Weight control: Fat binders

Nov 29th '22

BREXIT – The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) Codes include many rules which seek to reflect significant pieces of EU law or UK law that has been made to implement EU law. As far as CAP is aware, the same rules and laws will apply on the day after exit as on the day before. This CAP News Article explains the position further.


  • Is the product a medical device?

While some marketers refer to so-called fat binders as “supplements”, many genuine ‘fat binders’ will be classed as medical devices and should be appropriately certified and registered.  Marketers should seek advice from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to ensure the product classification is correct.


CAP understands that fat binders work by limiting the amount of fat the body absorbs from food intake. If the product is classed as a medical device, marketers should ensure that they hold rigorous product specific scientific data, which proves that a medical device which acts as a fat binder can work as described.


See CAP advice on Medical Devices.


In 2013, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated a complaint made by The International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) about a fat-binding weight loss pill. The voiceover in the TV ad said, “A study has shown that XLS Medical combined with eating less and keeping active could help you lose up to three times more weight than dieting alone”. The studies provided by the marketer showed that the advertised product had been effective in promoting weight loss and that it could help consumers lose up to three times more weight. On that basis, the ad was Not Upheld (Omega Pharma Ltd, 17 April 2013).


Also see CAP Guidance on Substantiation for health, beauty and slimming claims.


  • Is the product a food supplement?

If the product is not classed as a medical device, it may be food supplement and therefore the Food Rules will apply in addition to any relevant Weight Control and Slimming rules.


Claims linked to fat reduction or weight loss are likely to be considered health claims and only likely to be acceptable if they are authorised on the GB NHC register in relation to a ingredient in this product.


Please read in-depth advice on Weight control: Food and Food supplements


  • What about obesity references?

Claims that a fat binding product can be used for the treatment of obesity is likely to be considered to discourage essential medical treatment, unless that treatment is to be carried out under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.


The ASA previously reviewed complaints about the claim “Obesity and all the common ailments that come with being over-weight is a major problem society faces in the 21st century. Proactol XS is a new medically certified device that has been proven to help reduce obesity and diseases related to being overweight”. Because the ASA had not seen evidence to demonstrate that Proactol XS could be used as a treatment for obesity, or that it was used under suitably qualified supervision, it concluded that the claims relating to obesity were misleading, irresponsible and harmful (Advanced Health Ltd, 25 February 2015).


  • What about references to a rate of weight loss?

Claims that one could potentially lose a precise amount of weight within a stated period of time (Rule 13.9) (Dailydiettips.co.uk, 5 June 2013) or that weight can be lost from specific parts of the body (The Slimline Clinic, 17 October 2012) should be avoided.


If proven, and in line with good medical and nutritional practice, marketers are likely to be able to claim that specific individuals have lost exact amounts of weight in a given period. It is not acceptable to advertise that those who are overweight (but not obese) have lost more than 2lbs a week.


Health claims that refer to a rate or amount of weight loss are not permitted in relation to food or food supplements.


Source: CAP


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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