Last updated December 12th 2014

Herbalife produce well known and popular products, with some evidence supporting the principles of their products. However there have been allegations that it operates through a pyramid scheme and have been investigated because of this.

Herbalife are an American company selling nutritional supplements. They operate through encouraging customers to sell their products and become independent retailers; however because of this system they have been accused of running a pyramid scheme. For more information, read our article on ‘Herbalife: accused of running  pyramid scheme’. They sell different kinds of weight loss products such as meal replacements, protein bars, fibre supplements and some caffeine stimulants to increase the metabolism. They say this can help give natural and effective weight loss. They also sell some products such as an Aloe Mango Drink which they say can encourage users to drink more to keep hydrated which is important for maintaining health.

They say they are dedicated to “simplifying [customers’] path to healthy living” through using natural products.

Often they sell their products as a package, with various product sent together to give effective weight loss. These include meal replacement shakes or bars which are high in protein and vitamins to help keep users full while also being low in calories. The protein bars are also recommended to have as a snack while on the go. Other products act like general weight loss pills such as a caffeine containing pill which aims to increase the metabolism.

Who Are Herbalife?

Herbalife are an American company who manufacture many nutritional products such as skin care, nutritional supplements and weight control. They began in 1980 where the founder began selling from a car before moving on to more products and becoming the large multi-national company it is now. They have their main headquarters in California and currently have over 1.9 million distributors around the world selling their products.

Their number one selling product is a meal replacement protein shake which was also the first of their products sold.

They have some impressive credentials, such as being the official nutrition company supporting Christiano Ronaldo. Herbalife also sponsor the LA Galaxy football team and the Ospreys rugby team.

Herbalife also conduct their own research program, with a nutritional advisory board headed by David Heber Ph.D and Professor Louis Ignarro, winner of the 1998 nobel prize.

While being one of the most well known supplement companies around they have been accused of operating a pyramid scheme and have been investigated by the US Federal Trade Commision. Despite this they had net sales in 2012 of $4.072 billion, employing around 7,400 people worldwide, showing they are still a very large company despite allegations.

How Does Herbalife Aim To Help Weight Loss?

Herbalife make several products for weight loss, such as protein bars and shakes, meal replacements and pills for increasing metabolism or increasing fibre intake.

Their meal replacement products such as the Formula 1 Shake and protein bars aim to help reduce the intake of calories through the diet whilst providing adequate nutrition, as well as being high in protein to help keep users full for longer. They are low in carbohydrates and have low caloric content. Protein is included as not only is important for maintaining health, protein has also been shown to help keep users full for longer.The shakes usually are mixed with milk and taken instead of a meal. The bars also are used for meal replacement.

They also produce tablets such as Thermo Complete, which contains caffeine, which is widely used and has been proven to help increase the metabolism. Another product they use to increase the metabolism is the Cell Activator, which contains minerals such as zinc, copper and manganese as well as B vitamins which may be able to improve and maintain good effective metabolism as well as preventing oxidative damage.

Next there is the Fibrebond and fibre products. These contain both soluble and insoluble fibre which is also often used to prevent hunger. This product is designed to help ensure users get their recommended fibre intake. Fibre has been shown to be able to suppress the appetite by regulating transit time of food through the gut. Furthermore fibre can absorb water and increase in size, thus adding bulk to meals and creating the feeling of being full faster. It recommends to take alongside a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to ensure users get enough fibre from elsewhere in the diet.

The final specialised weight loss product is the Aloe Mango Drink which is mixed with water. Herbalife say that this can help users take in the recommended 2 liters of water a day, to maintain good hydration.

Herbalife also sell some snacks such as roasted soybeans and a tomato soup product which are designed to be healthy snacks as an alternative to other, high calorie foods.

Is There Any Clinical Evidence To Back Up These Weight Loss Claims?

Although the website pushes the apparent benefits of their products, it is important to question whether the claims are reliable with supporting evidence. Different ingredients used here have very different properties and so work in different ways. There does seem to be some evidence supporting claims about the ingredients.

Firstly, the caffeine used in the Thermo Complete product is a very commonly included in weight loss product. Caffeine has been shown to be able to promote weight loss, for example a 2005 study published in the journal ‘Obesity’ showed that caffeine intake is associated with weight loss. Another study showed that caffeine intake can help improve exercise performance and increase carbohydrate metabolism. These studies confirm what many have suspected, that caffeine is a good weight loss agent, and one of the few chemicals that has been shown to safely and effectively help with weight loss.

Herbalife also sell protein powders and bars which as well as helping to keep users full, can also help increase muscle mass. Protein is possibly the most used supplement and there is evidence it can aid with muscle growth and health. A study published in the ‘Journal of Applied Physiology’ showed that amino acid supplementation taken orally can improve muscle growth following exercise. Another paper showed that protein can improve adaptation of muscle to training.

Herbalife also seem fond of including various minerals to help with maintaining good health and efficient metabolism. Minerals such as zinc, copper and manganese are claimed to be able to protect cells from damage by oxidative stress and so are able to keeps cells healthy. This is known with studies confirming the antioxidant effects of zinc for example, although it concedes that the mechanisms for how it works is not known.

Meal replacement shakes are some of the more popular weight loss plans around at present. Some users often swear by them while others are less convinced of their benefits. Despite this a 2003 study in the ‘International Journal of Obesity’ showed that meal replacements can be at least as effective as more traditional reduced calorie diets for weight loss, with many reports of users finding them easier to stick to and more enjoyable. This shows that the meal replacement shakes should be good alternatives to other diets and should be able to help give efficient weight loss.

Are There Any Side Effects Associated With Herbalife’s Products?

Some people have reported side effects with some of their products, however they do not seem too serious. On the whole Herbalife products seem very safe with little reports of side effects when using the products.

Some to be expected with the Thermo Complete product are heart palpitations, trouble sleeping, jitteriness or increased blood pressure. Caffeine may also lead to headaches, and if taken in large amounts continuously could lead to caffeine dependence. This is due to the caffeine which some people are more sensitive to. This is more likely if users are not accustomed to taking caffeine.

The Fibre Bond product contains fibre, and therefore may lead to some digestive discomfort and possible bloating.

The Formula 1 meal replacement shake seems to be a safe product, with little, if any incidence of side effects. However it does contain soy which may possibly, and rarely lower levels of thyroid hormone due to its effects on the endocrine system. Therefore users with existing levels of low thyroid hormone may find it lowers it further and should therefore keep check of thyroid hormone levels.

In addition to side effects, there is the possibility that some users will find they experience an allergic reaction to some ingredients, such as soy.

Herbalife’s products as the name suggests may contain herbal products. Some herbal remedies are known to interact with prescription medications so users should check ingredients and consult a doctor if they are on prescription medications.

Where Can You Buy Herbalife Products?

Herbalife products are widely sold and can be found in many places. Many online health or supplement retailers will sell Herbalife products. They are often sold by independent distributors however and are not sold from Herbalife’s own website. Herbalife products such as the fibre capsules can also be found on Amazon and other third party retailers. In addition to this Herbalife products are often seen on eBay. In this case it is recommended to ensure the seller is a reputable seller as it is harder to know about the reliability on eBay and refunds or other payment issues are more difficult to resolve.

Mostly, it seems Herbalife encourage other retailers to sell their products and consequently there are many independent stores online such as Mylifeherbal.com and Herbalcorner.com.

Herbalife products do not seem to be available from high street stores, at least in the UK and it appears they can only be bought online.


Herbalife is clearly one of the more successful supplement brands and has become one of the largest multi-level company around. This similarity to a pyramid scheme had led to it being investigated suggesting it may not be as reliable or honest company as one may originally expect.

Their products are quite popular with good evidence supporting the principles behind their products and the ingredients used; and therefore they should be good products to use as part of a weight loss aid. There are also few side effects with their products.

Herbalife therefore may be a good company to try for your weight loss products.