Lutonians, browsing the papers on a Sunday morning after a hard week's work in the hat factories, have found themselves besieged by adverts for a revolutionary new weight-loss treatment.
UPDATE, 17 Oct: An ASA adjudication this morning, in response to someone else's complaint, ruled against the Slimline Clinic's health claims.
By focusing a beam of ultrasonic energy on those hard-to-shift fat deposits in the belly, the adverts (available here, here, here and here) boast that
"Fat will leave your body naturally after being broken down by Ultrasound, which is targeted on the area of the body you want to change. Treatment is FAST, EFFECTIVE & PAINFREE [sic]"
Furthermore, the treatments appear to be proven:
"3.5 INCHES can be lost from your waist after 12 sessions, recent studies have shown!"
How reliable are these "recent studies"? We need look no further than that esteemed medical journal, the Daily Mail, who carried an article on so-called ultra-sonic liposuction just two days ago.
"Plastic surgeons, the doctors who carry out liposuction, are also sceptical. Bryan Mayou, one of the country's top plastic surgeons, introduced liposuction to the UK almost 30 years ago. He has tried non-invasive machines but abandoned them because he says the results are so poor. 'The main failure is that these treatments do not remove significant amounts of fat. Big claims are made but the clinical trials are not properly conducted."
Using the Daily Fail as my principle source of evidence is a risky tactic, but times are hard. ASA complaint follows!
1. I'm writing to challenge three promotions for The Slimline Clinic - two appearing in the Luton on Sunday newspaper (October 7th and 14th, 2012), and a third appearing on the company's own website, www.theslimlineclinic.co.uk
2. The promotions make claims for the efficacy of a weight-loss treatment, "Non-Surgical Ultrasonic Liposuction". The treatment is described on the advertiser's website :
"The consultant glides the ultrasonic probe over the targeted area, such as the stomach and short pulses of ultrasonic energy are delivered into the subcutaneous fat cell... Each pulse breaks down fat in the cells, without affecting areas such as blood vessels, nerves or connective tissue... When treated the membranes of the fat cells are disrupted and the fat content (triglycerides) is dispersed into the fluid between the cells and then transported to the veins and lymphatic system to the liver. The fat is then excreted via the bodies natural mechanisms."
3. I'm concerned because I understand the evidence base for these kinds of treatments is weak. In addition, although the treatment appears plausible, there seem to be some worries that the body can't remove the treated fat cells in the way the adverts claim.
4. Just this weekend, the Daily Mail quoted  two UK-based doctors:
"Plastic surgeons, the doctors who carry out liposuction, are also sceptical. Bryan Mayou, one of the country’s top plastic surgeons, introduced liposuction to the UK almost 30 years ago. He has tried non-invasive machines but abandoned them because he says the results are so poor. ‘The main failure is that these treatments do not remove significant amounts of fat. Big claims are made but the clinical trials are not properly conducted.’"
"Dr Mike Comins, a top cosmetic doctor... still believes that at some point, fat needs to be sucked out for patients to see long-term results. He offers his patients a gentle form of liposuction under local anaesthetic, using tiny tubes to suck away the fat... ‘I would love my patients to have walk-in, walk-out fat removal with no down-time. But with my hand on my heart I could not say that is the case with the new machines. There is a massive variable in how the body breaks up the fat and results could be inconsistent from one patient to the next.’
5. With that in mind, I'd like to challenge whether the advertisers can substantiate the following claims with rigorous clinical evidence:
(LoS, 7th October)
6. "Studies show that a 12 session course can result in a reduction of 3.58" around your waist!"
7. "Slimline have helped thousands of people achieve the size & shape they desire over the last 2 years!"
8. "Fat rapidly leaves your body after each targeted session of Non-Surgical Ultrasonic Liposuction"
(LoS, 14th October)
9. "Achieve the body you dream of with revolutionary Inch-Loss treatment. Fat will leave your body naturally after being broken down by Ultrasound, which is targeted on the area of your body you want to change. Treatment is FAST, EFFECTIVE..."
10. "Our non-surgical Ultrasonic Liposuction makes losing inches from areas of your body such as your belly, hips, arms, legs and back easy!"
11. "As the Ultrasound passes through the fat cells inside your body it causes the fat inside to change from a semi-solid state and to become a liquid. Once liquefied, the fat will begin to drain from the cell. The fat then passes through the lymph node system and exits the body through the digestive system in the normal manner. All you need to do is consume equal to or less energy than what you burn on a daily basis. The fat will continue to drain from the body for the next 72 hours."
12. I'd also like to challenge whether the claim in the 14th October advert that the treatment is the "No 1 SLIMMING TREATMENT IN THE USA" is misleading, because I understand that the American Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved "ultrasonic liposuction" treatments for general use.