Ad Alert

SlimFast’s ‘Clinically Proven’ Weight-Loss Claims

Recent inquiry takes aim at company's "clinically proven" weight-loss claims, with a somewhat surprising result.

Ad Alert

SlimFast’s ‘Clinically Proven’ Weight-Loss Claims

If the shakes, smoothies and bars that comprise a weight-loss program haven’t individually been shown to be effective at helping users shed pounds, can the program itself still be marketed as clinically proven to lose weight?

According to a recent self-regulatory decision, the answer is yes.

Back in September, the National Advertising Division recommended that SlimFast discontinue claims that its weight-loss plan – which consists of consuming one 500-calorie meal, two meals replaced with the company’s shakes, smoothies or bars, and three low-calorie snacks between meals, accounting for around 1,200 calories a day – is “clinically proven [to help users] lose weight and keep it off.”

NAD said at the time:

NAD noted that while the low-calorie feature of the SlimFast plan is clinically tested, the advertiser has not clinically tested the weight-loss efficacy of its current products or [weight-loss] plans… . Therefore, NAD determined that the advertiser’s evidence is not a good fit for its specific claim that SlimFast products and … plans specifically have been clinically proven to help lose weight.

SlimFast appealed to the National Advertising Review Board, which agreed with NAD that specific SlimFast products shouldn’t be marketed as “clinically proven” but said that it is appropriate for the SlimFast plan to be advertised with the claim:

Departing from NAD’s recommendation, the NARB panel concluded that SlimFast has proper substantiation for its claim that the SlimFast Plan has been clinically proven. However, to ensure that consumers are not confused or misled, the panel recommended that any use in advertising of the clinically proven claim should include, in the body of the claim, an express reference to the SlimFast Plan as well as an explanation of the three components of the Plan.

SlimFast agreed to comply with the NARB’s decision and “more prominently connect the ‘clinically proven’ claim to the SlimFast Plan.” Currently, on grocery store shelves, the claim appears on the front of product packaging (see above), with an asterisk leading to a disclosure on the back stating “When used as part of the SlimFast plan. Individual results may vary.”

Of note, SlimFast’s “clinically proven” claims are the subject of two pending class-action lawsuits filed in November.

Check back for updates.

Find more of our coverage on weight-loss claims here.

Our Ad Alerts are not just about false and deceptive marketing issues, but may also be about ads that, although not necessarily deceptive, should be viewed with caution. Ad Alerts can also be about single issues and may not include a comprehensive list of all marketing issues relating to the brand discussed.

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