Advertising Regulatory Board: Herbex Ultraslim Ruling

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Posted 11 November 2020

A complaint was laid with the Advertising Regulatory Board (ABR) against the misleading claims of Herbex Ultraslim. The complainant argued that based on evidence, the product is unlikely to have any benefit on weight-loss. 

Decision of the ADVERTISING REGULATORY BOARD

The Directorate of the Advertising Regulatory Board has been called on to consider a complaint by Dr Steinman against television and website advertising for Herbex Ultraslim.

Complainant:     Dr Harris Steinman
Advertiser:         Newgroup (Pty) Ltd
Consumer/Competitor:   Consumer
File reference:   1055 – Herbex Ultraslim – Harris Steinman
Outcome:           Upheld
Date:                  10 November 2020

Description of the Advertising

The commercial, which appeared on M-Net during Carte Blanche, made the following claims:

• Herbex ultraslim a weight-loss evolution
• South Africa’s number 1 slimming brand
• 25 years refining the science of weight loss
• Balances blood sugar
• Preventing belly fat
• Aids digestion to improve Gut Health
• Increases metabolism to burn fat faster
• With triple the action
• 24 hour weight loss

The website claims are:

• THIS REVOLUTIONARY SOLUTION WORKS ON YOUR BODY AROUND THE CLOCK TO:

o INCREASE YOUR METABOLISM, SO THAT YOUR BODY BURNS MORE CALORIES AND FAT
o PREVENT BLOOD SUGAR SPIKES AND DIPS, SO THAT YOUR BODY:
o MAKES AND STORES LESS FAT
o USES FAT FOR ENERGY INSTEAD OF STORING IT
o IS LESS LIKELY TO STORE UNWANTED FAT AROUND YOUR BELLY AND ORGANS
o ACTIVATE AND CLEAR A SLUGGISH DIGESTION TO MOVE WASTE THROUGH YOUR DIGESTIVE TRACT MORE EFFICIENTLY, A VITAL FUNCTION TO ENSURE THAT ALL BODILY SYSTEMS ARE WORKING OPTIMALLY

Complaint

In essence, the Complainant submitted that the claims in question are not substantiated. His submissions will be discussed in more detail below.

Response

D M Fialkov Attorneys, acting on behalf of the Advertiser, submitted that the Advertiser is not a member of the ARB and as such the ARB does not have jurisdiction over it. It is therefore not obliged to, and will not, deal with the complaint.

Application of the Code of Advertising Practice

The Directorate considered:

• Substantiation – Clause 4.1 of Section II

Decision

Jurisdiction
The Advertiser has submitted that it is not a member of the ARB and that it does not consider itself bound by the jurisdiction of the ARB.

The ARB’s Memorandum of Incorporation of the ARB states:

“3.3 The Company has no jurisdiction over any person or entity who is not a member and may not, in the absence of a submission to its jurisdiction, require non-members to participate in its processes, issue any instruction, order or ruling against the non-member or sanction it. However, the Company may consider and issue a ruling to its members (which is not binding on non-members) regarding any advertisement regardless of by whom it is published to determine, on behalf of its members, whether its members should accept any advertisement before it is published or should withdraw any advertisement if it has been published.”

In other words, if you are not a member and do not submit to the jurisdiction of the ARB, the ARB will consider and rule on your advertising for the guidance of its members only.

The ARB will rule on whatever is before it when making a decision for the guidance of its members. This ruling will be binding only on ARB members and on broadcasters in terms of the Electronic Communications Act.

The ARB will therefore proceed to consider this matter for the guidance of its members.

Merits

Clause 4.1.1 of Section II states:

Before advertising is published, advertisers must hold in their possession documentary evidence as set out in Clause 4.1, to support all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation.

Clause 4.1.4 of Section II clarifies:

Documentary evidence, other than survey data, must emanate from or be evaluated by a person/entity, which is independent, credible, and an expert in the field to which the claims relate and be acceptable to the ARB. In the case of documentary evidence, other than survey data, such expert may, if appropriate, be, but is not limited to, a SAMRA Accredited Researcher.

The Advertiser has not submitted any substantiation in this matter.

The Directorate notes that the Complainant appears to accept that the product is a natural product, and as such needs to have proven efficacy within the natural paradigm.

As such, he has submitted, inter alia, that:

  • The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (one of the most comprehensive and reliable natural medicine resources available) found no evidence to support the claims for the combination of the ingredients present in this product, or for the individual ingredients, to support the central claims being made for this product.
  • Similarly, for PubMed (PubMed® comprises more than 30 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books.)
  • Herbex claims the following ingredients for the “Metabolism Enhancer” component of the product, i.e., primarily responsible for weight loss and prevention of, or loss of belly fat

126.5 mg green tea per tablet
125 mg Ginger root
50 mg Cayenne pepper
30 mg Siberian Ginseng

  • Referencing the two major reference sources listed above, and others, there is no unequivocal evidence to support that these ingredients individually, or in combination, to support the claims being made.
  • For example, focussing on green tea alone, the evidence to support the claims is unfounded and very significantly, for research assessing far greater dosages of green tea. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD) states: “However, taking green tea extract without caffeine does not seem to significantly reduce weight or waist circumference (16892)”. (Note NMCD has recently changed their name to Natural Medicines (https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases.aspx)
  • There is a lack of robust evidence to support the claims for Cayenne pepper (Capsicum annuum). There is no evidence for Cayenne pepper in affecting fat burning or weight-loss. However, the active ingredient in Cayenne pepper is capsaicin, found in all of the varieties of Capsicum annuum. Assessing the evidence for capsaicin, finds no robust evidence to support any significant effect on burning fat or weight-loss:
    • “Although there is no evidence showing that weight loss is directly correlated with ingesting capsaicin, there is a positive correlation between ingesting capsaicin and a decrease in weight regain.” (depending on dosage)
      Reference: Krishnapura Srinivasan (2015): Biological Activities of Red Pepper (Capsicum annuum) and Its Pungent Principle Capsaicin: A Review, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2013.772090
    • “Overall, dietary chili intake can help in regulating factors that favor weight loss. At this juncture, the ideal dosage needed to significantly contribute to weight loss and safe consumption still warrants further research. But consumption of chili is not a substitution to regular physical exercise or controlled dietary plans”.
      Reference: Sharon Varghese, Peter Kubatka, Luis Rodrigo, Katarina Gazdikova, Martin Caprnda, Julia Fedotova, Anthony Zulli, Peter Kruzliak & Dietrich Büsselberg (2016): Chili pepper as a body weight-loss food, International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, DOI: 10.1080/09637486.2016.1258044
  • In relation to the “digestive aid” the ingredients are.

166.7 mg Bibhitaki fruit powder – Terminalia belerica
166.7 Haritaki Fruit powder – Terminalia chebula
166.7 mg Amla fruit powder – Indian gooseberry – Phyllanthus emblica

  • “There’s a lack of clinical trials supporting the claims that haritaki can improve your health. So far, most of the evidence for haritaki’s health effects comes from preliminary, animal-based research and laboratory studies”. https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-benefits-of-haritaki-88828
  • “Indian gooseberry is most commonly used for high cholesterol, abnormal levels of cholesterol or blood fats (dyslipidemia), and persistent heartburn. It is also used for diarrhea, nausea, and cancer, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses”. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-784/indian-gooseberry

The Complainant has therefore presented a compelling argument that the product has no weight loss efficacy. The Advertiser has chosen not to respond. There is therefore nothing before the Directorate to substantiate the claims.
Given the lack of substantiation, the Directorate has no choice but to find that the claims listed above is in breach of Clause 4.1 of Section II.

Sanction

Members of the ARB and broadcasters are advised not to accept advertising from the Advertiser for Herbex Ultraslim with the claims:

• Herbex ultraslim a weight-loss evolution
• South Africa’s number 1 slimming brand
• 25 years refining the science of weight loss
• Balances blood sugar
• Preventing belly fat
• Aids digestion to improve Gut Health
• Increases metabolism to burn fat faster
• With triple the action
• 24 hour weight loss
• THIS REVOLUTIONARY SOLUTION WORKS ON YOUR BODY AROUND THE CLOCK TO:
o INCREASE YOUR METABOLISM, SO THAT YOUR BODY BURNS MORE CALORIES AND FAT
o PREVENT BLOOD SUGAR SPIKES AND DIPS, SO THAT YOUR BODY:
o MAKES AND STORES LESS FAT
o USES FAT FOR ENERGY INSTEAD OF STORING IT
o IS LESS LIKELY TO STORE UNWANTED FAT AROUND YOUR BELLY AND ORGANS
o ACTIVATE AND CLEAR A SLUGGISH DIGESTION TO MOVE WASTE THROUGH YOUR DIGESTIVE TRACT MORE EFFICIENTLY, A VITAL FUNCTION TO ENSURE THAT ALL BODILY SYSTEMS ARE WORKING OPTIMALLY

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