The State of Supplement Health Claims
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates the advertising and marketing of dietary supplements in the US. Their guidance includes requirements for health claims in dietary supplement advertising, with a focus on preventing brands from misleading consumers. The guidance surrounding supplement health claims has been somewhat vague in the past, with the primary focus simply cautioning brands against explicitly claiming that their product can treat or cure any health conditions.
Now, the FTC has provided more specific guidance for dietary supplement brands that should encourage increased scientific rigor in the research they conduct to validate their products’ claims. This is good news for supplement brands, as it will bolster consumer trust and improve the quality of products on the market.
The Latest Guidance From the FTC
In December the FTC released updated guidance on clinical research for supplements, with more specific recommendations for clinical trial models and the kinds of claims supplement brands are allowed to make.
It has always been the case that dietary supplement brands are advised to avoid making claims about their products’ abilities to treat specific health concerns, as this veers into the domain of drug claims, which are held to a very different regulatory standard than dietary supplements.
Now, the FTC has furthered its guidance to state that health claims put forward by supplement brands should be supported by “competent and reliable scientific evidence.”
Specifically, the FTC mandates that this support should take the form of: "tests, analyses, research, or studies that have been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by qualified persons and are generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results."
Levels of Testing Available
While the new FTC guidance may seem intimidating to new or small brands, the actual level of clinical research required to provide evidence for your health claims is not as unobtainable as you might think. There are accessible starting points that will allow brands working with smaller budgets and shorter timelines to create justified health claims which satisfy the FTC regulations.
The new regulations are not set out to scare small supplement brands out of marketing their products, but rather are intended to encourage any product with strong health claims to have independent data backing it up. This is put forth with the safety and wellness of consumers at its core.
A breakdown of some of the different options for evidencing your supplements’ marketing claims is as follows:
Why it Matters to Supplement Brands
The updated regulations from the FTC mark a vital change for supplement brands, as health claims must now be backed up with scientific evidence. Before this mandate, supporting claims with evidence was seen as somewhat optional by many brands, and was largely a method of standing out in marketing contexts.
Now, any supplement brand should ideally have conducted some level of clinical research in order to justify their health claims. This will ultimately reduce the prevalence of “empty” claims associated with ineffective products and encourage brands to practice transparency and scientific rigor in their formulation, advertisement, and marketing efforts.
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