There seems to be constant debate surrounding Herbalife. Some people are incredibly passionate about the company and all its products. This is particularly true if you find a local Herbalife nutrition club.
Other people are much more jaded, perhaps claiming that Herbalife is a scam or that the products will make you sick. There are plenty of opinions in the middle too, like the idea that Herbalife products are low quality or overpriced.
What about it, then? Is Herbalife good for you? While the company’s products are all quite different from one another, there are some general patterns that we can focus on – ones that tell us plenty about whether Herbalife is worth trying or not.
Remember too that Herbalife products aren’t incredibly unique. The company does have its own formulations, but plenty of other brands offer energy powders, supplements, protein powders, and the like as well.
Is Herbalife Good For Your Health?
- Selected Herbalife Products
- Benefits Of Herbalife
- How Herbalife Could Be Harmful
- The Controversy Surrounding Herbalife
- Are The Risks Overblown?
- Final Thoughts
Selected Herbalife Products
Herbalife has a large product range that changes regularly. We’re not going to talk about all the products here. That would take all day.
Instead, we’re going to touch on some of the most well-known ones and give you a sense of what to expect.
Nutritional Shake Mix (Formula 1)
When prepared with milk, this shake mix is designed to act as a meal replacement. It uses soy as the source of protein and provides plenty of nutrients.
Interestingly, though, you only get 9 grams of protein per serving of the powder. That same serving contains 9 grams of sugar too. Plenty of other companies do much better with the protein to sugar balance.
For that matter, 9 grams of protein isn’t enough for a meal. Herbalife seems to think this doesn’t matter, as you get extra protein from milk or soy milk. However, other companies offer 20 grams or 30 grams of protein in their meal replacement powders, which is a much more realistic amount.
This is an energy supplement in the form of a powder. It contains B vitamins, caffeine (75 mg), guarana extract, ginseng, l-taurine, and a few other ingredients. It’s sugar free and avoids sugar alcohol too, using stevia as the main source of sweetness.
Formula 3 Cell Activator
This is one of the many supplements that Herbalife offers. It’s meant to improve the performance of your mitochondria and promote nutrient absorption.
To do so, includes alpha lipoic acid, aloe vera concentrate, shiitake mushroom, pomegranate rind extract, rhodiola root extract, pine bark extract, and resveratrol.
It’s anyone’s guess whether the supplements actually help your mitochondria or not. Herbalife doesn’t provide much evidence and any benefits are likely to be subtle.
Herbal Aloe Concentrate
Aloe vera features in many Herbalife products. This one is largely just water, purified aloe vera and a handful of other ingredients. Because it’s a concentrate, the aloe needs to be further diluted with water before it is used.
The marketing suggests that the aloe should help with your digestion and nutrient absorption. Plus, it’s low in calories can be a healthier alternative to soda.
Benefits Of Herbalife
The Products Provide Some Healthy Compounds
The various Herbalife products do have potential. For example, aloe vera juice is rich in antioxidants, may decrease inflammation, can help with dental health, and improve digestion.
The various vitamins and minerals in their products would promote health as well. This is particularly important if your nutrient intake is somewhat limited.
Even the supplements may be helpful in the right situation, providing you with nutrients or other important compounds that you would be missing otherwise.
Might Help With Weight Loss
Herbalife has various weight loss products, including protein shakes and weight loss enhancers. There’s even a Herbalife diet, where you are using both the shakes and the supplements regularly.
Some people have seen success with the products. However, it’s important to be cautious and make sure you eat plenty of healthy foods as well. This way you get the most benefits and fewest risks.
Some Products Provide Energy
Herbalife offers some energy-focused products. These can give you an energetic boost, making it much easier to keep going when you need to.
These products often function a little like energy drinks, especially as some of them contain caffeine and guarana. Many also contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which could help your body to produce energy more effectively.
Could Help You Avoid Deficiencies
Herbalife products often contain vitamins and minerals. You need plenty of these for your body to function normally.
Despite how common nutrients are, it’s surprisingly easy to be deficient in one or more key vitamins or minerals. Nutrient rich products, like those from Herbalife, could help you to avoid deficiencies and stay healthy.
How Herbalife Could Be Harmful
The Products Are Highly Processed
Herbalife relies heavily on processing – to the extent that most of their products don’t even resemble the ingredients they’re based on.
This level of processing is always concerning. Each step of processing risks stripping some healthy compounds away from the ingredients. Processing can also add in contaminants and leads to a reliance on additives.
To stay healthy, it’s best to only use heavily processed foods and supplements occasionally. Herbalife doesn’t help here, as most of their products are designed to be consumed regularly. You might even be using multiple products every day.
All The Extra Ingredients
Herbalife products include many natural ingredients that are meant to improve your health. Some of these are common, while others are pretty uncommon.
Each one of these ingredients could be helpful. They could promote your health in a variety of ways, like by decreasing inflammation and oxidative stress.
There’s a problem though – they’re all fairly unknown.
Sure, each of the ingredients will have been studied for safety and potential benefits. But, those studies were mostly small in scale. They could have easily missed problems, especially those that only affect a small number of people.
Plus, most studies will have looked at a single ingredient at a time, like ginseng or aloe vera, while Herbalife’s products contain a variety of herbal ingredients.
It’s easy to think this doesn’t matter. They’re natural ingredients, so they should be safe, right? Unfortunately, there are no guarantees of that. Natural products can still cause issues, like how St. John’s Wort has side effects like headaches, insomnia, and inflammation, while grapefruit interacts with a variety of medications.
Indeed, there are even concerns that some Herbalife products cause liver damage. While the liver damage effect hasn’t been proven, it’s one more reason to be cautious.
There’s The Risk Of Contamination
Supplements can easily be contaminated with heavy metals or other concerning chemicals. There’s only minimal oversight in the industry, so it’s easy for contaminated products to slip by undetected.
Herbalife is a large company in the health industry, so you might expect them to carefully test their products and protect consumers. While this is a nice ideal, it isn’t guaranteed at all.
In fact, large companies are often bad at avoiding contamination, as much of their supply chain is outsourced. They often have many different groups in their supply chain and it’s difficult to make sure that everyone does as they are meant to. So, even if Herbalife itself doesn’t cut corners on quality, some of their suppliers could.
You May Experience Side Effects
While Herbalife products are often well-received, there are always some people who get side effects instead. There’s a whole gambit of possible side effects, including stomach cramps, nausea, fatigue, increased anxiety, and loss of appetite.
There are legitimate reasons for such side effects. They may sometimes occur because the user is sensitive to a particular ingredient or because they have an underlying health condition.
Side effects might also happen because the product is low quality or contaminated.
Because of this risk, it’s important to start slowly with any Herbalife products. This will give you the chance to identify any side effects without putting yourself at risk.
The Focus On Using Many Products
The individual products from Herbalife aren’t ideal, but most are unlikely to cause serious harm on their own. However, there’s often strong pressure for Herbalife customers to use a variety of the products at once, including supplements, protein shakes, energy formulas, and more.
This is where things get even trickier. The more products you’re using, the easier it is to overdo it on particular vitamins, minerals, or herbal ingredients, without even realizing it.
Remember that every single one of these products could potentially be contaminated. There’s also the chance for interactions between the different products.
Things get even more complicated if you’re also using non-Herbalife supplements, if you are taking medication, or if you have a chronic health condition.
Most Benefits Aren’t Proven
Herbalife offers very little evidence for the effectiveness of their products.
Some of the individual ingredients, like aloe vera, have been researched independently, but the evidence isn’t always strong. There’s even less evidence for the formulations that Herbalife uses.
For example, Herbalife’s Cell Activator is meant to boost cellular energy production and help with aging, but there’s no way to know whether it does or not. Most products even contain the phrase “these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration”. That further underscores the lack of proof.
The Products Are Expensive
Herbalife’s products are also expensive, much more than similar products from non-MLM companies. For example, you may pay $74 for a pack of 30 Herbalife24 Liftoff pouches, $224.15 for 100 Liftoff tablets, or $46.25 for a 26.4 oz canister of meal replacement shakes.
The only justification for those prices is the idea that high quality products tend to cost more. Honestly though, there are plenty of equal or better quality products on the market that are much less expensive.
The price is relevant to health too. If you’re paying a lot of money for supplements that don’t do much, then you have less money to spend on things that actually do help you.
The Controversy Surrounding Herbalife
We also need to go beyond the benefits and risks of the products to talk about Herbalife itself. Doing so is critical, because reliable companies that focus on quality tend to produce much healthier products than those that don’t.
Herbalife has been highly controversial in this area.
Herbalife As A MLM
Part of the problem is the business model. Herbalife follows a pattern known as MLM (multilevel marketing), where people join the company as part of a downline, then work to sell the products.
While some MLM members do earn money, the system design is problematic. It creates a situation where the people mentoring and helping new members also earn money from that new member’s success, creating an inherent bias.
MLMs tend to create this strong atmosphere of pressure, where the products are often heavily hyped and people are encouraged to buy as much as possible. Such an atmosphere makes it difficult to find the truth about the products.
Some distributors even develop a cult-like mentality, where they refuse to consider anything negative about the company or the products. Others have lost large sums of money trying to earn through Herbalife, sometimes even to the point of bankruptcy.
Herbalife Nutrition Clubs
There are also Herbalife Nutrition Clubs. These are physical stores throughout the United States that give you the chance to try Herbalife products, to get motivated, to connect with other people, and to learn about the Herbalife business opportunity.
Many of these clubs also sell loaded tea, which is a sugar free tea that relies on Herbalife’s herbal tea concentrate.
While these clubs can be appealing, they’re something to be cautious with as well, because there can be a focus on hyping up Herbalife and trying to recruit new distributors.
Another issue is the marketing itself. Herbalife often uses health claims in their marketing, sometimes suggesting that their products are much more powerful than they are.
They’ve had to tone some of these claims down over the years, but some remain. Plus, all the hype in Herbalife mean that many distributors make bold health claims about the products. These might be presented as personal stories, but there’s the implication that Herbalife products are amazing and can change your health overnight.
Herbalife Lawsuits And Recovery
Many lawsuits have targeted Herbalife as well. Some focus on the nutritional claims, others on the MLM model, and still others on issues like bribery.
It seems like every time Herbalife gets over one set of controversies, another one quickly emerges. This is deeply concerning. After all, if the company can’t follow the rules with their business practices, can we really expect their products to be healthy?
Now, Herbalife has been attempting to do better. Following court cases, the company agreed to restructure the business, moving away from some of the extreme MLM features and playing down the pressure on distributors. Herbalife has even been continuing to do well financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Are The Risks Overblown?
Some Herbalife advocates say that the risks of the products are exaggerated. That even if the products do sometimes cause side effects or liver damage, the effects are rare and are much lower than medication.
That claim misses one crucial point – supplements aren’t medication. Comparing the two doesn’t even make sense.
And yes, serious harm from Herbalife does appear to be rare. It is most likely among people with underlying medical conditions and those who are using far too many products at once.
Still, there are more reliable products out there, ones that are also more reasonably priced. You don’t need Herbalife products anyway. You’re likely to see more benefits by focusing on whole foods and preparing your own meals than by relying on supplements.
Herbalife products do have some benefits. They often contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are all relevant for your health.
Many of them also contain uncommon plant-based ingredients, like aloe, schizandra, shiitake mushrooms, and pine bark extract. Each of these ingredients could potentially offer health benefits.
Even so, there are plenty of concerning features.
Herbalife itself is highly controversial, plus there’s the sheer number of ingredients in their products. It’s almost impossible to know exactly what you’re consuming and whether the ingredients are all safe. That issue gets worse if you’re using multiple Herbalife supplements each day.
Honestly, the potential benefits of Herbalife aren’t enough to outweigh all of the risks. There are plenty of more reliable nutritional products on the market, ones that tend to be less expensive as well.
If you do plan to try Herbalife anyway, the safest approach is to start slowly. Try using just one of their products for at least a month and see whether you experience any issues. After this, you might add another one, then wait a while, and so on.
Please don’t start using multiple products all that the same time. The potential for adverse outcomes is just too high. Also remember that most Herbalife distributors aren’t health professionals. They may make health claims based on their own experience or beliefs, but they can’t give you the same quality of advice as someone who is educated in the field.