This Section applies to marketing communications for weight control and slimming foodstuffs, aids (including exercise products that make weight-loss or slimming claims), clinics and other establishments, diets, medicines, treatments, and the like. The specific rules in this Section are in addition to those in other parts of the Code including Section 8: Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages, and Section 11: Health and Beauty which may be relevant.
A programme in which the intake of energy is lower than its output is the main self-treatment for achieving weight loss.
Any claims made for the effectiveness of a slimming plan, method or product should be backed by reputable and robust practical trials on human subjects. Testimonials do not constitute substantiation and the opinions expressed in them should be supported, where necessary, by independent evidence.
Claims that long-term slimming, weight loss or inch loss can be achieved either generally or (subject to the exception at 12.4) from specific areas of the body by any means other than dieting such as, for example, by expelling water, speeding up the metabolism, using mechanical devices, wearing garments or applying substances to the skin, should not be made unless they can be substantiated.
Marketing communications for surgical clinics, establishments and the like, that comply with rule 11.7, may claim that weight or fat can be lost from specific parts of the body. Such marketing communications should not refer to the amount of weight that can be lost.
Slimming claims in respect of an unproven weight-loss method cannot be justified merely by offering a diet or exercise scheme with it.
Advertisers should be able to show that their diet plans are nutritionally well balanced. These will be assessed in relation to the subjects who would be using them.
Vitamins and minerals do not contribute to weight loss but can be offered to slimmers as a safeguard against any nutritional shortfall when dieting.
A marketing communication should not suggest that persons of normal weight* need to slim.
“Crash diets” should not be advertised because of the danger that such diets can pose to the health of dieters when undertaken without medical supervision.
A marketing communication should not offer treatment specifically for conditions that require medical treatment, such as obesity, anorexia and bulimia.
Marketing communications for products and services in this category should not suggest that to be underweight* is acceptable or desirable. Where testimonials or case histories are used, they must not refer to subjects who are, or appear to be, underweight.
Marketing communications for diet aids such as low-calorie foods, food substitutes, appetite depressants and meal replacements should make it clear that they can be effective only as part of a calorie-controlled diet. Prominence should be given to the role of the diet, and marketing communications should not give the impression that particular methods cannot fail or that dieters can eat as much as they like and still lose weight.
Advertisers should not make general claims that specific amounts of weight can be lost within a stated period. Claims that individuals have lost specific amounts of weight should be compatible with good medical and nutritional practice, should give details of the time period and should not be based on unrepresentative experiences.
Individual variability must be taken into account when considering what constitutes good medical and nutritional practice for weight loss in adults who are overweight*. In general, weight loss greater than 1 kilogram (2.2lb) per week in those who are overweight would not be considered compatible with good medical or nutritional practice.
Both physical and passive exercise operate slowly to improve muscle tone and this can have an effect on body shape. An improvement in posture may also benefit the figure. Advertisers should be able to substantiate any claims that such methods used alone or in conjunction with a diet plan can lead to weight or inch loss. Marketing communications for intensive exercise programmes should encourage users to check with a doctor before starting.
Marketing communications for adult weight-reduction regimes or establishments should neither be directed at, nor contain anything that will appeal particularly to, children.
Health claims in marketing communications for food products that refer to a rate or amount of weight loss are not permitted.
*Note: For the purposes of the Code, the following definitions will apply:
• normal weight means a Body Mass Index of between 18.5 and 24.9;
• underweight means a Body Mass Index of below 18.5;
• overweight/pre-obese means a Body Mass Index of between 25 and 29.9;
• obese means a Body Mass Index of over 30.
Source: The Report of the National Taskforce on Obesity, 2005