Miracle slimming adverts 'flout code': Claims ignore need to reduce calorie intake, watchdog finds

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The Independent Online
ALMOST two-thirds of advertisements for slimming products and cosmetic surgery for the figure flout industry guidelines, with the majority making 'miracle' claims for their products or techniques and guaranteeing weight loss, according to a survey.

Many make no reference to reducing calorie intake and some promise immediate results without dieting or exercise, while figure 'sculpturing' techniques - such as liposuction and lipo-surgery to remove fat - are often advertised as simple procedures with a permanent effect.

Some advertisers claim garments such as 'thinning belts' or exercise equipment can achieve weight or inch loss of their own accord.

The Advertising Standards Authority found that slimming advertisements were more problematic than other categories, and were 17 times more likely to breach its Code of Practice than alcohol advertisements, and six times more likely than those promoting cars.

In its monthly report for April, the authority refers to four complaints against companies selling slimming aids, including one that markets homoeopathic skin patches which 'act on glands in the body which affect metabolic rate and have long been recognised as a remedy for excess weight'. The Health Food Manufacturer's Association complained to the ASA about 'the incredible Australian three-week slimming miracle' which could not fail because it had an anti-fat ingredient to block food being turned into calories. It will allow you to lose as much weight as you like, the manufacturers claim.

Another advertisement for a 'Universal Contour Wrap' promised the permanent loss of six inches off the figure, while a nutritional slimming programme guaranteed weight loss 'the natural way. No starvation or exercise needed.' All the complaints were upheld by the authority.

Advertisers were particularly resistant to complying with the code or substantiating their claims following a complaint, the ASA said. 'Instead, we are told that the advertisement will not appear again. Sadly, other advertisements which are equally unacceptable often take their place . . .', the authority says.

Its survey was carried out last January, a peak month for slimming advertisements after the Christmas and New Year holiday. It monitored all those making claims for slimming, weight or inch loss and figure control in national daily and Sunday newspapers, six regional newspapers and women's magazines.

There were 124 advertisements, which included some repeats, and further analysis showed 31 different advertisements, of which only 11 did not breach the code.

Of the remainder, six were already the subject of monitoring and 14 contained potential code breaches. 'This gave a problem level of 64.5 per cent, significantly higher than is usual in our Special Category Monitoring Surveys . . ', the authority said.

Most of the dubious advertisements appeared in national tabloids, the survey found. Although the code requires all such advertisements to be checked by the publishers before publication, many were failing to do so.

According to the report: 'The primary problem is that certain advertisers persistently include such claims as 'Overnight Miracle Slim' and 'No dieting, no exercise'. Such claims break the code, which states that the only way to lose weight is by taking in less energy (calories) than the body is using. Claims that weight loss can be achieved wholly by any other means are simply not acceptable.'