ASAI decision highlights both lack of evidence base for cancer diet claims and inappropriate qualifications of the Advertiser.
The Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) – the representative body for registered professional dietitians in Ireland – today welcomed the decision of the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) to uphold their complaint against a website offering advice in relation to the Ketogenic diet for cancer. The complaint had been made jointly by the INDI and the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) on foot of concerns for public safety specifically relating to people with cancer.
Upholding the complaint, the ASAI directed that the advertiser – Dublin based nutritional therapist and author, Ms Patricia Daly - not refer to the efficacy of the Ketogenic diet on her website in relation to cancer treatment as appropriate evidence to substantiate such claims does not exist.
Ms Daly’s website, which was the focus of the complaint, offers online courses and webinars aimed at cancer patients or those treating people with cancer. Ms Daly came to public attention last year when she launched a book, “The Ketogenic Kitchen”, aimed at people with cancer and co-authored by chef Domini Kemp.
The ASAI ruling also set out that claims relating to advice and / or treatment for serious conditions should not be made without the advertiser holding an appropriate professional qualification. In Ireland, the only regulated professionals who can offer clinical dietetic advice are CORU registered dietitians.
Commenting on the ASAI report, Ms. Jennifer Feighan, CEO, INDI said, “As the only professional body for registered dietitians in Ireland, we took this complaint to the ASAI in the interests of patient protection. The claims made for the Ketogenic diet and its benefits to people with cancer are misleading and unsubstantiated. In this case they have also been made by a person who is not suitably qualified to offer dietary advice to people affected by cancer”
Further welcoming the ASAI ruling Dr Robert O’Connor, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, added: “the growing tide of unqualified individuals who promote non-evidence based beliefs pertaining to diet and medicine is worrying. At best they can be a costly distraction, at worst they have the potential to do huge harm to the most vulnerable in our community. We urge those who have concerns about diet and cancer to speak to their doctor or to a qualified medical professional and not to be taken in by unsubstantiated lifestyle advice from websites or media. The Evaluation Group report for the 2006 National Cancer Strategy recommended greater investment in the provision of qualified professionals, including dietitians, working as part of multi-disciplinary teams focused on overall best patient outcome. Today’s ruling demonstrates the urgent need for such investment.”
The INDI / ICS submission was made with the support of several experts in the area of oncology, medicine and nutrition. They include Dr Robert O’Connor, Head of Research, Irish Cancer Society; Dr Graham Love, then CEO of the Health Research Board; Dr Derek Power, Medical Oncologist, Mercy University Hospital, Cork and Dr. Gerard Crotty, Consultant Haematologist, Midland Regional Hospital.