered in the UK. Any product information given in the marketing communication should be confined to what appears on the label. And marketing communications for an unlicenced product must not make a medicinal claim, therapeutic claim or refer to an ailment, unless authorised by the MHRA to do so.

 

A complaint about a website promoting homeopathic products which accompanied a 1250-calorie weight loss program was Upheld by the ASA. The ASA considered that an ad which stated, “Slenderiix … alleviates hunger as it flushes fats and toxins from our systems… signals your hypothalamus to mobilize fat out of your body’s fat storage areas makes it available for you to burn as you go…begin to curb your hunger and release fat stores to help feed your body…it optimizes absorption of everything you eat and drink…” made medicinal claims in relation to unlicensed products (Slenderiiz UK, 11 June 2014). See Health: Homeopathic medicines.

 

Testimonials and before and after photos

Whilst marketers ought to hold signed and dated proof to demonstrate that a testimonial is genuine, testimonials that are not supported by trials do not constitute adequate substantiation (13.1). See Weight control: Testimonials.

 

Obesity

Marketers who are not suitably qualified should not reference or otherwise target people suffering from obesity, because obesity is frequently associated with a medical condition (Rule 13.2). See Weight control: Obesity.

 

Source: CAP

 

About CAP

The CAP is the sister organisation of the ASA and is responsible for writing the Advertising Codes.

 

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 ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.

 

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