Slimming, Dieting & Weight Loss
There are detailed rules on slimming advertisements and weight loss regimens/claims in Section 12 of the BCAP Code. Scheduling will be advised to help prevent under 18s from hearing the ads.
Advertisements for slimming aids, slimming pills, herbal slimming products, meal replacement programmes, shakes and bars, VLCDs, energy-restricted diets, weight-watching schemes, weight loss websites, mechanical devices, beauty salon treatments and similar all need Radiocentre scrutiny to ensure that they are effective and safe.
As Radiocentre’s independent dietician may need to be consulted, Radiocentre requires detailed product information (e.g. menu plans/diet sheets or the nutrition advice given) and satisfactory substantiation (based on clinical trials or other generally accepted scientific evidence) in support of all weight loss claims. Menu plans will require full nutritional breakdowns including macronutrients (energy, protein, etc) and micronutrients (vitamin and mineral content, etc) Radiocentre also needs evidence of clinicians’/nutritionists’/dieticians’ professional qualifications.
Advertisements for establishments, gyms etc. (not products or hospitals and clinics offering medically-supervised treatments) that include claims about reducing calories and similar weight loss claims may need to make clear that dietary control is necessary to achieve weight loss (e.g. “as part of a calorie-controlled diet”).
The tag “can help only as part of a calorie controlled diet” is also needed where low-calorie foods and drinks are advertised either as slimming aids or with a weight loss theme.
Services offering remote personalised advice on health matters related to slimming may advertise only if all staff providing that advice are suitably qualified and are subject to regulation by a professional body with a code of conduct.
Clinics and other establishments offering medically-supervised weight loss treatments may advertise only if they are run in accordance with the National Minimum Standards Regulations issued by the Department of Health. Only these clinics and establishments are able to promote weight loss treatments to the obese (those with a BMI of 30 and above) – satisfactory evidence must be provided that the treatments are offered under medical supervision and advertisers must demonstrate “suitable credentials” listed at Rule 11.9 of the BCAP code.
The following may target the obese:
- advertisers of non-prescription medicines for obesity that are administered by pharmacies,
- hospitals and clinics that offer immediate weight loss surgery,
- lifestyle weight management programmes meeting certain criteria.
Testimonials, (where an individual claims to have lost a specific amount of weight by following an advertiser’s diet plan), are only acceptable if the period over which the weight was lost is stated and is compatible with generally accepted best medical and dietary practice (as a general guideline, a weight loss of up to 2lbs/1kg per week is considered acceptable under current nutrition advice). The testimonee should sign a Radiocentre Testimonial Release Form and provide details of their start and finish weights, including Body Mass Index calculations. Specific weight losses quoted must not be excessive or based on unrepresentative experiences.
Other than testimonials, assurances, promises or predictions of specific weight loss are unacceptable, as the amount of weight loss achieved by individuals depends on many variables and cannot be guaranteed. “Lose X stone in 14 days – guaranteed” is an unacceptable claim. However, a general weight loss indication such as “You could lose up to X in your first month” may be acceptable, subject to qualified medical advice.
Advertisements for energy restricted diets and Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCDs) are acceptable, subject to the requirements in BCAP Code Rule 12.14.
Advertisements for slimming or weight control products or services must not be addressed to under 18s, use creative treatments likely to appeal to them or use people or celebrities that are likely to have a particular appeal to them.
Where ads for meal replacement products (e.g. shakes) make weight loss claims, they will need to include EFSA-authorised health claims as listed on the EU Register.