Diet Ads

Discusses deceptive diet ads and their effect on public health.

Advertising has long been associated with unreasonable claims, in fact, we have come to expect them. Advertisements quite often imply qualities about the products and people within the context of the ad that are simply impossible. Over the long-term, our culture has grown to accept advertisements as a fiction into which we are drawn for 30 seconds. During that time, the viewer suspends disbelief because of the formula at play and simply accepts the fiction that surrounds the product. In the realm of diet advertising, however, such fictions have turned out to be potentially dangerous or even deadly. Diet product and diet advertising has long made irrational claims about enormous changes in the body over impossibly short periods of time. Research shows that the level of false advertising in commercials for diets and diet products is staggeringly high. The FTC found that 55 percent of weight-loss ads make claims that lack proof or very likely are false (Eggerton, 2002). In fact, this problem has been ongoing since one of the first false-advertising in diet commercials claims was made; in 1993, the Federal Trade Commission charged that five of the nation’s largest commercial diet-program companies have misled consumers by making unsubstantiated weight-loss claims and by using deceptive testimonials (FTC Accuses Five Diet Programs of Deceptive Advertising, 1993; Cordes, 1993). It is proposed that research will demonstrate that the effect of false advertising (and thus false expectations) about diets and diet products has resulted in a greater health crisis in relation to weight than ever before.