Herbalife 101: Is this rapidly growing diet trend for you?

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Over recent years, Herbalife has become a popular brand of meal replacement products and protein supplements. Herbalife nutrition products are sold through distributors who develop a relationship with customers and earn an income based on sales. Many consumers who buy Herbalife products are trying to lose weight or improve health.

We dove deep into the ingredients, side effects, MLM opportunities and clinical research to find out what the hype was all about. We also chose to read through hundreds of dieter experiences. After gathering all that information, we condensed it to give you the bottom line.

Here’s everything you need to know before you give-in to the Herbalife trend.

What is Herbalife?

First off, Herbalife is an MLM weight management company who offers a range of supplements. Some Herbalife products include the following items:

  • Multivitamins
  • Nutritional shakes
  • Weight-loss supplements
  • Protein shakes
  • Dietary supplements
  • Energy drinks

Herbalife protein and nutrition products are supposed to promote a healthy lifestyle, but are their products really good for you? Will they create a sustainable foundation for your diet and exercise routines? The only success we’e seen thus far is from those who are already following a restricted calorie diet – so we’ll need to dig deeper…


Common Herbalife Ingredients

Herbalife presents itself as a marketer of health products, so they should use healthy ingredients, right? Here are five common ingredients found in their products:

  • Soy protein isolate
  • Soy lecithin
  • Hydrogenated oils
  • Casein
  • Biotin

There isn’t much information on the website and we couldn’t find anything on the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of the products. This only adds to our frustration.

So are they beneficial or not? We’re still not sure.

Herbalife Awards and Recognition

Herbalife USA has received several awards, including the 2013 and 2015 Healthy Nutrition Awards and the 2014 Product of the Year Award. International awards include the 2013 SNQ National Quality Certification. These awards were given based on four of their products: Formula 1 Healthy Meal Nutritional Shake Mix, Triple Berry Complex, Tang Kuei Plus and Niteworks Powder Mix.

Five Possible Herbalife Benefits

Unfortunately, we had difficulty finding research showing benefits of Herbalife diet items. Many recent clinical trials have actually linked Herbalife with adverse effects. But, here are some possible benefits, as stated on their website, associated with the four Herbalife diet products that have received awards:

  • High protein aids in weight loss and weight management
  • High levels of amino acids help support the heart
  • Protein shakes form a complete, nutritious meal with 21 vitamins and minerals
  • High fiber aids in digestion and weight loss
  • Products contain zero cholesterol and zero trans fats

Customers might experience success with long-term compliance to a low-calorie diet, but right now, these products aren’t exactly giving us much hope…

Does Herbalife Work?

Since there is not a lot of peer-reviewed research on the benefits of Herbalife nutrition or the full weight loss program, it is difficult to say. Many of its products have not been tested and approved by the FDA and many of them also contain questionable ingredients.

There is, however, some research regarding the types of products they market. Regarding the Herbalife plan, there is some research to show that a high-protein diet is more effective in aiding weight-loss than a conventional diet.

Also, its Niteworks powders, which contain the amino acid L-arginine along with some antioxidants, have shown small improvements in anaerobic threshold in active elderly men.

With such a limited number of clinical studies, it is difficult to determine whether Herbalife nutrition products actually work.

We figure that customers might see success, but only if they are adhering to a calorie-restricted diet – if that’s the case, it doesn’t say much about the efficacy of of the products or the Herbalife weight loss plan.

How About Herbalife Side Effects?

We’ve read some talk from customers who said that Herbalife products are highly processed and contain undesirable ingredients, so we felt we had to dig into the potential side effects. Some of them include:

  • Hepatotoxicity (liver injury)
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Allergic reactions
  • High blood pressure
  • Hypertension
  • Herbalife and Liver Injury

The consensus among nutrition professionals have been that some Herbalife merchandise can actually cause liver damage in some people. If you have an allergy or medical condition, you should definitely be careful about taking Herbalife supplements on a regular basis, as it could lead to nutritional deficiency and liver injury.

We noticed a lot of talk about allergies and intolerance to the soy and dairy in many of the products. This could be an issue for customers, especially when they are relying on a “distributor” for information about the product.

To be fair, more recent studies have gone back and determined that the causal relationship between Herbalife and hepatotoxicity is actually pretty low.

Are Reports of an Herbalife Scam For Real?

There is some controversy as to how Herbalife operates its business model. Some theorize that Herbalife is built on a pyramid scheme, which is based on manufacturing overpriced, difficult-to-sell products that Herbalife distributors will buy. The Herbalife distributors, instead of making money, will lose money because they can’t sell them to consumers at a fair price.

In 2008, the Fraud Discovery Institute of California accused Herbalife of fraudulent activity, but retracted its claims after determining that “Herbalife employs systematic internal controls, including the use of outside, independent laboratory testing, which ensures their products are manufactured safely and in compliance with California law.”

And like we mentioned earlier, in 2016, Herbalife had to pay out $200 million in a settlement to distributors who had lost money and was forced to restructure their business model.

So, if the Herbalife scam was real, hopefully it is behind us/them.

What Do Products from Herbalife Cost?

Since the company does not sell its products directly to consumers, but through distributors, Herbalife prices may vary. We couldn’t find anything listed on their official website, but here are some price examples of some products so you can determine what an Herbalife weight loss package would cost you.

  • Herbalife Formula 1 Healthy Meal Nutritional Shake: $39.90
  • Herbalife Formula 2 Multivitamin Complex: $24.35
  • Herbalife Tea Concentrate: $44.70
  • Herbalife Protein Bar Deluxe: $25.50
  • Herbalife Aloe Hand and Body Wash: $9.90

Herbalife product prices can change, depending on where you live and who the distributor is. Some customers pay up to $145 per month for just the protein supplement and two shakes. This leads us to believe that taking advantage of the full weight loss program could really get up there in price.

Herbalife and MLM

Mark Hughes founded Herbalife in 1980 with the hopes of changing how the world views nutrition and weight loss. The company began by specializing in protein shakes but now has expanded to offer a wide array of products, such as meal-replacement shakes, supplements for heart, skin and digestive health, teas, and personal care products, including shampoo, conditioner, and lotions.

According the company’s site, Herbalife revolutionized the multi-level marketing business model and is available in 95 countries through independent distributors. Herbalife’s business model allows independent distributors to make a profit on specific items sold or to be compensated through the company’s network marketing structure.

What is MLM (multi-level marketing) and How Does it Work?

A MLM marketing structure uses direct non-salaried distributors or sellers who earn through the company’s compensation plan. In a standard MLM, direct sellers can make money through selling products or building their team of distributors. MLMs succeed by building personal relationships with their customer base, which attribute to word of mouth marketing.

The Bottom Line on Herbalife

We’re going to be honest… Herbalife comes with pros and cons, so is it the best choice when it comes to weight loss and meal replacement? Here’s what we think.

  • Works well for those who don’t have time to plan for meal prep
  • Measures up to just about any other calorie restricting diet
  • Herbalife ingredients are not the best, but aren’t unhealthy either.
  • There aren’t a lot of clinical studies backing up the Herbalife diet plan.
  • There’s a huge of transparency on the website.

Long story short: If you’re sick and tired of your weight, hiring a nutritionist and monitoring your own food intake will do just as good as paying top dollar for Herbal life’s plan — unless you just want to (or like shakes).