Friday, 24 August 2012

How false advertising cheats people: Tall claims, little benefits, and a hole in the pocket

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: “Zero cholesterol”, “Keeps your heart healthy”, “No hair breakage and 
split ends”, “Get rid of dull, dry skin”, “Fights germs”, “Kills viruses and bacteria in 
water”, “Get slimmer and lose fat”, “Fights common cold”, “Sharper brains and stronger 
bones”, “Immediate relief from arthritis and joint pains”, “Fair, glowing skin”, “No bad 
breath and fights 99 per cent plaque”, “Milk does not give your child the energy he 
needs” “Healthy organic, natural food”, “Tar free cigarettes”, and “Something light to 

The list of advertising claims, many of them false or unverified, is endless. So are the 
health problems these deceptive or misleading advertisements cause to the common man, 
apart from the big hole they make in one’s pocket. The Advertising Standards Council of 
India (ASCI), the apex advertising regulatory body in the country, received 144 
complaints against false advertising claims including by several multinational companies 
during the last financial year. Of these, it upheld 82 complaints following which the 
companies had either withdrawn or modified their claims.

“Attractive claims influence people particularly children and affects the temperament of 
their behaviour. False claims on health benefits cause more harm to people. They may lead 
to malnutrition and severe health complications. Claims like zero cholesterol make people 
eat more and this causes excess fat, which is converted to cholesterol. There is no truth 
is claims of losing or gaining weight within weeks or making the skin fairer in a few 
days,” warns senior physician Dr N Papa Rao of Apollo Hospitals.

Nutritionists and health experts point out that there is no shortcut to health. Those who 
want to keep themselves fit should include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in 
their diet, besides milk. There is no magic pill or health formula, which fights obesity 
or increases weight. Oils contain fat and they are essential like carbohydrates and 
proteins, but to claim that particular oil keeps the heart functioning well is a 
misleading claim.

“Heart problems are not caused by excessive use of oils alone. There are several factors. 
Vegetable oils do not contain cholesterol, but excessive consumption of these oils leads
to increase in high cholesterol synthesis specifically bad cholesterol in our body,” 
argues clinical nutritionist Charita Adikane.

Most of the claims are made using partial information and presenting half-truths as a 
complete solution for any problem. There are various products, which are very expensive 
and there is lot of hype created about their benefits, cautions Suneetha Sapur of 
Akkshaya Foundation, an organisation involved in promoting healthy life and nutrition.

“Sometime back I remember someone selling a normal bed for Rs 1 lakh by inserting two 
magnets, supported by studies about the benefits of sleeping in the magnetic field. If 
people can question and use common sense, how to get the benefit of the magnet, all we 
need to do is lying down on the ground. Is there any bigger and stronger magnet than 
Mother Earth,” adds Sapur.

Most of the products uses this punch line "fresh/ natural", be it be a beauty product or 
a health drink. Is it not wise to drink, eat or use those natural products than depending 
on the commercial products, which make the natural products artificial and unnatural?

“We need to be wise in choosing appropriate drink which will provide balance of all macro 
and micro nutrients for us and our children,” suggests Charita.

How to lodge complaints

* You may lodge complaint with the Advertising Standards Council of India if you feel an 
advertisement misleading or offensive. Give details about the advertisement including a 
print copy or recorded TV clipping. ASCI can be reached on telephone (022) 23521066, 
23516863. Toll free number: 1-800-22-2724. Fax: 23516863. E-mail:

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