Posted: 06 June 2011
Contrary to Dr Beverley Summers' opinion, Professor Jooste confirms that Slim Coffee does not cause weight loss
This ASA ruling is interesting for a number of reasons:
Nearly three years after first complaining to the ASA about Slim Coffee, Professor Jooste (who is Interim Director of Nutritional Intervention Research, Medical Research Council) confirms that the studies in support of Slim Coffee are deficient.
1. This product was substantiated by Dr Beverley Summers, a pharmacist with a PhD. This despite the fact that The European Food Safety Authority declared that there is zero proof of the main ingredient’s supposed weight loss benefits…
2. This is the fourth Homemark product that Dr Summers has substantiated which has been ruled against by the ASA. Some rulings followed appeals. Many of these Homemark products have been rejected and banned by the USA Federal and Trade Commission (FTC). This would suggest therefore suggest that these products were regarded as scams. Consequently, the history so far suggests Dr Summers is not a credible expert.
3. When Dr Summers’ credibility was called into question, The South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC) did not reach a decision about her professional performance but rather suggested that because the ASA was a judicial tribunal (which technically it is not) the ASA should decide on her credibility.
4. Following the unfavourable rulings against the products that Dr Summers had initially substantiated, the ASA stripped Dr Summers’ of her "credible expert" status. Homemark appealed against the decision. Judge Mervyn King found in Homemark's favour, overturned the previous decision and re-instated Dr Summers’ "credible expert" status. This allowed Homemark to continue to promote this product and for Dr Summers to continue substantiating Homemark’s products.
5. Despite Homemark being legally entitled to promote the product, Dr Summers’ credibility has once again been eroded by a further ruling that all weight loss claims for Slim Coffee be removed from all advertising material with immediate effect. One wonders how many times Dr Summers needs to be ruled against before she herself begins to accept that she is not a credible expert?
6. The question naturally arises: “How many times should the public be made to accept the claims of a product based on the opinion of an expert whose credibility is questionable?”
“He [Professor Jooste] added that in evaluating the two studies to support the producer’s claim, the overall data did not support the claims of a reduction in body weight due to the consumption of Caralluma Fimbriata.”
Slim Coffee / HA Steinman / 12988
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Dr Harris Steinman Complainant(s)/Appellant(s) Homemark (Pty) Ltd Respondent
01 Jun 2011
In a ruling dated 25 March 2010, the Final Appeal Committee (the FAC) concluded that the decision of the Directorate and the Advertising Standards Committee (the ASC) to reject the respondent’s substantiation based on the fact that the expert used, Dr Beverley Summers, had previously received an arbitration report rejecting her findings on the efficacy of a product, was a failure of natural justice. The matter was referred back to the ASC in terms of Clause 12.14 of the Procedural Guide.
Following this, the ASC in a ruling dated 17 May 2010, noted that the FAC had ruled that she could be regarded as a credible, independent expert in the case in question. As a result, the respondent was allowed to continue making weight loss claims for its Slim Coffee product.
SUBSEQUENT TO THIS RULING
The complainant requested arbitration in terms of Clause 16 of the Procedural Guide. In accordance with the procedures set out in the provisions of this clause, the complainant submitted his own verification from an independent and credible expert to disprove the claims used by the respondent.
In terms of Clause 16.3.1, following failure by the parties to agree to an arbitrator, the Directorate appointed Professor Pieter Jooste, the Interim Director of Nutritional Intervention Research from the Medical Research Council.
The respondent was afforded the opportunity to participate in the arbitration process but declined to do so in accordance with the procedures set out in the Code. Given this, the respondent was advised that the arbitration would proceed unopposed, and that the respondent would not be allowed to comment on the information received from the complainant when filing its request for arbitration.
RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE In light of the request for arbitration, Clause 16 of the Procedural Guide was relevant.
Professor Jooste submitted that the question relating to the arbitration was what effect Homemark Slim Coffee would have, on the reduction of body weight in overweight or obese humans, in other words, whether or not the consumption of Slim Coffee would lead to weight loss in overweight and obese people.
He added that in evaluating the two studies to support the producer’s claim, the overall data did not support the claims of a reduction in body weight due to the consumption of Caralluma Fimbriata.
The arbitrator quotes the first document relied on by the advertiser as an article of a double blind placebo controlled randomized clinical trial in which the effect of 2 x 500 mg extract of Caralluma Fimbriata per day, in capsule form, was investigated in overweight and obese people (Kuriyan et al published in Appetite 2007;48:338-344). The second reference is quoted as that of a congress presentation and an apparently unpublished report by Lawrence and Choudhadry (Lawrence and Choudhary: Caralluma Fimbriata in the treatment of obesity. 12th Annual World Congress of Anti-aging Medicine, December 2004, Las Vegas, USA. (http://www.acaislimaluma.com/Textos/slimalumaclinical.pdf accessed on 23 May 2011).
Relating to the first study, Prof Jooste states, inter alia, as follows:
“The first study, a clinical trial over 8 weeks by Kuriyan et al published in Appetite (2007;48:338-344) is not convincing to support any claim of a significant weight loss due to either Homemark Slim Coffee or one of its ingredients, Caralluma Fimbriata. Indeed, the results of this trial show that there was no significant weight loss in the experimental group compared to the control group in the study, although waist circumference and hunger levels declined significantly in the experimental group. The critical variable here is body weight, not waist circumference or hunger level. There is no point in considering possible trends in the results if these did not reach significance. Methodologically the study was weak because no power calculation was done to determine the required sample size for this study, no details were given for the reasons for 12 subjects (19,4%) dropping out of the study creating the possibility of bias, and no information was given on the compliance of the experimental group to the intervention.
Overall, the data from this trial do not support the claims of a reduction in body weight due to the consumption of Caralluma Fimbriata”.
In his analysis of the second study he submitted, inter alia, as follows:
“This study was methodologically extremely poorly designed and presented. It is clearly not a randomized clinical trial despite the statement by the authors that patients were randomly assigned to either the active or the placebo group, the sample size is obviously inadequate, and the control group consisted of only 7 individuals. Patients in the study were not described in any way (except their age) and therefore the reader does not know why they visited the medical practices. No statistics were conducted on the results. Results from such a poorly designed and executed study cannot be used for the evaluation of the efficacy of a weight reducing product, let alone using them to substantiate claims for weight reduction.
Presentation of the results of any study at a congress does not mean that it has been through a peer review process. It should not be used as a reference in the substantiation of health claims, as has been done in this case”.
The report also mentions that “Both the studies mentioned in relation to the weight reducing potential of Caralluma Fimbriata failed to show such an effect. Therefore, from our point of view, no causal relationship between Caralluma Fimbriata and weight reduction has been shown and therefore the claims made in this regard are not scientifically founded.” In his concluding summery, Prof Jooste points out that, in addition to the above, “… no evidence was presented to show the effect of the Homemark Slim Coffee mix per se on weight reduction and therefore no claim regarding weight loss can be made in this regard”.
A full copy of the arbitration report will be forwarded to the complainant as the only participant in this arbitration.
In light of the arbitrator’s findings, all claims relating to weight loss for the respondent’s Slim Coffee product are unsubstantiated and in breach of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.
Given the above:
Any and all weight loss claims made for the respondent’s Slim Coffee product must be withdrawn;
The process to withdraw such claims must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of this ruling;
The withdrawal of such claims must be completed within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide;
Such claims may not be used again to promote the respondent’s Slim Coffee product;
The complainant is upheld, and the ruling dated 17 May 2010 is no longer binding.