Monday, 29 March 2010
Life Healthcare: ruthlessly exploiting the vulnerable
Some advertisements are so thoroughly objectionable, that it's difficult to know where to start.
Life Healthcare's advert appeared as in insert in this month's Natural Health magazine (available here, here, here and here).
I'll let my ASA complaint speak for itself. It was a real struggle to fit it into 5,000 characters.
"I write to complain about an leaflet inserted into copies of “Natural Health" Magazine (April 2010) which promotes the "Thyrosine Support Formula".
I suspect that the advert may be in breach of six sections of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP) code.
I have submitted scans of the advert. I can provide an original copy of the advert by post, if required.
1. Under Sections 3.1 and 50.1, I challenge whether the advertiser holds documentary evidence to prove any of the following claims, and I challenge whether the claims are backed by evidence, where appropriate consisting of trials conducted on people:
(i) Thyrosine is a "natural answer" in "the struggle to lose weight"
(ii) Thyrosine contains "essential herbs and nutrients that help your body to stimulate and normalise your thyroid glands naturally"
(iii) Thyrosine is "clinically proven to reduce symptoms and normalise thyroid hormones"
(iv) Thyrosine "improves digestion and increases burning of dietary fats"
(v) Thyrosine is "highly effective"
(vi) Thyrosine contains "100% natural ingredients with no harsh chemicals or unwelcome side effects"
(vii) Thyrosine gives you "more energy", "better hair and skin", "lower cholesterol", "reduced joint pain", "better concentration/memory", "fewer depression symptoms" and a "regulated libido/menstrual cycle"
(viii) "If you suffer from an under-active thyroid" then "scientific studies prove [by using Thyrosine] that there is hope"
(ix) "Conventional medicine does not have the best testing or treatment methods for an under-active thyroid"
(x) Thyrosine is a "solution to your problem" [of finding a medicine "without side effects that are worse than your symptoms"]
(xi) Thyrosine can "help to repair, improve, and sustain your thyroid gland without harsh chemicals or severe side effects"
(xii) Thyrosine provides the iodine that the thyroid gland "needs to reduce the chances of developing a goitre [an enlarged thyroid gland]"
(xiii) Thyrosine "supplies your thyroid and your body with essential nutrients to help restore your thyroid gland to normal function and stimulates glandular activity"
(xiv) Thyrosine helps you "produce normal levels of thyroid hormones without any harsh chemicals or side effects"
(xv) "Documented international research" shows Thyrosine "[helps] provide your body with many of the essential nutrients your thyroid needs to function properly"
(xvi) Thyrosine "works to help your body increase the efficiency of your thyroid gland"
(xvii) "No product has been more successful in helping an under-active thyroid gland thanks to the ingredients in Thyrosine"
(xviii) Users of Thyrosine can expect "a boost in your energy levels"
(xix) Thyrosine gives the kidneys and liver "a break", and allows them to "convert the thyroid hormone faster and more efficiently"
(xx) "Thyrosine contains ingredients that help protect the liver as well as increase and aid digestion"
(xxi) "Thyrosine...contains ingredients that researchers have found increase the metabolism of consumed fats"
(xxii) "Most people report that within two to four weeks of taking Thyrosine...they being to notice a change in their overall feeling of wellness and report improvements like... increased energy, improved metabolism, easier weight loss, better mental function, fewer symptoms of depression, decreased mood swings and irritability, greater ability to tolerate cold, regulated bowel movements, improved skin and hair texture, lower levels of 'bad' (LDL) cholesterol, more regulated libido, regulated menstrual cycles, better concentration, better memory, less clumsiness, reduced joint pain"
2. Under Section 14.1, I challenge whether the advertiser holds signed and dated proof, including a contact address, for the three testimonials (in red text, on pages 4, 5 and 6) and for the testimonials of "most people...taking Thyrosine" ("Q: What about my symptoms?", page 6)
3. Under Section 14.3, I challenge whether the three highlighted testimonials, and the testimonials of "most people", are supported, where necessary, with independent evidence of their accuracy.
4. Under Section 7.1, I challenge whether the text in the red box on page 4 ("What can Thyrosine support formula do for you?") misleads consumers by discussing research on products that are not Thyrosine.
5. I challenge whether the section "Clinical research demonstrates success" misleads consumers by referring to an unnamed "herbal preparation", not to Thyrosine.
6. I challenge whether the section "Q: What about my symptoms?" misleads consumers by presenting testimonial evidence as if it were clinically reliable.
7. Under Section 2.1, I challenge whether the "Saving" figures quoted on page 8 (e.g. a saving of £12.00 for 1 bottle) are truthful.
8. I confirm that I have no connections with the advertiser, with the magazine, or with the publishing industry in general. I confirm that I am not involved in legal proceedings with the advertiser or the magazine.
9. I confirm that I am happy to be identified as the complainant."