Thursday, January 17, 2008

Garlic & Porky Pies Prevents Cancer! (Followed by an ASA slap)

I love the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). I've blogged about them before, because it's them wot decides whether adverts are fair, factual and truthful.

The adjudications come out every week on their website (usually on a Wed) and they are generally worth a scan to see what goes on.

Almost every week almost without fail some nutritionist/"wellness" company (very reputable, guv, honest) gets a slap on the chops by the ASA for forgetting to read their GCSE textbook. (Ironic in the case of Equazen who got their bottom smacked for promoting their fishy fish oils with unsubstantiated claims to GCSE kids - you may remember the Durham Fish Oil "trials")

This week is no exception. In fact there are two;

The first is from Simply Supplement - promoting their garlic capsules. (Why people don't go to their grocer and buy a garlic bulb and put in food, I don't know). Anyway , the ASA asked them to substantiate the following claims:

1. "helping to keep your Cardiovascular and general health at its optimum",

2. "a 12 week trial in America showed that garlic reduced the overall cholesterol level of its participants by 6 per cent"; and

3. "not only this but also it was found that Garlic could help to reduce the number of chemicals that the DNA holds which set the stages for Cancer".

4. whether the claim "trials have shown that Garlic actually inhibits cancer cells to try and stop them from producing" could be substantiated; and

5. whether the ad discouraged the reader from seeking essential treatment.

Now 1 is just a Holfordian weasel sentence in my opinion. Doesn't really say anything (sort of like when anything comes onto the nutrition market it always claims to 'boost your immune system' or 'aid digestion' - meaningless pleasantries), number 2 is easily checked by looking up the reference.

Then we get to crazy stuff - the bit about garlic molecules getting in and about your DNA to brush out the bad chemicals. If you aren't rolling on the floor laughing, then you should really sign up to GCSE Biology at the earliest opportunity, or ask a grown-up. Number 4 - inhibits cancer cells to try and stop them from producing?. No idea. Indeed, when the ASA asked Simply Supplements for substantiation, they offered nothing of the kind and shrugged their shoulders.

The second one this week is more involved - Pharma Nord (whose strapline is "Nutritional Supplements supported by scientific research") and their product "Bio-CLA & Green Tea". CLA is conjugated linoleic acid.

It's a bit long and you can read all about it here, but it contains wonderful pseudoscientific watery rubbish like:

CLA ... is a 'good' fat that helps you burn 'bad' fat

It claimed to aid weight loss and cure depression, a serious medical condition. Needless the say the ASA weren't having any truck with that.

The ASA also found they couldn't substantiate their claim that "CLA and Green Tea extract work together to maintain healthy muscle/fat balance within the body. Green Tea activates fat-burning mechanisms in the body and increases energy expenditure".

And, like in the case above, they were told - DON'T DO IT AGAIN. Which to me, is where the excellence, veracity, high standards and critical scrutiny come tumbling down around our ears. The ASA is a lion with rubber teeth - it does an excellent job at keeping adverts in check, the problem is the findings may only surface months after the ad has run, when everyone will have forgotten the ad (but, if the ad was any good, remembered the message). It's only when the ASA bitchslaps a big company that the media follows it up.

I wonder is there a way of making the ASA more pokey, more ninja-like. Is it possible to start fining companies who transgress the rules of advertising (truthfulness, substantiation, ethics etc)? I think it might mean we would see less "liquid calcium" in our toothpaste (very hot, surely?) for one.

1 comment:

  1. Well what you doing is a big thing. Companies hate criticism in their google results. Especially the first page. That is a far worse penalty than the ASA rubber teeth punvturing them.