Texas-based Applied Food Sciences has settled charges brought by the Federal Trade Commission that the company used the results of a flawed study and pitched “baseless weight-loss claims” about its green coffee extract to retailers.
Those retailers then repeated those same flawed claims in marketing finished products to consumers, the FTC alleges.
The study was “so hopelessly flawed” that it offered no “reliable conclusions”, the FTC said. The study allegedly showed that the product causes “substantial weight and fat loss”. It was later touted on The Dr. Oz Show.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, or Dr. Oz as he is known to millions of TV viewers, appeared before the Senate’s consumer protection panel in June. Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon, conceded that his language about green coffee and other supplements has been “flowery” and promised to change his ways.
The FTC’s settlement with Applied Food Sciences (AFS), which sells a green coffee ingredient used in
dietary supplements and foods, requires the company to pay $3.5 million, and to have scientific substantiation for any future weight-loss claims. That includes at least two adequate and well-controlled human clinical tests.
“Applied Food Sciences knew or should have known that this botched study didn’t prove anything,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “In publicizing the results, it helped fuel the green coffee phenomenon.”
According to the FTC’s complaint, in 2010, Austin, Texas-based AFS paid researchers in India to conduct a
clinical trial on overweight adults to test whether Green Coffee Antioxidant (GCA), a dietary supplement
containing green coffee extract, reduced body weight and body fat.
The FTC charges that the study’s lead investigator repeatedly altered the weights and other key measurements of the subjects, changed the length of the trial, and misstated which subjects were taking the placebo or GCA during the trial.
When the lead investigator was unable to get the study published, the FTC says that AFS hired
researchers Joe Vinson and Bryan Burnham at the University of Scranton to rewrite it. Despite receiving
conflicting data, Vinson, Burnham, and AFS never verified the authenticity of the information used in the study, according to the complaint.
Despite the study’s flaws, AFS used it to falsely claim that GCA caused consumers to lose 17.7 pounds, 10.5
percent of body weight, and 16 percent of body fat with or without diet and exercise, in 22 weeks, the complaint alleges.