Who Monitors False Weight-Loss Claims in Advertising?

Who Monitors False Weight-Loss Claims in Advertising?The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, is responsible for cracking down on companies’ advertising unsubstantiated weight loss statements.  Many of these statements claim unreasonably high weight loss results, and other false claims. The FTC works with media publishers and broadcasters to help identify false ads and prevent use of the ads.The FTC has developed the “Gut Check: A Reference Guide for Media on Spotting False Weight-Loss Claims” which lists seven weight loss claims that just can’t be true and should encourage a “gut check” to determine if an ad is false, and barred from being used. Sometimes these ads may slip through a crack, and should be reported to the FTC.  The following “gut check” lists should be easy to spot if it:

  1. causes weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise;
  2. causes substantial weight loss no matter what or how much the consumer eats;
  3. causes permanent weight loss even after the consumer stops the product;
  4. blocks the absorption of fat or calories to enable consumers to lose substantial weight;
  5. safely enables consumers to lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks;
  6. causes substantial weight loss for all users; or
  7. causes substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin.

So when you see phrases like “take it off and keep it off forever”, “block fat before your body absorbs it, the pounds and inches will melt away”, or “lose 10-20-30 lbs., this product works for everyone! No matter how many times you have tried and failed”, you should run from this product as these statements can’t be true or substantiated. 

Carolyn Bell, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

*Such statements can be reported to the FTC, as false advertising, by filing a complaint on the FTC website, www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-8.

References:  Gut Check: A Reference for Media on Spotting False Weight Loss Claims.  Federal Trade Commission website.  http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2014/01/ftc-has-updated-guidance-media-outlets-spotting-false-weight-loss.  Accessed July 3, 2014.