Round-up: Recent supplement industry advertising challenges by ASRC

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nad Advertising Clinical trial Brand

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock
In the past few months, five nutritional supplements by various brands have been investigated by two branches of the ASRC. Two of these products have been discontinued

There may be no regulatory authority to the National Advertising Division (NAD)​ and the National Advertising Review Board (NARB)​, two bodies within the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC)​. But whatever they recommend has weight.

Here are some highlights:

How "self-regulating" works within the ASRC

The National Advertising Division (NAD) is an independent regulatory group within the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC), administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. On its website, the NAD boasts itself as “a low-cost alternative to litigation,” and can be called upon to investigate claims of the advertising from any industry.

When a challenger or advertiser disagrees with an NAD recommendation, they may appeal the decision to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), also an entity within ASRC.

Back your claims with evidence 

Junior Slim by Silver Star Brands and Brainfire by Brainfire

The inquiries against Silver Star Brand’s JuniorSlim product, as well as the separate product Brainfire, were part of a routine monitoring program, done in conjunction with the Council for Responsible Nutrition “designed to expand NAD’s review of advertising claims for dietary supplements.”

Claims made in JuniorSlim’s labels and advertising include “100% safe, non-addictive natural herbal remedy,” “addresses the tendency to comfort eat,” ​and “supports healthy weight goals.”
“[Silver Star Brands] advised NAD in writing during the pendency of this proceeding that it had elected to permanently discontinue all of the challenged claims,” ​a report from the NAD said, adding “Silver Star Brands stands behind its product, however, for reasons unrelated to the challenge, has voluntarily elected to discontinue the product.”
Meanwhile, Brainfire promised its users “increased memory”,” increase in energy,” ​and “a happier mood,”​ among other things. Its advertising material looked like editorial content, and Brainfire failed to disclose that the content is an advertisement.

According to the report, “Brainfire accepts NAD’s decision and represents that the advertising at issue has been voluntarily, permanently discontinued.”

Ingredient studies are not enough 

Skin Care Collagen Filler by New Nordic U.S.A.

Also part of NAD’s routine monitoring in conjunction with CRN, NAD investigated the claims that New Nordic U.S.A’s Skin Care Collagen Filler “helps reduce the formation of new wrinkles” ​and “promotes the skin’s own formation of collagen.”

The use of a picture and testimonial of a user made NAD determine that the advertiser claims “by taking the dietary supplement Skin Care Collagen Filler, consumers will obtain noticeably younger-looking skin.”

New Nordic U.S. provided 23 ingredient studies—nine of which were conducted in vitro​, seven were conducted on animals, and the remaining seven studies conducted on human subjects. But according to NAD, “ingredient studies are, as a general rule, insufficient to support performance claims.”

NAD recommended that the challenged performance claims and testimonial be discontinued. To this, New Nordic responded that it will “take NAD’s recommendations into account in its future advertising and ensure that it complies with any relevant regulatory authority.”

Make clear that a single clinical study was used to support claim 

FlexSure by Virtal G-Netics/SSB Holdings

The NAD found FlexSure’s claims to joint health to be backed. But its current wording (“Clinical trials showed that FlexSure users had significant increases in joint comfort, mobility, and flexibility,”​)does not reflect the fact that only one study was used to support the claim.

“NAD recommended that the advertiser modify the claim to reflect that it is based on a single study,” ​a report said.
Moreover, the NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its “chondroitin free” ​label in the context in which it appears, “as it conveys an unsupported superiority message over glucosamine chondroitin.”

NAD recommended many other claims advertised by FlexSure to be discontinued because of insufficient evidence. Virtal g-Netics responded, saying that it will take into consideration the NAD decision and modify its marketing claims to comply.

Find the appropriate study, and provide its full versions 

Benefiber by Novartis/GSK

A claim was initially challenged before the NAD by Procter & Gamble Co., maker of Metamucil, Benefiber’s competitor in laxative supplements. After the advertiser disagreed with the challenge, the case was passed on to NARB.

The NARB affirmed NAD’s decision—the advertiser was recommended to discontinue the challenged claim, but Novartis/GSK still disagreed.

The challenged claim is that Benefiber “helps maintain regularity,” ​but there aren’t any clinical studies to back this, and given the product’s mechanism of action, it “would not be expected to do so.”
Originally, Novartis/GSK only provided short descriptions of study results, which the NAD said were not enough. The full versions, two studies out of Japan, were finally reviewed by the NARB. These too were deemed insufficient to back Benefiber’s claims of regularity since “findings that related to regularity were cited only for selected subgroups.”

In a statement, Novartis/GSK that it “respectfully disagrees with the NARB Panel’s affirmance of the NAD decision.”

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