'Clever milk' ad misleading, rules ASAIt claimed to boost children's brain power

21 June 2006

A milk advert fronted by Professor Lord Robert Winston has been pulled after it made unproven claims about boosting children's brain power.

Newspaper and magazine adverts for St Ivel Advance milk claimed it improves the intelligence of children because it contains omega 3 fatty acid, found naturally in fish.

One advert shows Lord Winston holding a bottle of the milk and saying: 'Recent scientific studies suggest omega 3 may play an important role in enhancing learning and concentration in some children.'

Omega 3 trial

But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the adverts were misleading and the claims used for the benefits of the milk unproven. Daily Crest, the firm behind the product, has withdrawn the adverts following the ruling.

The ad watchdog found that the trial used to substantiate the claim used a higher dose of omega 3 than is used in the milk. The ASA said: 'We had not seen evidence to prove that the amount of omega 3 in Advance milk was likely to have the same effect as the supplement used in the trials.'

It also ruled that as the children in the trial had learning difficulties, there was no basis to claim there would be an improvement in the concentration of all children.

Pregnant women warned about fish oil

The possible benefit of omega 3 supplements for pregnant women is also the subject of controversy.

Recent media reports claimed pregnant women could boost the intelligence of their unborn child by taking fish oil, a source of omega 3, after the eighteenth week of pregnancy.

But following this advice could mean mothers unwittingly put their unborn babies at risk of harm. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) says that pregnant women shouldn't eat foods with high levels of vitamin A, and that includes cod liver oil. Too much vitamin A can cause birth defects.

An agency spokesperson said:'Fish liver oil supplements contain high levels of vitamin A, as may other multivitamin supplements, so should therefore be avoided by pregnant women or those planning a pregnancy. This is longstanding Department of Health advice.'