BBB National Programs Archive

ERSP Finds Kowa Health Care America, Inc. Can Support Performance Claims for ‘Okinawa Life,’ Recommends Marketer Modify Certain Claims

New York, NY – Oct. 16, 2013 – The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) has determined that Kowa Health Care America, Inc. can support general performance claims for Okinawa Life, a dietary supplement marketed as providing a variety of health benefits. However, ERSP recommended that Kowa discontinue certain claims.

ERSP is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The marketer’s advertising came to the attention of ERSP pursuant to its ongoing monitoring program.

ERSP reviewed broadcast and online advertising for Okinawa Life and identified several claims for review, including:

  • “…Made exclusively in Japan, Okinawa Life is a dietary supplement created to give your body many of the healthy nutrients and benefits you would get from eating traditional Okinawan food.”
  • “Like healthy aging supplements, Okinawa Life™ delivers nutrients associated with vitality, longevity and immunity.” and “Promotes & supports: Vitality, Longevity, Immune Health”
  • “Our study showed that the key food ingredients of the traditional Okinawan diet, are an integral aspect of the secret to their longevity and good health. These ingredients are also found in Okinawa Life.”
  • “After a 25 year study, an international team of researchers determined that the long life of Okinawans is due to their lifestyle and diet of fish and vegetables.”
  • “Ingredients include:
    • Isoflavone found in high quantities of traditional tofu of Okinawa promotes an antioxidant effect that fights free radical damage at the cellular level on the human body.
    • Zedoary – an herb similar to turmeric that helps to aid digestion.
    • Goya – a bitter melon gourd, the nutritional king of the Okinawa diet.”

Kowa explained to ERSP that the Okinawa Life formula consists of several ingredients (i.e., isoflavones, zedoary, and goya) derived from foods typically associated with the Okinawan diet. ERSP agreed that the impact of the Okinawan diet on the longevity of native Okinawans has been well documented in a number of articles. ERSP determined that it is not inappropriate for the marketer to communicate that Okinawa Life was formulated to include many of the same ingredients found in the Okinawan diet.

However, while Kowa provided support for claims regarding the nutritional benefits of soy isoflavones, ERSP determined that claims related to zedoary and goya were not adequately supported. As a result, ERSP recommended Kowa modify its advertising to discontinue references to goya and zedoary in a context that implies to consumers that the dosages of these ingredients in Okinawa Life are nutritionally beneficial.

ERSP also determined that claims regarding the 25-year study were truthful and accurate as communicated in the advertising.

The company, in its marketer’s statement, said “Kowa Health Care America, Inc. appreciates the opportunity to participate in the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program’s self-regulatory process, and we welcome ERSP’s decision regarding advertising for the Okinawa Life™ dietary supplement. We are pleased ERSP determined that scientific evidence demonstrates that the soy isoflavones in Okinawa Life support lower cholesterol levels, improved endothelial function, and cardiovascular health. We will modify advertising for Okinawa Life in accordance with ERSP’s recommendations.”