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I see a bunch of people going crazy over Herbalife. What's up with it?

July 30, 2012
Herbalife, like so many other supplement manufacturers out there, is a company that relies on nutritional claims, testimonials, and embellished science lingo in order to sell their product. Sometimes these products can be beneficial for you, but sometimes not. In the case of Herbalife, their main set of products [the Core Products] is their 1-2-3 system. This system is basically three steps:

1: a vitamin packed protein shake

2: a multivitamin

3: a pill that claims to allow more nutrients into the cells

So lets break this down piece by piece. A protein shake is typically also packed with carbohydrates; together these are filling as protein helps delay the quick absorption of carbohydrates (which is why a protein rich nighttime snack is helpful for diabetics). Is this “weight management”? Sure. Because you are only supposed to eat the shake as a meal. They even say in their YouTube video that you can have a shake for more than one meal, justifying it as “healthy” because of the vitamins packed inside the shake. Essentially, this is an expensive protein shake with a multivitamin. Moving on.

The second portion really is just a multivitamin. They can spin this in any direction to make it seem different than your local store's brand of Complete Multivitamin, but that is their job to make you buy their product.

The third is a pill that contains aloe, which Herbalife claims may help support cell absorption of nutrients. Then, by using words like “micronutrients” and “antioxidants” along with “botanicals,” make it seem like it could really do something beneficial for you. However, these key words are all fancy euphemisms for vitamins and minerals found in a multivitamin. The real marketing push for this product is that it contains ALA, which is a form of DHA (Omega 3) pre-conversion. So, ALA needs to go through several processes to become DHA in the body so it can be used. Flax is a great example of this. As it is not DHA, but another pre-converted form of it, it will also need to take some time to be converted for use.

So, what you have is a protein shake with a multivitamin, a multivitamin, and another multivitamin with a form of omega 3 in it. A healthy diet and routine exercise will promote a healthy body; in a state such as this, your cells will absorb only what they need. The rest will come out either in your feces or urine. Also, “botanicals” is a broad term for a list of ingredients potentially harmful for you if you take any other medications. There are a lot of medications that interact negatively with St. John's Wart, for instance. These products just contain a lot of vitamins and overall more than the amount you need in a day. One could argue this compensates for the parts of the vitamin that gets digested out (for instance, though you may need 100% of Vitamin C, taking 150% may compensate for your body only absorbing 75% of what you intake); however, with three products supposedly made to work together, this is really just a lot. As for ALA, eat flax or fish regularly (or take an omega 3 supplement) and you are all set for your Omega 3 intake.

There really seems to be no need for all the hype with these 3 “Core Products” - now, Herbalife sells a plethora of OTHER products which I did not go into, but looking at any supplemental product from an educated skeptic point of view will help flush out the quackery and allow you to see these products for what they really are. And as cheesy as this sounds [and this is quackery-free], the best way to get your body in tip-top shape and avoid negative consequences from free radicals caused by stress and your environment is a healthy and balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in addition to regular and routine exercise.

Hope this helps. Happy eating!

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