Herbalife Nutrition, a multi-level marketing company that sells dietary supplements and weight loss products, has been around for over four decades – since 1980. The company has gained a massive following, with millions of people around the world using its products to help them lose weight and improve their health.
However, despite its popularity, Herbalife has been the subject of controversy due to reports of side effects associated with its products. Some people have reported liver and kidney damage, while others have experienced abdominal pain, nausea, and tiredness.
In this article, we will explore the potential side effects of Herbalife Nutrition products and examine the evidence behind these claims.
- There are a few known side effects associated with the use of Herbalife Nutrition products.
- The products have been shown to cause a variety of effects, such as liver injury, kidney damage, jaundice, abdominal pain, tiredness, and nausea.
- In some cases, Herbalife product ingestion has led to death.
- It’s critical to be aware of these potential risks before starting any kind of Herbalife regimen.
- Read my latest post on Herbalife alternatives if you desire to explore safer options
It’s also important to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before starting any kind of weight loss or nutrition program, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.
Herbalife products may not be safe for everyone, so it’s best to speak with a professional before making any decisions.
We are going to find out exactly why these effects happen – based on its users’ testimonials and research-based scientific evidence.
Let’s get started.
1. Herbalife Liver Problems
Studies regarding the effects of Herbalife products reveal that they can lead to potential hepatotoxicity.
These were two cases of liver injury after intake of Herbalife products, contaminations with Bacillus subtilis were found in the products. Hence, adulteration of products with bacterial pathogens could explain some cases of liver injury in patients taking Herbalife products.
The reason behind this is Bacillus subtilis – a liver disease-causing bacteria that Herbalife is contaminated with. So the research says.
As I mentioned, the research that backs up this claim involved two patients presented with cholestatic hepatitis pruritus, and cirrhosis, respectively.
Hence proved, that this supplement is not safe for those with underlying liver conditions.
Other research and articles related to Herbalife Nutrition and liver problems:
- LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury [Internet]
- Herbal does not mean innocuous: ten cases of severe hepatotoxicity associated with dietary supplements from Herbalife products.
2. Herbalife Kidney Damage
Another serious question people often ask is:
Is Herbalife bad for your kidneys?
Herbalife’s protein-enriched supplements are mainly a threat to those with impaired kidneys. I will also back this up with some links, studies, and research for you.
During the cause of my research, I stumbled on this article (on Herbalife kidney side effects):
An evidence-based piece by Healthline – A giant blog in the health space and an American website and provider of health information headquartered in San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Here are some of the details in regard to kidney diseases:
- Those who have kidney disease may be adversely impacted by the high protein content of Herbalife products
- Some of their products are high in potassium and phosphorus, which kidney disease sufferers should limit
- There are some Herbalife products that contain caffeine, which can increase blood pressure levels and cause kidney damage if consumed in high quantities. Despite mixed research on this topic, caffeine may also contribute to kidney stones
Many Herbalife products contain nutrients that people with kidney disease may need to limit. This includes protein, phosphorus, and potassium.
However, for most healthy adults, using their products is unlikely to cause kidney damage.
If you have impaired kidney function or chronic kidney disease, you should speak to your healthcare provider or dietitian before adding any supplements to your routine.
3. Increase in Blood Pressure Level with Herbalife Weight Loss
If you’re a hypertension patient, you might have already been told to limit your caffeine intake as it causes the blood pressure to rise.
Well, I’d say the same about Herbalife products.
Their weight loss products feature Caffeine as a prime ingredient to fire up the fat-burning process.
However, along with boosting metabolism and aiding weight loss, Caffeine also constricts blood vessels, resulting in causing blood pressure to increase.
Therefore, it can pose a significant threat to heart patients or people who simply have hypertension.
4. Upset Stomach with Herbalife
Numerous cases of stomach bloating were reported by the users on various platforms as they shifted from their regular diet to Herbalife’s products for weight loss purposes.
In some cases, it also causes nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. It especially disturbs the ones who are lactose intolerant, as some of the Herbalife products contain milk-based ingredients.
5. Herbalife Frequent Urination
To consume more protein, your body needs to get rid of it. This means that you will pee more often during high-protein diets.
Since Herbalife products work to boost your metabolism in order to aid the fat-burning process, you might feel the urge to urinate more frequently than usual, which can be discomforting.
Also, it can lead to dehydration if you don’t drink plenty of water.
This isn’t really a negative effect. But it’s something that is worth mentioning.
6. Herbalife Allergies
Allergies are adverse reactions to substances that are generally harmless.
These substances, called allergens, can be found in the air, food, medicines, or in contact with animals.
When an allergen enters the body of a person who is allergic to it, that person’s immune system overreacts and produces antibodies to fight the allergen.
Although the evidence of Herbalife products causing allergies is low, yet to be on the safer side, I felt the need to mention that soy-induced allergies were reported by a few of its users.
Again, this isn’t something to worry about much because allergies are normal when consuming any sort of food, medicines, and shakes. It has to do with your body system and how it reacts to food intake.
7. Irregular Bowel Movements with Herbalife
Irregular bowel movements, also called constipation, are a common problem that can be caused by many different things. Some people have regular bowel movements every day, while others may only have one every few days.
Some common causes of irregular bowel movements include:
- not eating enough fiber
- not drinking enough fluids
- eating too much dairy or processed foods
- medications etc
As mentioned earlier, lactose-intolerant people were more likely to develop conditions like upset stomach, leading to irregular bowel movements and constipation.
Herbalife Products’ Side Effects – Dissecting a Few
If you’re curious about the specific health problems and risks associated with some of their products. We have covered some popular ones explicitly below:
Herbalife Products Side Effects #1 – Herbalife Afresh
As a highly processed supplement that could contain a lot of sugar (maltodextrin is a sugar!), artificial flavors, and other additives, one of the possible side effects of Herbalife Afresh is an increased risk of liver injury. According to AquafreshPrime.com.
It also contains caffeine to give you energy, but that could affect your sleeping patterns if you take this drink close to bedtime.
Also, although it’s part of the meal replacement program, products like Afresh might actually make you feel hungry because they don’t have enough calories.
Let’s take a look at an actual case of liver failure in a Herbalife Afresh user below.
A case report posted on Doc Wire News of a 24-year-old woman in India showed that she regularly took three different Herbalife products for two months before experiencing loss of appetite, jaundice, and transient pruritus (itchy skin).
She allegedly took the following products:
- Afresh Energy Drink (10 g twice/day)
- Formula 1 Shake Mix (two scoops/day with skim milk)
- Personalized Protein Powder (two tablespoons twice/day into the Shake Mix)
The woman reportedly had very high levels (12.4 mg/dL) of bilirubin, but the normal level was only 1.1 mg/dL. She also showed extensive liver damage and, sadly, died while on the waitlist at the transplant center.
It remains unknown whether the Herbalife products were actually the reasons for the acute liver failure and her subsequent death since she had also been previously diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Also, her family was unable to produce samples of the actual products she used.
However, similar products obtained from the same seller reportedly contained:
- Bacterial deoxyribonucleic acid
- High levels of heavy metals
- Undisclosed toxic compounds
The seller was shut down by the Department of Health and Human Services, Government of Kerala.
Some regular Herbalife users pointed out, however, that the company has always warned users to only get their products from legitimate, licensed coaches. Buying the products online doesn’t guarantee that you’ll receive a 100% legitimate Herbalife product.
After the case was published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hepatology and reported by sites like Doc Wire News, however, Elsevier (the publisher) removed it following a legal complaint from Herbalife.
The publisher explained that the paper drew conclusions that weren’t backed by sufficient data based on scientific methodology.
In response, Herbalife Nutrition also issued a public statement accompanied by a long list of scientific research to back the safety of their products.
Aside from this case, there are a few other known cases of deaths relating to the use of Herbalife products, including one patient who died from complications after undergoing a liver transplant as reported in a 2007 study.
Herbalife Products Side Effects #2 – Herbalife Skin Booster
Herbalife Skin Booster has little-known side effects. However, the following could still happen due to the possible effects of certain ingredients in the product.
First, it might cause an allergic reaction.
The Skin Booster doesn’t contain gluten (a common allergen), but it still has other ingredients that could trigger an allergic reaction.
For example, Skin Booster might not be ideal for people who are allergic to berries and citrus fruits because it can contain lemon, orange, and strawberry flavors among the ingredients.
It also contains fish collagen. So, it’s best to avoid this product if you have an allergy to fish.
Second, it can cause bloating and digestive issues.
The fish collagen in Skin Booster might also cause minor bloating and digestive upset. These should resolve after a few days or weeks but can make you feel uncomfortable while you have them.
Herbalife Products Side Effects #3 – Herbalife Shakes
Herbalife offers different kinds and flavors of shakes, particularly personalized protein powders and Formula 1 meal replacement shakes.
Although they can be effective, you might also notice any of the side effects below.
First, taking the shakes might lead to hunger pangs, warns the NHA (National Health Authority) of India.
They’re designed to replace an entire meal, but due to miscalculations or for some other reason, Herbalife shakes can make you feel hungry a few hours later.
You might notice this happening during the first few days of the program. For many, this side effect can be easily remedied by drinking water, which can make you feel full.
If this persists for several days, you can stop following the meal replacement program or talk to your coach to recalculate the shake you need to take.
Next, you might experience bloating, according to Diets in Review.
Some users also complain of experiencing bloat with Herbalife shakes. One remedy for this is to reduce the portion size you’re taking or the frequency of use.
If unsure how much to use, you can talk to your wellness coach about it.
Third, you can get an allergic reaction.
It might not apply to all, but some of the ingredients in Herbalife shakes might trigger an allergic reaction, NHA India also added.
For example, people who are allergic to berries might react to Herbalife Formula 1 Wild Berry or Summer Berries shake flavors. And those allergic to chocolates could react to the Dutch chocolate-flavored nutritional shake.
Herbalife Nutrition Formula 1 also contains soy proteins, which are known allergens.
It’s best to check the label for the ingredients in the formula to ensure that you don’t take anything you’re allergic to.
Fourth, hair loss might be possible, but this is likely due to undereating and not getting enough nutrients rather than a direct side effect of the shake, NetMeds explains in their malnutrition and hair loss post here.
Some users may notice hair loss while using Herbalife shakes. This might not be a direct result of taking the shake but a reaction to the nutrient deficiencies that you could experience in a calorie-restricted diet.
The good news is that this is likely temporary and can be easily remedied by eating nutrient-rich foods and adding fruits to your shake (as long as approved by your coach).
Next, according to Healthfully, you could experience diarrhea and an upset stomach.
That’s because your tummy might not appreciate the different forms of food you’re taking from the ones you usually have. It could lead to an upset stomach and diarrhea.
This might also be due to toxins being flushed from your body. The process could take up to two weeks to complete, but you might feel better soon, even without interventions.
Just make sure to drink plenty of water and eat foods rich in electrolytes, such as bananas, to help replenish the ones you lost in diarrhea.
Sixth, you can experience headaches.
It’s normal to feel hungry if you don’t eat the same amount of food as you usually do – and when that happens, you might get a headache. That’s one of the reasons why some new users of Herbalife Shake experience headaches.
But this side effect could soon go away as your body adjusts to the new meal regime.
Seventh, Herbalife shakes might cause swollen legs.
If you are experiencing swollen legs or water retention, it might be due to an allergic reaction to any of the ingredients of the shake you’re taking, adds Diets in Review.
Stop using it immediately and consult your nutrition coach or doctor about what you should do next.
Possible malnutrition is also up on this list.
Although Herbalife weight shakes are designed to be part of meal replacement programs, it’s not good to replace all your meals with these products.
Replacing meals with shake products entirely can put you at risk for malnutrition. That can be a serious problem because malnutrition could lead to other complications, including medical issues relating to nutrient deficiencies (e.g., iron deficiency anemia).
Even if you’re just taking Herbalife shakes or any other shakes at all, for one or two meals, it’s important to get enough nutrition from natural food sources. Also, most Herbalife programs don’t just involve shakes but also include other types of supplements, depending on what your nutrition coach recommends.
It’s best to follow the plan but also eat a balanced, nutrient-rich meal.
A dry mouth is another possible side effect.
Some users reported having a dry mouth after using Herbalife shakes. This could be due to acid reflux or dehydration, explains ICSID.
The shakes contain guar gum, a substance that can dehydrate your body as it expands and absorbs water. Because this substance uses a lot of water, it can lead to dehydration and dry mouth.
Tenth, you might experience constipation or irregular bowel movement.
Changes in your diet can affect your bowel movements. Some people have experienced that while using Herbalife shakes, particularly if they have lactose intolerance (your tummy can’t digest lactose), ICSID explains.
One way to avoid that is to increase your fiber intake, such as mixing oats with your shake. Another is to drink plenty of water.
Next, you might notice frequent urination.
Aside from providing low-calorie food as a meal replacement, Herbalife shakes also help increase your metabolism.
However, the process might lead to frequent urination, which can be both uncomfortable and bad because it could cause dehydration if you don’t drink plenty of water.
Herbalife Products Side Effects #4 – Herbalife Tea
Herbalife’s Herbal Tea Concentrate is designed to boost energy, increase metabolism, and keep you mentally alert – but those can also lead to certain side effects.
Let’s discuss each of these side effects in detail below:
First, you can get heart palpitations.
Tea contains caffeine which could lead to heart palpitations, especially for those who have a low tolerance to it, ICSID points out. It’s important to avoid tea, coffee, and other caffeinated drinks if you have a heart condition.
Next, you might experience fatigue from over-stimulation.
The Herbal Tea Concentrate is meant to give you energy but that could lead to over-stimulation. That’s something that many caffeine users experience.
When that happens, your body can experience a feeling of heightened energy, but could later make you feel fatigued.
Like other caffeinated drinks, Herbalife’s tea could cause insomnia.
It’s ideal to drink the tea in the morning to keep you energized throughout the day but avoid taking it late in the afternoon or anytime in the evening to reduce the insomnia risks.
It’s important to note that like other products, you can get an allergic reaction from using herbal tea concentrate. It contains green tea, orange pekoe, and black tea as the main ingredients.
Be careful if you have allergies to tea and other herbal ingredients because you could experience symptoms such as itchy and/or red skin, breathing difficulty, sinus irritation, hives, or swelling in various parts of your body, particularly the face, and neck.
Some users have also noted having a dry or aching throat while using Herbalife tea. Although it doesn’t apply to everyone, it’s still worth noting that it could happen to you.
Caffeine helps in the fat-burning process but could also lead to high blood pressure by constricting your blood vessels.
So, if you have hypertension or a heart condition, it might be best to stay away from this herbal tea concentrate and every other supplement that could make things worse.
Some users also experience diarrhea or an upset stomach while using Herbalife tea. It might be due to an allergic reaction to the tea or just your tummy adjusting to the cleansing experience. According to Vimchi.info.
Herbalife Products Side Effects #5 – Herbalife Weight Loss
Although weight loss is a welcome and intended effect of using Herbalife products, you need to make an informed choice before deciding on starting your weight-loss regime with this brand.
Let’s discuss the main weight loss side effects of Herbalife below:
Several studies mentioned above have shown that regular consumption of Herbalife products could cause acute hepatotoxicity (liver injury) and possible hepatic or liver failure.
And while Herbalife could be used to lose weight, it can be worrisome to think of the possible damaging effects it might have on our bodies.
Herbalife products have been shown to cause serious side effects like liver injury, nausea, jaundice, tiredness, fatigue, abdominal pain, and pale stool.
Worse, some cases even led to death, as mentioned in the 2007 study above.
Another case report in 2018 showed liver injury to a woman following a weight loss program using multiple Herbalife products, with no other possible causes of liver injury identified. Although the exact product that may have caused the injury wasn’t isolated or identified, the woman’s health and test results returned to normal just two months after she quit taking the cocktail of Herbalife products in her weight-loss regime.
Despite all the negative publicity and studies about the possible toxicity or severe side effects of their products, however, Herbalife stands by the safety and effectiveness of the brand.
But again, in its public statement mentioned above, the brand lists the studies that can show how these other reports may have been “outdated perspectives” or didn’t follow the proper procedure in making conclusions because they were just based on just one or a few cases.
In a calorie-restricted diet plan such as the program you follow in Herbalife, it might be possible to experience malnutrition.
Replacing your regular meals with Herbalife can lead to weight loss, which is the intended effect, but it could also put you at risk for nutrient deficiencies, such as iron deficiency anemia if you don’t take enough iron or iron-rich sources in your other meals.
Be sure to follow your wellness plan to avoid malnutrition, and to eat nutrient-rich foods in meals that aren’t replaced by Herbalife shakes.
If you experience malnutrition, then it can also lead to hair loss. But even without a clear sign of malnutrition, you could still experience hair loss while using Herbalife.
This typically shows up around 2-3 months after you start your Herbalife weight loss program.
As you lose weight, your body has to scramble to provide nutrients to the most important systems, while taking from the “expendables” (which can include your hair).
The good news is that hair loss from Herbalife isn’t likely to be permanent and could soon resolve on its own, without other interventions.
Herbalife Products Side Effects #6 – Cell U Loss
Although Cell U Loss might help you get rid of water weight and keep your electrolytes balanced, it could also lead to the following side effects:
Cell U Loss contains different salts, including sodium chloride, which can lead to increased blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular damage with prolonged, continued use.
Be sure to monitor your blood pressure while using this product, especially if you have been previously diagnosed with hypertension.
The calcium carbonate, magnesium oxide, and dandelion leaf extract in this Herbalife product could lead to bloating, gas, and an upset stomach. These might also increase burping, which can lead to discomfort, Diets in Review explains.
Calcium carbonate is also the culprit why you might feel weak or fatigued after taking Cell U Loss.
If you’re feeling too weak, you might even experience confusion.
Calcium carbonate can also promote increased urination and lead to possible dehydration.
When taken in combination with other Herbalife products, Cell U Loss could further increase urination.
While this helps you flush out toxins in your body, urinating more frequently than normal could make you lose important electrolytes in your body, leading to an imbalance. Also, this could lead to dehydration, especially if you don’t replenish the fluid loss with enough water or electrolyte-infused drinks.
If increased, or frequent urination persists, be sure to alert your doctor because this might be a sign of problems in your kidneys.
Like other supplements or medications, certain components of this product could trigger an allergic reaction, explains SupsAhoy.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction could include rashes, itchy skin, itchy lips and nose, watery eyes, shortness of breath, dizziness, and swollen lips, tongue, or eyes.
According to Diets in Review, the asparagus root extract might lead to gout, a really painful inflammatory arthritis that usually affects the big toe or one joint at a time.
Magnesium oxide, another ingredient in this supplement, can also cause dizziness.
Although it’s a rare side effect, exercise caution if you’re supposed to drive a vehicle or operate machinery that requires focus and concentration.
Herbalife Products Side Effects #7 – Formula 1
Here are some of the side effects reported about Herbalife’s Formula 1:
Formula 1, a shake, is the main part of Herbalife’s meal replacement program.
However, Herbalife products like this meal replacement shake don’t have enough calories. If they’re used without taking other calorie sources, they might actually make you feel hungry.
Note that Formula 1 is a highly processed supplement that can contain plenty of sugars, artificial flavors, fibers, and other additives, Aqua Fresh Prime points out.
This cocktail of ingredients can increase your risk of liver injury.
Against this, Herbalife stands by the safety of its products in a public statement with a long list of independent scientific studies.
However, there have also been reports of Formula 1 causing liver toxicity and death in a handful of users, just like the case report on Doc Wire News we mentioned above.
Hair loss is a possible side effect of meal replacement shakes, such as the Herbalife Formula 1.
However, this isn’t a direct side effect caused by the formulation itself but due to the cells that are damaged by the weight-loss program as a whole. Nutrient deficiencies due to the limited food intake could lead to hair loss.
You might actually notice this side effect in any form of a weight-loss program, particularly if you’re doing extreme diet fads.
Also, like other products, you might also experience allergies when using Herbalife shakes if you have sensitivity to any of its ingredients, reminds NHA India.
Herbalife Products Side Effects #8 – Herbalife Aloe Concentrate
Herbalife’s aloe concentrate is often a main part of the weight-loss program but beware of its possible side effects.
Let’s discuss each one below.
This Herbalife product contains aloe, one of the ingredients that are associated with liver injury issues possibly caused by herbal and dietary supplements, the 2018 case study we mentioned above points out.
Some aloe concentrate users reported feeling sharp pains in their back and fatigue after taking the product. These could be a sign of liver injury.
If you notice similar symptoms, be sure to talk to your doctor so they can perform tests to check your liver’s condition before it’s too late.
According to Healthfully, diarrhea, and an upset stomach are among the most common side effects of taking Herbalife’s aloe concentrate. These usually happen within the first few days of taking the product but could resolve on their own after a short period.
Some Herbalife users take this supplement with meals or a glass of water to minimize the side effects.
Taking aloe concentrates can lead to cramps and stomach pain, the Hindustan Times explains.
While it could resolve within a few days as your body gets used to the new product, be sure to call your doctor if the symptom persists. That could be a sign of something more serious.
Like any other herbal or dietary supplement, Herbalife’s aloe concentrate could cause an allergic reaction.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include shortness of breath, itchy skin, rashes, hives, wheezing, sneezing, and watery eyes.
Some users have also reported feeling chest pains and palpitations after using this product. According to RX List, these heart disturbances are common side effects of taking products containing aloe extracts.
RX list explains that aloe might also cause muscle weakness, particularly due to low potassium levels.
Has Anyone Died From Using Herbalife?
As per the source from Lift Big Eat Big, I found reports of Herbalife product ingestion leading to death. There have been cases of liver damage associated with Herbalife products, which can result in severe health problems such as fatigue, loss of appetite, jaundice, and abdominal pain. In some cases, patients have had to undergo liver transplants due to the damage caused by Herbalife products.
Although the exact number of deaths caused by Herbalife products is unclear, there have been multiple cases of death associated with the use of these products. It’s crucial to be aware of these potential risks before starting any kind of Herbalife regimen.
My Take: Is Herbalife Bad For You?
Well, as you can see, Herbalife Nutrition products have been associated with several potential side effects, including liver and kidney damage, upset stomach, irregular bowel movements, and an increase in blood pressure levels. The products may also contain allergens that could cause adverse reactions in some individuals.
While Herbalife has a significant following, it’s crucial to be aware of these potential risks before starting any Herbalife regimen. Again read my Herbalife alternatives guide.
I highly recommend consulting with a qualified healthcare professional before making any decisions, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions. Although Herbalife products may be safe for most healthy adults, they may not be safe for everyone, particularly those with underlying liver or kidney conditions.
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