The company has been the source of a lot of controversy, especially concerning how the product is sold, through independent distributers who earn a commission of sold products.
We delve into the world of Herbalife, firstly taking a look at the products they have on offer.
Core Nutrition & Formula 1 is the name of Herbalife’s weight management shakes, which are available in a large range of flavours, including Tropical fruit, cookies and cream, and strawberry. These shakes replace breakfast and lunch, and then the dieter should eat a healthy and balanced meal for dinner, as well as healthy snacks such as fruit, vegetables and low fat protein throughout the day, so that they aim to eat every two and a half hours.
Each shake when made up with skimmed milk contains around 220 calories, making it a very low calorie option. This low calorie count is the reason dieters are encouraged to eat every 2-3 hours, so that they do not get energy slumps, lethargy, dizziness or feel faint.
In addition to the formula 1 meal replacement shakes, dieters using Herbalife are encouraged to also purchase and consume both the multivitamin tablets and the fibre and herb tablets, to boost weight loss further. The fibre and herb supplement is intended to help boost dietary fibre, which may be lacking due to use of the meal replacement shakes. The ingredients include oat fibre, as well as parsley, orange blossom, hibiscus flower and fennel seed powder.
The official website makes no claims about the benefits of parsley, orange blossom, hibiscus flower and fennel seed powder, but does infer that they are a beneficial part of the Herbalife diet. One bottle contains 180 capsules, which sounds like a lot, until it is taken into consideration that the recommended dose is two capsules, three times a day, meaning that one bottle only has enough for a month’s use.
The Formula 2 multivitamin complex is another supplement recommended as a part of the Herbalife weight loss plan. Again, this product has 90 capsules per bottle, but following the daily dosage would only provide a 30 day supply, which makes this an expensive multivitamin tablet, especially when compared to many complete multivitamin tablets that are available at supermarkets, health food shops and pharmacies. The formula 2 multivitamin complex contains Vitamin A, folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, zinc, Calcium and phosphorous, Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
The cost of Herbalife products is not revealed online. Their “prices” page explains that;
At Herbalife, we value the relationship our Independent Distributors build with their customers. That is why we always recommend customers take advantage of the knowledge, support and encouragement of their personal Distributor. This relationship is the reason we do not publish a price list online. Your Distributor will work with you to competitively price your product choices.
As each distributer will help to develop a “bespoke plan” to suit individual needs, prices and the products used will vary between dieters.
However, some reviews and consumer comments online state that the Herbalife range is expensive, with quotes of around £90-130 for a month’s supply of meal replacement shakes and additional supplements. Considering that the user also needs to purchase food for evening meals as well as snacks, this diet plan works out as amongst the more expensive on the market at the moment. This cost makes the diet plan less viable as a long term weight loss solution.
The product is also only available through independent distributers, and cannot be purchased directly from the official website. The website can help to locate a distributer in your local area, using a search by postcode.
Flechtner-Mors et al. studied the differences in weight loss between a high protein diet featuring Herbalife meal replacement shakes, protein powder and protein bars, and a conventional diet plan of a similar amount of calories.
The study found that those on the high protein Herbalife diet lost around 5.63lbs more than those on the conventional diet, but that the drop-out rate for those on the Herbalife diet was twice as high as the conventional diet. This suggests that Herbalife and other high protein meal replacement based diets can offer a significant amount of weight loss, but only for those willing to stick to the diet. This may be more difficult because of the taste of the shakes, as well as the large difference between Herbalife and normal eating patterns.
Herbalife has attracted a lot of controversy and criticism since it was established in 1980. The layout of the company has been compared extensively to pyramid schemes (see our pyramid diet pill marketing article), as distributers are encouraged to sign up more distributers that they will gain commission from, as well as commission from their own sales.
It is frequently claimed that Herbalife distributers can earn thousands from sales, easily gaining them a luxury lifestyle. Distributers are also encouraged to reach targets, potentially buying more stock than they can feasibly sell.
Customer reviews vary greatly about the quality and weight loss success that can be gained from using Herbalife weight loss products. Some users experience headaches, lethargy and dizziness whilst using the products, and the low amount of calories that are consumed per day mean that many people struggle to exercise without feeling exhausted. The product is not suitable for use by nursing mothers or pregnant women, but some users report being told otherwise by independent distributers. As the daily calorific and nutritional needs of nursing mothers and pregnant women are different from other dieters, this is definitely not recommended.
Some users also report great success with weight loss, but that the weight is quickly regained after stopping use of the products. Unlike many other weight loss programs, the use of meal replacement shakes does not help to educate dieter’s about their body’s food requirements or how to maintain their weight loss post-diet.
Many users also dislike the product’s taste, making it difficult for them to follow the weight loss program. Some users have had little or no weight loss whilst using the products, while some have even gained weight (see Amazon feedback).
Overall, it seems that Herbalife can help dieters to lose significant amounts of weight quickly, but the chances that the weight will be regained is possibly higher than with other diets or lifestyle changes.
The diet plan is expensive, and needs to be bought locally from independent distributers who are not qualified to give dietary advice, but do so anyway. The need for fibre and multivitamin supplements raises concerns about the nutritional value of the Herbalife diet, and leads to the suspicion that this diet is not a long term viable weight loss solution.
Disclaimer: Our reviews and investigations are based on extensive research from the information publicly available to us and consumers at the time of first publishing the post. Information is based on our personal opinion and whilst we endeavour to ensure information is up-to-date, manufacturers do from time to time change their products and future research may disagree with our findings. If you feel any of the information is inaccurate, please contact us and we will review the information provided.