The National Advertising Division recommended that Nu Century Herbs modify or discontinue claims made for its Resprin dietary supplement to properly qualify claims related to traditional Chinese medicine and remove claims based on in vitro testing and a clinical study.

The advertising claims came under review as part of the NAD’s initiative with the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

On its Web site, the advertiser made claims for Resprin, a dietary supplement for lung health, like “The natural way to clearer breathing” and “This natural herbal breathing enhancer is specifically formulated with a unique blend of 23 herbs, clinically shown to support respiratory health and clearer breathing.”

Reviewing the Federal Trade Commission’s advertising guidelines on Dietary Supplements, the NAD noted that traditional use is not itself the equivalent of scientific substantiation, and that advertisers should not make claims that suggest a disease benefit.

While Nu Century could make certain claims based on the fact that ingredients in Resprin have been recognized and used in traditional Chinese medicine for lung health, the NAD said the company could not support its claims independently of the traditional evidence. The in vitro studies, ingredient research and one clinical study relied upon by the company were insufficient to support any performance and efficacy claims.

Therefore, “NAD concluded that the advertiser can support certain claims based on [traditional Chinese medicine] for the ingredients in Resprin, to the extent they clearly state as such, in accordance with the FTC’s Guides. ‘Claims based on historical or traditional use should be substantiated by confirming scientific evidence, or should be presented in such a way that consumers understand that the sole basis for the claim is a history of use of the product for a particular purpose.’ ”

Specifically, the panel recommended that Nu Century discontinue claims that Resprin could “enhance” breathing but also stated that, with the appropriate cautionary language, Nu Century could advertise general lung health claims and claims that the supplement contains traditional Chinese medicine that may help inflammatory lung conditions.

To read the NAD’s press release about the decision, click here.

Why it matters:  “Advertising for a dietary supplement claim cannot claim to prevent or treat a disease,” the NAD cautioned. In addition, “Animal and in vitro cell studies alone cannot support claims for products designed and marketed to humans.”