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Societal changes have resulted in a HUGE reduction in the amount of physical activity we undertake day to day.
Subsequently, this has led to significant increases in both weight gain, and the number of overweight and obese individuals within the population.
With this increase in obesity has come a massive jump in spending within the health and fitness industry, with the main driver for this increase in spending coming from an increased sale of dietary supplements.
Today we are going to be taking an in depth look at one of the latter. A company known as Herbalife.
While this sounds all well and good, upon closer inspection Herbalife is ultimately a supplement company.
Herbalife produce and distribute their own line of protein shakes, snack bars, vitamin formulas, among a number of other sports and energy products. While they are advertised as health products, they appear to be very similar to number of other ‘weight management’ products on the market.
And while Herbalife does suggest that these products can be used as a means to promote weight loss and improve various markers of general health, it may require a more in depth look at their products to establish whether this is in fact the case.
As mentioned previously, Herbalife does deal with a number of different products.
Despite this, the vast majority of Herbalife products are both meal replacement shakes and various forms of protein supplementation.
While these Herbalife products can be bought and used individually, they are advertised in way that suggests they are needed to be used collectively.
This is built around the recommendation that each individual product plays an important and synergistic role with the next. Where one supplement will improve the following supplements ability to improve health and promote weight loss to a much greater degree than that one individual supplement alone.
These supplement regimes are marketed programmes, and are advertised as the optimal way to improve health and increase weight loss through Herbalife supplementation.
Of all the Herbalife products available on the market today, their biggest seller by far is the meal replacement shake known as Formula 1.
Formula 1 commonly appears in almost all of the Herbalife programs, and is said to be their most effective weight loss supplement.
Formula 1 is advertised to act as a delicious and healthy meal on it own, providing an excellent balance of essential proteins and nutrients, with additional botanicals and herbs, which collectively promote health, longevity, and weight loss.
It is this product that we are going to be taking an in depth look at today to establish whether these Herbalife products do meet the lofty standards they advertise.
If you want to take a bit of a look at the ingredients yourself, they can be found in depth in on the Herbalife website (check the references at the bottom of the page) .
But the thing that stands out immediately to me is the large amount of fillers that are in the supplement. Typically a high quality supplement will have very few ingredients due to its high purity.
Formula 1 has a massive ingredients list suggesting it is full of fillers and substances that have minimal effect on the body, used to bring the cost of producing the supplement down.
Secondly, despite the product claiming to have an excellent balance of high quality protein from milk and soy, this isn’t actually the case.
The protein content of the Formula 1 is actually quite low, containing a mere 9 grams of protein per serve. To put that into a little bit of perspective, a normal sized egg will contain 7 grams of protein.
Furthermore, the supplement is suggested to have both high quality protein from milk and soy sources. But after taking a closer look at the ingredients, soy protein isolate is the only source of protein listed.
This has two negative effects. Firstly soy protein is the most genetically modified source of protein, and secondly, soy protein is actually absorbed quite poorly when compared to other protein sources such as casein and whey.
So it isn’t necessarily what we would normally describe as high quality .
Another attribute of the shake that is not ideal is its high carbohydrate content.
The supplement contains 13 grams of carbohydrates, but of this, 9 grams is pure sugar, and 3 grams coming from fibre. For a meal replacement shake, that is quite high amount of sugar.
This is not great as we know that high sugar intakes have been linked to number of different cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
Additionally, if we take a more in depth look at the ingredient list, we can also see that majority of this carbohydrate content comes from fructose, a highly processed form of carbohydrate. 
Another ingredient that is a bit of a head scratcher is canola oil.
While some sort of fat is often used as an emulsifier in these types of supplements, the use of canola oil is not as common.
Canola oil is a highly processed form of oil that has been linked to a number of different diseases and illnesses, and as such, its inclusion within this supplement doesn’t scream health .
A key positive that is associated with Formula 1 is that it does contain a large number of essential vitamins and minerals.
These vitamins and minerals do promote the healthy function of the human body at a cellular level, which can further influence cardiovascular and immune system health.
Furthermore, when trying to lose weight through an energy deficit (as those seen when using meal replacement shakes…) we can often reduce our dietary ingestion of these essential nutrients.
This can have a number of different negative health implications.
As such, by including these within the supplement, Herbalife does ensure we can maintain healthy bodily function at a cellular level.
Despite the questionable ingredients within Formula 1, using it as a meal replacement shake may actually lead to weight loss.
This is for one main reason
Formula 1 has a very low energy content.
In fact, one serve of Formula 1 contains a mere 90 calories! Further considering that Herbalife recommend you replace 1 or 2 of your daily meals with the Formula 1 shake, this will reduce your daily energy intake considerably.
Ultimately, for two of your three daily meals, you would only consume a combined total of 180 calories.
This is EXTREMELY low, and would easily explain why you would experience weight loss while using this supplement.
While this will lead to considerable weight loss over time, it is important to note that rapid weight loss promoted in this way is not always sustainable. Additionally, it can have negative effects to our health, and often ends in rapid weight regain once normal eating habits are resumed .
So, to conclude, Herbalife actually worth it?
In my personal opinion, not really, no.
Herbalife shakes are ultimately a very simple protein supplement that contains added vitamins and minerals.
To put it into perspective, Formula 1 contains a similar nutrient profile to a single egg (but at much higher price point), but with the addition of some highly processed sugars and fats.
Further considering the negative effects that very low energy diets can have on health, our metabolism, and weight regain, there a number of better alternatives out there.
While advertised as a health supplement, Herbalife’s Formula 1 is far from it.
1. Herbalife Products, French Vanilla, Nutritional Information. Viewed at: http://az31823.vo.msecnd.net/content/en-us/pdf/catalog/3106_formula1_vanilla_label_us.pdf
2. Tang, Jason E., et al. “Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men.” Journal of applied physiology 107.3 (2009): 987-992. Viewed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19589961
3. Connor, William E. “α-Linolenic acid in health and disease.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 69.5 (1999): 827-828. Viewed at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/69/5/827.full
4. Johnson, Richard J., et al. “Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 86.4 (2007): 899-906. Viewed at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17921363
5. Richelsen, Bjørn, et al. “Effect of orlistat on weight regain and cardiovascular risk factors following a very-low-energy diet in abdominally obese patients a 3-year randomized, placebo-controlled study.” Diabetes care 30.1 (2007): 27-32. Viewed at: http://care.diabetesjournals.org.access.library.unisa.edu.au/content/30/1/27.short
John has been a fitness enthusiast for over 10 years, starting out while struggling with obesity as a teenager. Over the years he has advised numerous clients on how to transform their physiques and their lives. As a writer on Nutrition Inspector he aims to help others achieve real results by staying clear of the common hype and false claims in the supplement industry! You can contact him via the "About Us" page.