Weight loss is a red flag. While the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has identified seven specific claims it considers “red flags” for investigation, the truth is the entire weight management category is a red flag for regulators. Like wagging a red cape in front of a bull, any promotions for weight loss tied to a pill, capsule, powder or drink are bound to attract attention from industry critics and the FTC. That doesn’t mean product developers and marketers should avoid the category entirely, but accept that everything you say in advertising in this sector will be subject to additional scrutiny. So it’s all the more critical to be “all buttoned up” with any claims you make.
The FTC’s Red Flags are just the start. There are seven specific claims the FTC has identified as patently false—statements like “Lose weight permanently; never diet again,” or “No need to change what you eat.” FTC tells consumers to run from these claims. But that shouldn’t be the end of your advertising review—those are just the claims FTC says couldn’t possibly be true. Even claims about sensible eating and losing weight slowly must be substantiated with data. Unlike the claims for other supplements that would be impossible or impractical to defend with clinical trials, weight loss trials are relatively inexpensive to sponsor and can be of short duration, so expect to defend your weight loss claims with research.