Amberen is one of the "anti-aging" dietary supplements promoted by Lunada Biomedical. But the Federal Trade Commission says the company's claims aren't supported by the evidence.
The FTC charges in a federal lawsuit that Lunada advertises that Amberen causes substantial weight loss for women over 40, and says the company sold nearly $65 million worth of the supplement between 2010 and 2013.
“Lunada marketed Amberen to women over 40 as ‘clinically proven’ to cause weight loss,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But their own studies didn’t support those claims. The best way to lose weight is still diet and exercise.”
The company disputes the charges and says it "prefers ... to litigate this matter before an impartial judge."
According to the FTC’s complaint, the company's ads claimed Amberen could cause significant weight loss and loss of belly fat, and increase the metabolism of perimenopausal or menopausal women over 40.
Lunada’s websites and other advertisements pitched the capsules using female announcers saying things like: “Amberen restores hormonal balance naturally, so the weight can just fall right off. Even that stubborn belly fat.” They also claimed that Amberen is “the ONLY product on the market today clinically proven to cause sustained weight loss for women over 40.”
According to the FTC’s complaint, however, a clinical trial conducted in 2001 by the Russian scientists who developed the Amberen formula, used a double dose of Amberen and did not specifically measure weight loss; a subsequent clinical study failed to show a statistically significant difference in weight loss between the test and control groups.
In a statement, Lunada said a recent study supports its claims.
“Scientific evidence, including a recent randomized, double blind, placebo controlled clinical trial, involving 102 test subjects, just released by the world renowned First Moscow State Medical University (the premier educational, scientific and medical institution in Russia since 1758) supports the conclusion that Amberen achieves weight loss in menopausal women," a company spokesman said.
"The data obtained during the study was evaluated independently by the prestigious Institute of Mathematical Problems in Biology, a division of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Additional peer reviewed scientific evidence supports the conclusion that Amberen also reduces many menopausal symptoms," the company's statement added.
The FTC also charges that the defendants falsely claimed a consumer satisfaction and success rate of 93 percent and failed to disclose their relationship with certain endorsers, including one who blogged about the benefits of the supplement.
The complaint further alleges that the defendants falsely claimed that consumers could try Amberen “risk-free” for 30 days, through statements such as, “You can try Amberen absolutely risk FREE and get a one month supply FREE.” In fact, customers were provided a ninety-day supply of Amberen and to qualify for a refund, consumers had to return two unopened product boxes at their own expense, within 30 days of placing the order.
Moreover, in many cases consumers were not reimbursed the shipping and handling charges they had paid when they ordered the product, the FTC said.