As part of its regular monitoring and its joint initiative with the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the NAD reviewed labeling and advertising claims for Mega-T Green Tea Fat Burning Supplements. The NAD requested substantiation for numerous claims including the following:
- “Now Mega-T has an advanced system that combines probiotics with clinically effective green tea to help you achieve your weight loss goals”;
- “Green Tea helps promote ‘good bacteria’ and burn fat”; and
- “Green Tea: Curb appetite and improve fat metabolism.”
The advertiser chose to discontinue most of the claims, which it explained had been used by a prior owner of the Mega-T brand. However, the advertiser defended claims that its product helps consumers “boost metabolism” and “burn fat.”
The NAD held that short-term, “one-day” studies offered by the advertiser failed to support the “broad, unqualified ‘boosts metabolism’ claim.” The NAD noted, however, “that nothing in [the] decision prevents the advertiser from making a carefully tailored claim that more closely matches the evidence in the record, namely the short-term nature of the recorded metabolism benefit.”
The NAD rejected the “burn fat” claim after finding that various meta-analyses reached only tentative conclusions about the potential effects of green tea and caffeine on fat loss. The NAD also noted that many of the positive studies that were offered were conducted in Asia or tested only people who regularly consumed 300 mg or less caffeine per day.
One wonders if, in this case, the NAD sets the bar so high that it deprives consumers of useful dietary information. Under well-settled law, determining whether advertising substantiation is adequate depends on weighing factors such as the type and specificity of the claim, the type of product, and the potential consequences if a claim is false. Such factors would seem to weigh in favor of allowing simple, unadorned “boost metabolism” claims and qualified fat and weight-related claims that are commensurate with the conclusions of the meta-analyses. The NAD, in past cases on green tea and caffeine products, has allowed such claims. Likewise, in many cases, it has allowed simple “boosts energy” claims for caffeine products despite never – to our knowledge – reviewing any long-term studies and despite it being well known that caffeine’s stimulant effects vary widely among different people.