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FTC: Reject quick weight-loss ads

We've all seen ads for losing weight with almost no effort.  But just how honest are they?   The FTC is going to ask the media to determine just that.  NBC's Robert Hager reports.
/ Source: NBC News

If it seems too good to be true - it usually is.  That's the sentiment behind a new effort by the Federal Government to crack down on some weight-loss ads.  Officials figure if the media would just say no to the more ridiculous ads fewer innocent people will fall victim.

We’ve all seen ads for losing weight with almost no effort: “…Have your cake and eat it too this holiday season,” or “I lost 64 pounds in 10 weeks,” or “Eat your favorite foods - but still lose weight.”

And, of course, similar infomercials:  “Just put it on, power it up and watch you abs tighten, your love handles disappear and your buns and thighs firm up with no sweat,” or “I lost 32 pounds in 17-weeks! And I lost 49 pounds in 17-weeks,” or “10 minutes on the Abtronic is the equivalent of doing 600 sit-ups.”

Tuesday, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Timothy Muris and United States Health Secretary Tommy Thompson will call on newspapers, magazines and TV to voluntarily reject all ads that claim to:

  • Cause weight loss of 2-pounds or more week after week, without diet or exercise.
  • Block absorption of enough fat or calories to lose substantial weight.
  • Cause substantial weight loss by wearing something on the body, or rubbing a cream into the skin.

The FTC has grown increasingly frustrated with this problem and has brought a hundred cases, charging product makers with deceptive ads.  But, the commission says, until recently, there’ve been more bogus ads than ever.  The agency even threatened to sue media who carry the ads, but now has backed off, and instead, is urging media to voluntarily screen them.

The government guidelines are to help media decide when they’re in the clear, rejecting an ad.  “I think what the FTC is doing is its giving them an out. Its saying look in these particular claims you are going to be able to say no to advertisers and so the media companies won’t be so much on the hook as they would be otherwise,” Advertising Age reporter Ira Teinowitz said.

With more than half of all Americans now overweight or obese, many say misleading ads, only make the problem worse.  According to obesity expert, Dr. Denise Bruner, “These quick weight loss plans do not work and they are dangerous because they can setup nutritional deficiencies which in the long run may promote more diseases.”

The government warns if a weight loss come-on sounds too good to be true – it’s probably not true.