The television ad for Benecol began with a voiceover saying: "Did you know two out of three adults have high cholesterol? Just like Linda here, until she discovered that ... certain foods lower cholesterol. Like Benecol, which is proven to lower cholesterol by up to 10% in just three weeks."
Two viewers complained that the claim "two out of three adults have high cholesterol" was misleading, and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) challenged whether the ad made unauthorised health claims.
Johnson & Johnson said total blood cholesterol levels of higher than 5 mmol/l were considered high or raised, and 2011 World Health Organisation statistics showed the prevalence of raised cholesterol to be 65.6% for males and 65.7% for females. The company added that many respected medical, health professional and leading commercial organisations in the UK were currently using the same or similar statements in their literature.
The ASA said there was no official consensus that total cholesterol levels of over 5 mmol/l always equated to high cholesterol for generally healthy adults.