Claims found in an Instagram post about an “on-the-go” dietary supplement should be discontinued, the National Advertising Division (NAD) recommended in a recent decision.
The self-regulatory body requested substantiation for Vital Proteins LLC’s express claim for its Collagen Peptide products: “Perfect for on-the-go, each pack contains 10g of collagen for healthy hair, skin, nails, bones, joints and gut,” as well as the implied claim that the drink provides consumers meaningful anti-aging benefits in the form of stronger and healthier hair, skin, bones, joints and digestion.
To support the claims, the advertiser provided multiple studies. But the NAD found that the submissions fell short of the competent and reliable scientific evidence required for health-related claims—generally human clinical trials that are methodologically sound and statistically significant at the 95% confidence level, with results that translate into meaningful benefits for consumers and relate directly to the performance attributes promised by advertising.
For example, Vital Proteins provided only a summary form of results for one study that considered porcine and marine collagen, despite the fact that its Collagen Peptide products consist of bovine collagen.
“NAD could not conclude that this experiment alone was sufficiently reliable to demonstrate that results from the studies on porcine and marine collagen could be extrapolated to support the challenged claims relating to bovine-derived collagen extracts found in the Vital Proteins dietary supplement,” according to the decision.
To support the challenged hair claims, the advertiser provided a hair study from 1976 with a different dose than that of the product in question and a test population (men) who were not the target audience of the advertising (women ages 25 to 54).
Considering all of these factors, the “NAD determined that this study was not sufficiently reliable to support the claim that Vital Proteins provides noticeably healthy hair,” the NAD said.
The NAD found other problems with the studies proffered in support of the skin claims (one lacked a washout period and returned no statistically significant differences between the test and placebo groups) as well as the nail claims (three of the four studies were held between 1949 and 1957 and conducted on individuals with brittle nail syndrome, an irrelevant population).
Concluding that none of the studies offered by the advertiser were a good fit for the challenged claims, the NAD recommended that Vital Proteins discontinue the Instagram claims.
While the advertiser agreed to discontinue its “on-the-go” claim, it expressed concern “that NAD has misunderstood and misapplied the scientific facts and studies in the record.”
Why it matters: Advertisers should ensure that the studies being used to substantiate ad claims meet the required standards. In the case of the dietary supplements at issue, the NAD determined that the studies were insufficient to back up Vital Proteins’ health-related claims for a variety of reasons, ranging from an irrelevant testing population to the use of animal studies to different doses than those found in the product itself.