Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Why you shouldn’t invite an RD to an Arbonne party

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Bat illustration by Ali Haines on flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence 

I recently attended an Arbonne party. In my defence, I was lured by the rare opportunity to socialize in this small city. I also had managed to confuse Arbonne with Avon. Expecting an evening of apps, chats, and maybe buying a token lipstick or something, I showed up with a batch of choco coco clusters and blissful ignorance of what was to come. I was greeted with an offer of wine (so far so good) and then we were “treated” to protein shake samples. I’m not a fan of protein shakes; the flavour and texture completely turn me off. The only way I’ve ever managed to find protein powder palatable is if it’s hidden in a smoothie. Fortunately, the samples were small but I got my first red flag when the seller (or whatever they’re called) told us that their protein powder formulation is ideal for women because we don’t absorb protein as well as men. Funny, I never learned that in my 4 year nutrition degree. Even more interesting is that their protein powder is a blend of pea protein, brown rice protein, and cranberry (??) protein, providing a modest 10 grams of protein per serving (compare that to the standard 20+ grams of protein for most whey (and even other commercially available vegan) protein powders. (Note: an Arbonne rep brought it to my attention that this product is actually their “protein boost” not protein powder which does contain 20 grams of protein per serving. My apologies for this error. That extra protein also comes with a cost; $85 for a bag containing 30 servings.)

We followed up our protein shots with a salt scrub on our hands which I really have no issue with.

Following this we sat around a table and were given a spiel about a number of the products available for purchase through Arbonne. Because I didn’t want to create an incredibly uncomfortable situation I (hope) I managed to plaster a neutral expression on my face while screaming “THIS IS BULLSHIT” inside my head. Oh man. There was a big deal made about how only a few (nine I think it was) substances are banned from cosmetics in North America while there’s a huge list in Europe and that’s the list that Arbonne uses. In case you were wondering, there are a lot more ingredients banned from use in Canadian cosmetics than nine. I can’t be bothered to count them all (that’s how many) but you can see them for yourself if you doubt me or are so inclined as to count them. I try to be conscientious about buying products without ingredients that are potential carcinogens and hormone disrupters, better safe than sorry. As such, I know that it’s possible to find affordable opens at many grocery stores. You do not have to spend $67 for lotion just to avoid parabens and pthalates and whatever. We were told that vaseline is bad but she couldn’t tell us why, instead we were told to “google it, educate yourself”. Well, I googled it and it seems to me that the consensus is that vaseline (aka petroleum jelly) is safe for use. The real debate is whether it does much more than to protect your skin by creating a barrier between it and the elements. She really got me when she told us that all the other mascaras contain bat poop. Yep, bat poop, in a product that you put right by your eye. I googled that one too because I was curious where that idea would come from considering that bat guano can cause illness. Apparently the myth came from the similarity between “guano” and “guanine”. Guanine is actually derived from fish scales (which may or may not be of comfort to you but seems much preferable to me). It kind of blew my mind that we would be told such blatant and easily disprovable facts. Does Arbonne feed their sellers these lies in the hopes that gullible shoppers buy into the fear? I also found it a little odd that for a company that prides itself on “clean” ingredients none of the skincare products seemed to have the ingredients on the containers.

Okay, next up the supplements. For a company that prides itself on “clean” ingredients I was pretty shocked by the crap they were selling us. An omega3 supplement that was derived from flax so was actually very low in omega3 but was presented as being equivalent to fish oil derived omega3 supplements. There were these energizing powders (to be used like Crystal Light) which were apparently much better than coffee. The first two ingredients were green coffee bean extract and green tea extract and then a bunch of other junk. You’d be better off sticking to coffee; cheaper, safer, and (probably) tastier. There was a detox supplement that contained a variety of laxatives and diuretics. Unnecessary and potentially harmful.

I couldn’t even bring myself to buy a product to be polite after hearing all the nonsense about what they were selling and seeing the obscene prices. As if all this isn’t enough reason to avoid Arbonne, they’re essentially a pyramid scheme.

If you believe in science and not wasting your money then I’d recommend learning from my experience and avoiding Arbonne “parties”.

 


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The science behind Herbalife

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A while ago I received a request to blog about supplements, in particular Herbalife. I’ve procrastinated on it for a little while because I figure you’ve read about one weight loss supplement scam, you’ve read about them all. Plus, I wasn’t all that familiar with Herbalife and the products they sell and I knew it would take me a little time to look at all of them.

The product lines include: core products, weight management, targeted nutrition, energy and fitness, and outer nutrition. They include everything from soy nuts to protein shakes to canola oil capsule. Yep, canola oil in a capsule. Why anyone would ever want to pay for capsules when you can buy a lovely jug of canola oil at the grocery store for what I’m sure is a much more reasonable price (prices aren’t listed on the Herbalife site) and can actually use to cook with is beyond me. It takes all kinds I suppose.

Herbalife even has a little tab at the top of their website entitled “science“. Which would be awesome if it actually linked to science to support the use of the products their selling. Sadly, no, this is what you get:

“Herbalife products are made from beneficial ingredients and developed using world-class scientific technology and research. Our protein shakes and snacks, vitamins and dietary supplements, energy and fitness drinks, and skin and hair care products, combined with healthy eating and exercise, can help you enjoy a lifetime of good health.”

They then provide a link to a PDF where you can “learn more”. This is a one pager, with plenty of images, that says:

“Herbalife products are formulated by our team of scientists and Ph.D.s for consumer benefits. They also ensure that the science behind our products is substantiated through scientific literature and clinical trials. We share knowledge and best practices through our key partnerships with the most advanced and established ingredient suppliers in the world.”

They name their chairman of the board, David Heber MD, PhD. Naturally, I looked him up. At first glance he appears quite reputable (aside from his willingness to peddle questionable nutritional supplements). He’s a professor at the UCLA school of medicine, an endocrinologist, nutrition specialist… But wait, if you just add “quack” after his name in google you get some much more interesting results; such as, this blog post about his authorship of several questionable diet books, his promotional video for pistachio nuts, and his research (funded by POM Wonderful) you guessed it, extolling the wonders of pomegranate juice. One blog not enough for you? How about a listing on Quack Watch linking to the article Herbalife Cozies Up With UCLA? Which outlines the financial benefits Heber receives from Herbalife in exchange for his promotion of their products? Or this post on Science-Based Medicine detailing the tangled web of Heber’s nutritional genomics research, funding, and chairmanship of the Herbalife board?

This is their credible scientist. A man who is receiving substantial profit from the sale of Herbalife supplements as well as funding for his research. No conflict of interest there. Nope.

Making Herbalife an even more questionable business is the fact that it appears to be a pyramid scheme. You can become an Herbalife distributor and make money selling Herbalife products to others. Despite this sales technique, a judge dismissed a case accusing Herbalife of being a pyramid scheme in July of this year.

The Herbalife website entices you to “get your Herbalife Coach today”. This coach will help you with your goals, product selection, and provide you with solutions and support during your journey to health. Who are these wellness coaches? People who sign-up to be Herbalife distributors through people who signed-up to be Herbalife distributors through people who signed-up to be Herbalife distributors. You get the idea. Apparently there’s some online training that you can take. I’m sure that’s pretty much like being a dietitian. I was hoping to find a disgruntled former Herbalife coach online who would reveal what the coach “training” entailed, but all I turned-up was this article about a woman who lost a large sum of money as a Herbalife distributor. And this blog post by a woman who was angered by her experience with an Herbalife Health and Wellness Coach. Essentially, as a Herbalife coach you’re a glorified sales person.

So, to sum it all up: Herbalife is a company with a dubious sales model, selling questionable products (I’m being generous here) that’s run by a doctor with a clear lack of integrity. If you want soy nuts, go to the Bulk Barn. Don’t waste your money supporting a despicable company like Herbalife.