BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

New Zealand Dietetic Association and TVWorks Ltd - 2008-134

Members
  • Joanne Morris (Chair)
  • Diane Musgrave
  • Tapu Misa
  • Paul France
Dated
Complainant
  • New Zealand Dietetic Association (NZDA)
Number
2008-134
Programme
Downsize Me!
Broadcaster
TVWorks Ltd
Channel/Station
TV3 # 3

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Downsize Me! – recommendations on weight loss and nutrition – allegedly inaccurate and misleading

Findings
Standard 5 (accuracy) – "factual programme" in the sense that it reported actual events and offered general information – advice and "scare tactics" presented in personable way – general messages were to eat better, exercise regularly and improve health – viewers would have understood that most of the advice was tailored to the particular participants – no misleading statements – not upheld

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


Broadcast

[1] Downsize Me! was a health, diet and exercise programme where overweight people worked for eight weeks to lose weight and reduce health risks. The Tuesday 16 September 2008 episode, broadcast at 7.30pm on TV3, featured a couple named James and Jo. The team consisted of "Downsize Me!’s Damian Kristof" and a personal trainer.

[2] Throughout the episode, the team gave advice about James and Jo's current health and designed an exercise and diet programme for them. At the end of the programme before the closing credits, the following words were briefly displayed in the bottom third of the screen:

The diet and exercise regime in this programme was designed and supervised by health professionals and tailored to our participant's medical status and their specific needs. Consult with your doctor before embarking on any diet or exercise programme.

Complaint

[3] The New Zealand Dietetic Association (NZDA) made a formal complaint to TVWorks Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme contained a number of specific inaccuracies and misleading statements. It nominated guidelines 5b and 5d to the accuracy standard.

[4] The complainant noted that the participants had health assessments as part of being on the programme, so the experts had their full history and were able to make statements specific to their health needs. However, NZDA considered there was insufficient mention of that fact, and so viewers might misinterpret advice for the individual as population-wide recommendations. The complainant argued there was no distinction between fact and opinion, which could lead to viewers receiving misleading and inaccurate nutritional information.

[5] NZDA then considered a number of specific aspects of the programme that it believed were inaccurate or misleading.

"Wheatgrass has all the nutrients to maintain a healthy pregnancy: folic acid, B12, iron."

[6] NZDA maintained that there was no single food which could provide all the nutrients in adequate quantities to maintain a healthy pregnancy, so it was extremely misleading to say that wheatgrass had all the necessary nutrients. It also noted that in order for a woman to meet the recommended dietary intake of folic acid, B12 and iron, she would have to consume approximately three cups of dried wheatgrass, which was unrealistic.

[7] NZDA said that regardless of daily intakes of folate, it was recommended that all women planning a pregnancy or in the early stages of pregnancy should take folic acid tablets for four weeks before and 12 weeks after conception to reduce the risk of Neural Tube Defects such as spina bifida.

[8] The complainant agreed that folate, vitamin B12 and iron were important nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy, but said requirements for other nutrients such as iodine, magnesium, vitamin A and most of the B vitamins also increase during pregnancy, and these were not mentioned in the programme.

Talking about sugar: "We’re talking heart disease, talking about nerve damage, we’re talking about kidney damage, we’re talking about diabetes complications, PMS, low libido..."

[9] NZDA argued that there were many dietary and lifestyle factors that could contribute to Type 2 diabetes, one being obesity. Sugar was a source of energy, it said, and excess energy consumption from any source, not just sugar, will lead to weight gain. NZDA noted that credible scientific research had found that the total amount of sugar consumed by an individual was not independently associated with the development of Type 2 diabetes.

[10] While it agreed that Type 2 diabetes could lead to an increased risk of heart disease, nerve damage, kidney damage and other complications, NZDA maintained that these were not caused solely by an individual's sugar intake. It noted the statement in The Evidence Based Best Practice Guidelines of New Zealand that "intakes up to 45g per day (3 tablespoons) of added sugars in energy-controlled diets do not lead to the deterioration of glycaemic, insulin or lipid indices when substituted for equivalent carbohydrate [such] as starch from high GI or low fibre sources". It also pointed out that diabetic renal disease or nerve damage depended on a number of factors, not just blood sugar control.

When discussing James’s blood tests, presenter stated, "Your heart disease-promoting cholesterol LDL was up, which means both too much sugar, too much stress."

[11] NZDA stated there were a number of factors that caused an individual’s LDL cholesterol levels to be elevated, including genetics, diabetes, liver disorders, renal disorders, or diet. Dietary factors shown to have a strong relationship with LDL were increased intakes of saturated fatty acids, trans-unsaturated fats, and dietary cholesterol. However, sugar intakes did not directly affect the heart, NZDA said, and had not been directly related to risk for cardiovascular disease.

A goal of 15kg weight loss over eight weeks was suggested for Jo and more than 20kg endorsed for James.

An attempted weight loss of 5kg in two weeks at the six-week weigh-in was endorsed.

[12] NZDA said this equated to 1.8-2.5kg per week weight loss, which was unrealistic and unhealthy to endorse. Steady weight loss over longer periods favours reduction of fat stores and limits the loss of vital protein tissues, also avoiding the sharp decline in resting metabolic rate (RMR) that accompanies rapid weight reduction. To minimise the decrease in RMR, a loss of 1% body weight per week was recommended for obese individuals, NZDA said.

[13] The complainant argued the programme could have led viewers to believe they needed to lose a large amount of weight every week to be successful with their weight loss efforts, which could lead to nutritional deficiencies if not medically supervised. Similarly, it could have led people who were losing 0.5-1kg of weight per week to believe they were not losing enough to be successful, when in fact they were doing well.

Statement that "bucket-loads of carbohydrates and fats are going to congeal in the heart and make you feel bad".

[14] NZDA contended that carbohydrates were broken down in the gut and absorbed into the blood stream as sugars, which were used in many body processes. Sugar was not stored, nor does it congeal, in the heart, NZDA said.

[15] The complainant noted that fats could be separated into two types, saturated and unsaturated. While saturated fat intakes were related to blood cholesterol levels, unsaturated fats could lower bad LDL cholesterol, increase good HDL cholesterol, or both. NZDA therefore considered it was misleading to say that "fats" in general would congeal in the heart.

"The only sort of nutrition that’s in toast for breakfast is the stuff they’ve added to it – it’s highly processed."

[16] NZDA maintained that bread provided carbohydrate for energy, fibre for digestive health, some protein, and a range of vitamins and minerals. Including wholegrain bread in the diet helped protect against heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and some cancers, as well as being linked to better weight control. While the participants were eating white bread, the statement made was inclusive of all bread and therefore incorrect, with potentially detrimental effects on the health of viewers. As toast was a popular breakfast food, advising people not to eat it could have decreased the number of people eating breakfast, NZDA argued. Eating breakfast was positively associated with increased intake of vitamins and minerals, and improved weight control.

Statement that HDL to total cholesterol ratio should always be 4.5 or less; participant’s had fallen from 5.1 to 4.1.

[17] NZDA agreed that the ratio should be 4.5 or less as recommended by the New Zealand National Heart Foundation. However, that ratio was calculated as total cholesterol to HDL, not the other way around.

Programme’s disclaimer

[18] The complainant was concerned that the disclaimer shown at the end of the programme, stating that no weight loss or diet should be attempted without medical advice, was shown so fast that a viewer would have to pause the programme to read it. They considered it should be made clear at the start of the programme that medical advice should be sought before embarking on any weight loss or diet regime.

Standards

[19] The complainant nominated Standard 5 and guidelines 5b and 5d of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice in its complaint. These provide:

Standard 5 Accuracy

News, current affairs and other factual programmes must be truthful and accurate on points of fact, and be impartial and objective at all times.

Guidelines

5b Broadcasters should refrain from broadcasting material which is misleading or unnecessarily alarms viewers.

5d Factual reports on the one hand, and opinion, analysis and comment on the other, should be clearly distinguishable.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[20] TVWorks considered that the disclaimer played at the end of the programme was relevant to the complainant’s concerns that viewers would accept the advice given as targeted at the general population, and also to many of its complaints about accuracy. It said that the billboard was played over the concluding story of the featured contestant and the producer considered this was the most ideal time for screening that information. TVWorks emphasised that it was on air for “five full seconds”, and was satisfied it could be read in its entirety.

[21] As a general comment, TVWorks stated that the programme was not required to include the entire range of medical and nutritional facts and opinions about specific conditions. To do so, it said, "would take what is essentially an uplifting, health-promoting, socially responsible show and make it inaccessible and unwatchable to most viewers". It said the production team took great care to ensure that all material facts and opinions in the show were taken into consideration when making editorial choices. TVWorks was of the view that the programme did not contain any inaccurate or misleading material.

[22] The broadcaster then dealt with each of the complainant’s accuracy concerns

"Wheatgrass has all the nutrients to maintain a healthy pregnancy: folic acid, B12, iron."

[23] TVWorks maintained that the full statement made in the programme included additional information:

...wheatgrass has all the nutrients to maintain a healthy pregnancy: folic acid, B12, iron. Lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds, we’re talking about eggs, B12, folic acid – include all these things and cook up fantastic meals.

[24] The broadcaster disagreed the statement was misleading; certainly it did not suggest that a person could only eat wheatgrass to gain all the required nutrients, as other foods were encouraged as well as cooking full meals. Further, it considered viewers would have realised that the programme was not advocating eating only wheatgrass.

Talking about sugar: "We’re talking heart disease, talking about nerve damage, we’re talking about kidney damage, we’re talking about diabetes complications, PMS, low libido..."

[25] TVWorks stated it had asked the programme’s producer to provide the factual basis of the statements complained about. The producer considered that:

...other factors also contribute to Type 2 diabetes, and throughout the series... the programme has continually highlighted the various factors involved in promotion and development of the disease, including high animal based saturated fat consumption, insulin resistance, stress and trans fatty acids etc. It is widely known that excessive consumption of carbohydrates (sugar) increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

[26] The broadcaster emphasised that it was appropriate to talk about the implication of sugar in the development of diabetes because it was pertinent to James’s case.

When discussing James’s blood tests, presenter stated, "Your heart disease-promoting cholesterol LDL was up, which means both too much sugar, too much stress."

[27] The programme’s producer acknowledged that there were many factors involved in the development of LDL cholesterol elevation. However, for the particular participants in this episode, processed sugar was their biggest problem, and stress and carbohydrate mismanagement were major concerns for James. It was therefore appropriate to focus on sugar and stress in James’s case, and to highlight that his condition could worsen.

A goal of 15kg weight loss over eight weeks was suggested for Jo and more than 20kg endorsed for James.

An attempted weight loss of 5kg in two weeks at the six-week weigh-in was endorsed.

[28] TVWorks maintained that based on the information it had, there was no research that suggested it was unsafe for humans to lose weight rapidly. The producer agreed that if someone lowered their energy intake too dramatically the BMR was affected negatively. The combination of nutritious food, exercise, and water consumption likely enabled James to lose weight in significant amounts, and his blood tests showed that his health significantly improved. The producer had never had cause to re-evaluate the programme.

[29] If an individual has put on weight fast, it is appropriate to halt this and assist the body to lose weight equally as rapidly, the producer said. Literature more often states that it is probably more dangerous to put on weight than to lose weight. Repeatedly on the programme participants reported feeling better, and their tests showed improvements in their BMR, lipid profile, glycaemic control and so on.

Statement that "bucket-loads of carbohydrates and fats are going to congeal in the heart and make you feel bad".

[30] The producer maintained that this statement was highlighting to the participants that cardiovascular disease, diabetes and various cancers were directly associated with poor quality carbohydrate consumption and poor quality fat consumption. Given that both saturated fat and sugar were involved in LDL and triglyceride formation, the producer considered it was fair to use the expression "congeal around the heart" in an attempt to illustrate that fat and sugar would contribute to heart disease, without explaining in depth the pathophysiology of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, dyslipidaemia and diabetes.

"The only sort of nutrition that’s in toast for breakfast is the stuff they’ve added to it – it’s highly processed."

[31] TVWorks said it was specifically said in the programme that white bread had little nutritional value and added fibre. Throughout the series wholegrain bread was recommended. The producer agreed that breakfast was very important, but issues could arise when people relied on bread as a staple food source. The programme highlighted that compared to alternative breakfasts recommended on the show, bread and toast were low in nutrition. The processing of white bread meant a significant loss of vitamins as compared to wholegrain wheat, and Downsize Me! did not support white bread as a beneficial breakfast option, the producer said.

Statement that HDL to total cholesterol ratio should always be 4.5 or less; participant’s had fallen from 5.1 to 4.1.

[32] TVWorks accepted that the complainant was correct in pointing out that the ratio was total cholesterol to HDL, not HDL to total cholesterol. The producer told the broadcaster it was a mistake. However, TVWorks considered that the mistake was not material as in terms of delivery of information it did not affect or endanger any member of the public. It also gave the general message about the ratio and its importance.

[33] TVWorks concluded the programme was not inaccurate or misleading, and declined to uphold the Standard 5 complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[34] Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, NZDA referred its

[35] NZDA pointed out that its members were the only nutrition experts liable under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003, and as such were legally bound to ensure consistency and accuracy of key messages, and help reduce misinformation. NZDA was concerned that public health and safety was at stake both in respect of viewers and participants on the show. The complainant disagreed with TVWorks that the disclaimer was adequately displayed so that viewers were aware the advice given in the programme was not for the general public. It pointed out that it was prominently displayed at the beginning of the 4 November episode. It noted a letter to the editor of The Dominion Post on 1 December 2008 from a member of the public which confirmed that the disclaimer was not clear, and said NZDA clinics had had visits from the public who were applying potentially harmful advice from the programme.

[36] The complainant accepted that viewers had sufficient commonsense to understand that the show was not advocating eating only wheatgrass. However, it considered part of the reason for the popularity of the programme and other weight loss, healthy eating, and cooking shows, was "the level of confusion and lack of knowledge surrounding healthy balanced eating". It argued that the programme was undermining the government’s Healthy Eating Healthy Action Strategy.

[37] NZDA challenged TVWorks’ contention that the programme was socially responsible, pointing out that it was using poor quality or out of date research. It considered using articles from 1970, 1993 and 1998 was not appropriate given the number of more recent studies available. NZDA stated that it was misleading and potentially alarming for viewers to be presented with information that was at odds with evidence-based guidelines which had been peer-reviewed, or recent well-designed clinical trials. It asked the Authority to review the references provided and the science behind the complaints.

[38] The complainant expressed concern that TVWorks had used other episodes of Downsize Me! as justifications for the inaccurate statements in the 16 September episode. This assumed that viewers had watched other episodes and forgotten or somehow knew the new information was correct and the other information was incorrect, it said.

[39] NZDA noted that TVWorks seemed to be using the terms "carbohydrates" and "sugars" interchangeably, which was, by definition, not correct.

[40] NZDA was still concerned that bread as a breakfast food was a significant source of nutrients, especially for children. It said it knows that people apply the information demonstrated in the programme and "the danger lies in it being applied to the vulnerable groups within our communities". NZDA considered that "this statement about bread could not be supported by evidence and that the registered food and nutrition health professionals in New Zealand would not make this statement".

[41] With regard to the mistake accepted by TVWorks, NZDA maintained this type of error could alarm a viewer.

Broadcaster’s Response to the Authority

[42] The broadcaster attached a response from the programme’s producer. It maintained that the programme carefully and clearly restricted its information to the particular participant in each episode and "never purported to be a code for all people irrespective of their history or condition". Naturally there would always be a difference of opinion among experts, it said, but the advice given was firmly based on appropriate research.

[43] The producer emphasised that the programme had never given “ONE” key message to the public; 20 dietitians had been interviewed for the programme and none shared the same views or methods of weight loss control. The broadcaster pointed out that another dietitian on another programme, The Fat Chance, had given advice contrary to some of the complainant’s arguments, such as, "if you’re going to eat all of this sugar you will get diabetes", with regard to sugary lollies.

[44] With regard to the complainant’s contention that they had used out of date research, the producer stressed that unless research is dismissed, it is still considered credible especially if published in peer-reviewed studies, regardless of the date it was conducted. They noted that the food pyramid model was developed in 1910, had undergone changes recently, and had come under much scrutiny.

[45] The producer stated that pathology results for participants had always been good unless they had strayed from their plan; this was evidence that the programme worked.

[46] Finally, the broadcaster believed that the Authority was not the appropriate forum for these discussions, as there had always been discourse and discussion within the health industry so that experts could learn from and help each other for the benefit of the public.

Complainant’s Final Comment

[47] NZDA reiterated its main concerns that the disclaimer did not adequately convey to viewers that the advice given was tailored to the participant, and that the advice went against evidence-based guidelines for the conditions being treated. It maintained dietitians had encountered patients with Type 2 diabetes who had been misled by the programme and were now following unsafe practices for the management of their condition.

[48] The complainant offered some comments on the latest response from the show’s producer. With regard to key messages, it considered the crucial point was that they must be accurate at the time they were broadcast. It noted that the presenter referred to in The Fat Chance was a nutritionist and not a registered dietitian, and that dietitians are not influenced by any company or brand in accordance with their code of ethics. NZDA accepted that old research is valid until proven otherwise, but said that the research used by TVWorks had been replaced by a newer body of research that showed an alternative course of action was more effective. It emphasised that there were many teaching aids for conveying healthy eating principles; the food pyramid was not widely used as there were better models available.

[49] NZDA pointed out that it had made a sincere effort to discuss its concerns with the programme makers in 2006 and 2007 prior to the earlier seasons being aired, and an undertaking was made to alter the content in line with its concerns. However, that did not happen and a complaint was made during the 2007 series. The complainant had since met with the programme’s presenter and offered information about how to submit case studies to a peer-reviewed journal.

[50] Finally, NZDA recommended that "the director of the programme seek professional review of the content of the programme prior to screening to avoid misinformation and harm in the future".

Broadcaster's Final Comment

[51] TVWorks attached further responses from the executive producer of Downsize Me!, and Damian Kristof in association with the Head of the Charter for Natural Health Practitioners.

[52] The executive producer said that the programme makers found it “incredible that the NZDA continually disregard the information we have provided and evidence-based results consistently achieved on the show”. She emphasised that:

We have never once said that Damian is a dietitian and are proud that he is a naturopath having chosen to go in this direction and achieve the results we have been able to and the phenomenally positive public response.

[53] With regard to NZDA’s argument that the programme’s advice went against evidence-based best practice guidelines, Damian noted that diabetes was recognised as the second leading cause of death in New Zealand. He was of the view that the guidelines referenced by the complainant "have proven to be a complete and total failure in regards to the correction of this endemic problem and have not resulted in a desired and positive outcome". He emphasised that as a natural healthcare practitioner he had achieved positive health outcomes by incorporating a healthy diet and positive lifestyle changes.

[54] In response to NZDA's argument that TVWorks was using "carbohydrates" and "sugars" interchangeably, Damian maintained that for centuries it had been recognised that carbohydrates are the main source of metabolic energy. Sugars and starches which convert to sugar in the body represent 50 to 70 percent of the energy intake, he said, largely from starch and sucrose. Basically, Damian argued, "carbohydrates are the monosaccharide sugars".

[55] Looking at NZDA’s argument that bread was a necessary part of a healthy diet, Damian agreed that bread was a significant source of nutrients. However, he maintained that individuals predisposed to obesity and diabetes or trying to lose weight or control cholesterol should avoid all forms of ground grains, including bread.

[56] With regard to the programme’s disclaimer, Damian emphasised that a disclaimer was published, for a short period of time, similar to all disclaimers, medical advertisements and programmes.

[57] Finally, in response to NZDA’s argument that advice given on Downsize Me! was misleading the public, he stated that:

Every day of the week the general public is exposed to misleading and potentially alarming information in the media. However, the general public is sophisticated to a degree to be able to be discerning and sort the wheat from the chaff.

I have never taken it upon myself to provide misleading information to clients or the general public. My guiding principle is and always has been to assist my fellow man and woman to obtain and maintain a balanced healthy lifestyle, by promoting a wellness programme.

Authority's Determination

[58] The members of the Authority have viewed a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

Nature of the Programme

[59] In Decision No. 2007-078, the Authority found that Downsize Me! was a "factual programme" to which the accuracy standard applied. It commented that viewers were reasonably entitled to expect that the information given in the programme was truthful and authoritative. However, while the programme was informative at a general level, the Authority considers that its overarching purpose was to entertain viewers and convey an uplifting social message. The programme’s presenters employed shock tactics, and presented advice in a personable and sometimes dramatic way, in an attempt to impress upon the participants the importance of eating well and exercising.

[60] The Authority acknowledges that discussions which challenge orthodox or mainstream medical opinion are important parts of the right to freedom of expression provided by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. It would therefore be hesitant to limit the expression of genuine opinion on matters of health, provided that it was clearly distinguishable as opinion. Further, the perspective and qualifications of the person giving the advice should be disclosed so that viewers can make an informed decision about the validity of their opinions. This is particularly important where a programme is discussing specific health conditions such as diabetes, because the potential consequences of a viewer adopting incorrect or controversial advice could be life-threatening.

[61] TVWorks argued that the disclaimer at the end of each episode of Downsize Me! was sufficient to make it clear that the advice in the programme was tailored to the particular participants, so that viewers would not adopt it themselves. The Authority disagrees. The disclaimer was small, difficult to read and was not displayed for sufficient time for an ordinary viewer to read and understand it. Furthermore, Damian Kristof’s qualification as a naturopath was never disclosed to viewers; he was simply described as "Downsize Me!’s Damian Kristof" and the disclaimer referred to "health professionals".

[62] In order for a disclaimer to operate in the manner suggested by the broadcaster – effectively as a "cure-all" - the Authority considers that it would need to specify the qualifications of the person giving advice and, ideally, be presented verbally and visually at the beginning of the programme

[63] Having determined that the disclaimer was not sufficient to frame the programme so as to avoid breaching the accuracy standard, the Authority now proceeds to consider each of the statements claimed to be inaccurate by NZDA.

"Wheatgrass has all the nutrients to maintain a healthy pregnancy: folic acid, B12, iron."

[64] NZDA maintained that there was no single food which could provide all the nutrients in adequate quantities to maintain a healthy pregnancy, so it was extremely misleading to say that wheatgrass had all the necessary nutrients. TVWorks considered viewers would have realised that the programme was not advocating eating only wheatgrass.

[65] The Authority notes that the reference to wheatgrass was made in the context of listing a range of foods containing a range of nutrients which would enhance the participants’ fertility and libido. It considers the reasonable viewer would have had sufficient commonsense to take from Damian’s statement that wheatgrass contains many beneficial nutrients for pregnant women – not that they should only eat wheatgrass throughout pregnancy.

[66] Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the statement was misleading.

Talking about sugar: "We’re talking heart disease, talking about nerve damage, we’re talking about kidney damage, we’re talking about diabetes complications, PMS, low libido..."

[67] In the Authority’s view, viewers would have understood that this statement was pertinent to James and Jo and the amount of sugar they were consuming. Referring to a range of health effects associated with excessive sugar consumption was a "scare tactic" used to encourage them to eat better and lead a healthier lifestyle.

[68] The Authority notes that NZDA stated that excess consumption of any energy source, including sugar, led to weight gain and obesity which was one of the contributing factors for diabetes.

[69] In these circumstances, the Authority concludes that the statement was not misleading or inaccurate, and considers that upholding the complaint would unreasonably restrict the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

When discussing James’s blood tests, presenter stated, "Your heart disease-promoting cholesterol LDL was up, which means both too much sugar, too much stress."

[70] The Authority considers that viewers would have appreciated that this advice was tailored to the participants and their biggest risk factors. It has no reason to dispute the broadcaster’s claim that for the particular participants in this episode, processed sugar was their biggest problem, and stress and carbohydrate mismanagement were major concerns for James. It was therefore appropriate to focus on sugar and stress in James’s case.

[71] Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

A goal of 15kg weight loss over eight weeks was suggested for Jo and more than 20kg endorsed for James.

An attempted weight loss of 5kg in two weeks at the six-week weigh-in was endorsed.

[72] The complainant was concerned this was an unrealistic and unhealthy weight loss goal, which would lead viewers to think they were unsuccessful if not losing that much weight. TVWorks maintained that based on the information it had, there was no research that suggested it was unsafe for humans to lose weight rapidly.

[73] The Authority is of the view that these were weight loss goals used primarily as motivators for the particular participants. At the end of the eight-week programme, the participants felt good about what they had achieved, their health improved, and they were praised by Damian and their trainer even if they did not reach their initial target.

[74] Having reviewed the supporting material provided by TVWorks, the Authority considers the programme had sufficient justification for pushing the participants to lose as much weight as they could. It notes that the end result was an overall improvement in their health, which was not “unhealthy” as argued by NZDA. Nor could it be considered "unrealistic" when the participants managed to lose close to the amount initially set for themselves.

[75] In these circumstances, the Authority considers upholding this aspect of the complaint would be an unreasonable restriction on TVWorks’ right to freedom of expression.

Statement that "bucket-loads of carbohydrates and fats are going to congeal in the heart and make you feel bad".

[76] In the Authority’s view, this was an example of a generalised, hyperbolic statement used to demonstrate what the participants’ eating was doing to their health, and to scare and shock them into wanting to improve their diet. It was not intended to be a scientifically accurate point of fact, and would not have been interpreted by viewers as such. Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the statement was misleading or inaccurate.

"The only sort of nutrition that’s in toast for breakfast is the stuff they’ve added to it - it’s highly processed."

[77] The Authority notes that, while the above statement was generalised, just previously Damian had commented, ."Have a look at your breakfast, guys. White bread for breakfast - processed carbohydrates, you like that, don’t you?." Therefore it was clear that his statement was about white bread only. He went on to say that he wanted the participants to be ."eating something that’s high in fibre, but high in nutrition.", and recommended cereal and fruit.

[78] Therefore, the Authority disagrees with NZDA that the statement was inclusive of all bread, and that it would have led viewers to stop eating breakfast. Damian expressly recommended a healthier alternative that contained fibre and other nutrients.

[79] The Authority concludes it was not misleading or alarming for Damian to discourage the couple from eating white toast and encourage what he believed to be healthier breakfast choices. It declines to uphold this aspect of the complaint.

Statement that HDL to total cholesterol ratio should always be 4.5 or less; participant’s had fallen from 5.1 to 4.1.

[80] TVWorks accepted that the complainant was correct in pointing out that the ratio was total cholesterol to HDL, not HDL to total cholesterol. However, TVWorks considered that the mistake was not material as in terms of delivery of information it did not affect or endanger any member of the public. It said it also gave the general message about the ratio and its importance.

[81] The Authority agrees. While the statement may have been inaccurate, it considers the information was too technical to have misled most viewers. Further, anyone who did understand what Damian was referring to would have realised that he had simply slipped up and made a mistake. The important point was that the participants’ cholesterol had been reduced due to their new diet and exercise regime.

[82] In these circumstances, where TVWorks has accepted the inaccuracy, viewers would not have been misled and the point was minor in the context of the whole programme, the Authority considers that upholding this aspect of the complaint would unreasonably limit the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression.

 

For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority

 

Joanne Morris
Chair
6 May 2009

Appendix

The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1.  New Zealand Dietetics Association's formal complaint – 13 October 2008
2. TVWorks’ response to the complaint – 13 November 2008
3. NZDA’s referral to the Authority – 4 December 2008
4. TVWorks’ response to the Authority – 22 December 2008
5. Further comments from TVWorks and programme’s producer – 23 January 2009
6. Further comments from NZDA – 16 February 2009