Ad Watchdog: Dietary Supplement Claimed To Prevent Cancer

Image courtesy of The supplements pictured aren't part of this lawsuit that we know of. (HealthGauge)

Government regulation of the nutritional supplement industry is not perfect, but the Food and Drug Administration does impose a very important rule on them: products sold as supplements rather than drugs can’t advertise themselves as able to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any diseases. Once they do that, they’re drugs. Yet one supplement’s marketing caught the attention of two industry self-regulation bodies before the FDA: a supplement called “Big C” that totally does not promise to prevent cancer.

The self-regulation body that called out this product was the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade association for makers of dietary supplements. They brought the product to the attention of the National Advertising Division, an ad self-regulation body run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. CRN had a really important concern: this product’s marketing appears to say that it prevents cancer.

Maybe it’s just a case of the marketing materials’ weasel words not being weasely enough, but the biggest problem is right there in the name: the product from All Health Systems is called “Big C,” and doesn’t even contain vitamin C. The name does imply that the product treats or prevents cancer, and the supplement-maker doesn’t present any proof that that it does.

In the marketing materials cited by NAD, the company makes the following claims:

  • “This is the most advanced product to help keep you your body stay in favorable conditions so that it may not get this terrible disease.”
  • “Research the 16 ingredients, they all have shown different positive results in battling cancer in various lab studies and may help. In combination, this is ground breaking.”
  • The problem is that while some ingredients might individually have an effect on cancer cells, that doesn’t mean that they do in combination after passing through the digestive system.

    What it does have is cayenne pepper, garlic oil, mushrooms, and turmeric, which sounds more like something I would have for lunch than a nutritional supplement.

    Fortunately, after being called out for problematic marketing by its own industry and the NAD, the maker of “Big C” promises to change the wording on the product’s page as soon as they regain access to their pages after a “malicious server issue.”

    NAD Recommends All Health Systems Discontinue All Challenged Claims for Company’s ‘Big C’ Supplement, Including Implied Cancer-Prevention Claims [NAD]

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