Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Herbalife part 2

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HerbaLife_logo.svg

I received quite the response to my Herbalife post last week (thanks guys!). A number of comments on both the post and facebook made me think that I should do a brief follow-up. I got so caught-up in exploring the sketchy dynamic of the company itself that I spent very little time looking at the products they’re peddling.

Naturally, it’s always best to get your nutrition from whole foods. While many supplements and protein snacks are generally benign, there are some supplements that can actually cause considerable harm. We know that the supplement industry is not well regulated and there have been a number of exposes in the past few years of supplements containing ingredients other than those listed in the package. Well, it turns out that Herbalife supplements may also warrant closer scrutiny.

A reader was kind enough to send me the titles to some articles in the Journal of Hepatology to read. One of these, from 2007 was entitled: Slimming at all costs : Herbalife-induced liver injury. This article shares a number of cases in which severe liver injury was determined to have resulted from the use of Herbalife products. Unfortunately, because the users were taking anywhere from 3 to 17 different Herbalife products, investigators were unable to attribute the injury to a particular product. While a paper “revisiting” these claims against Herbalife was published in the World Journal of Hepatology in 2011, it’s hard not to be suspicious of their conclusion that the Herbalife products could not be linked to the cases of liver toxicity as the authors were all affiliated with Herbalife.

It’s difficult for me to properly assess the ingredients in Heralife products as their website lacks nutrition and ingredient information and I lack a lab to analyze the composition of the supplements (and the desire to use my money to purchase them). However, just looking at some of them from the website raises some questions. There’s a “herbal tea concentrate” listed under weight management. Yet, the description states “A delicious tea blend of green tea and orange pekoe…”. Green tea and orange pekoe tea are not herbal teas. Green tea supplements have also been linked to liver failure so I find this product concerning. There’s also a mysterious product called “Total Control”, “Liftoff” which is essentially Redbull in effervescent tablet form, “Herbalife24” which supposedly restores through antioxidants (which research is showing may cause more harm than good in supplement form) and vitamin A (which can be toxic in high supplemental doses).

These are just a few Herbalife products. They may be perfectly harmless, although it’s extremely unlikely that they’re actually beneficial. However, without knowing what’s actually in them I would never take the risk of purchasing and ingesting them. Save your money and your health and don’t buy risky supplements.

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

5 thoughts on “Herbalife part 2

  1. I’ve actually bought their LiftOff thing when I was younger, uneducated and not entirely sane about my weight problem (oh my days).
    It’s marketed as a magical energetic that curbs hunger with a 100% efficiency. Tasted like hot orange juice. Naturally the result was placebo at best. Or just nonexistent from the second day on. It wasn’t even that much of energy drink, compared to coffee.
    And of course it’s massively overpriced.
    I didn’t notice any health-detrimental effects I could link to it, but I didn’t take for long enough.

    Beh, remembering this makes me cringe.

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    • By the way, yeah, it is totally a pyramid scheme. The site I bought it from had options to become a distributor and the 22 y/o delivery girl/marketing specialist was so enthusiastic telling me how awesome that thing is it made me skeptical even then.

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    • That’s good that you didn’t experience any ill effects, and that you’ve since educated yourself. I’m sure some of their products are perfectly harmless but I’m also sure that even if they’re harmless that doesn’t mean their helpful.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Andrew!

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  2. I’m glad you had an interesting read, Diana. Thank you for this second post :-)
    I’ve never heard of any tea concentrates. I wonder what the whole chemical process is like, if it exists.
    How do you define teas as opposed to the herbal infusions/teas? Would a herbal tea/infusion also be an infusion made of plant root, or would it just be an infusion made of herbaceous and flower parts of the plant?

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    • Thanks for the article suggestions :)

      Herbal teas don’t have caffeine, black and green teas do. By calling it an herbal tea they’re misleading people about the nature of the product. I assume that the tea concentrate would be produced in a similar way to matcha tea powder.

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