Is Herbalife Healthy? My Top Alternative

Friday 12th July 2024

Herbalife is a world renown brand that sponsors the Los Angeles galaxy soccer team and Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, just because they pay major influencers to advertise their brand does not mean that their products are all healthy. It just means they use smart promotional methods.

Herbalife have a popular meal replacement product called Formula 1. Let’s look at the ingredients contained in this product to see if Herbalife is healthy and can be consumed on a daily basis.

At the end I recommend my favourite alternative to Herbalife.

What is unhealthy in Formula 1?

Formula 1 is one of Herbalife’s most popular meal replacement shakes.

Key ingredients are below:

Ingredients Formula 1 Vanilla

To the untrained eye, Herbalife looks to be healthy. It contains low amount of calories,  has vitamins and minerals, and contains protein.

However, when you look at the research into some of these ingredients below you will have strong doubts about ever touching a Herbalife shake.

Canola oil

Canola oil is oil extracted from the plant canola. It is a popular cooking oil in Japan and the rest of the world. Beyond being a quality oil for frying, and other high heat cooking the actual nutritional benefit of consuming the stuff is nada.

Canola is genetically modified.

According to heartmdinstitute, “virtually all canola plants are genetically engineered to be resistant to roudup.” Roundup is the product name of a herbicide produced by the company Bayer.

This means they can be fully grown in the farm all day, sprayed with gallon loads of herbicide and still live.

You could most certainly be consuming traces of herbicide into your system.

This is dangerous as herbicide Roundup contains glyphosate. Although relatively low in toxicity it still can cause vomiting, swallowing issues, and nausea.

More seriously, glyphosate can cause neurological and heart problems, limit the effectiveness of healthy gut bacteria, and potentially cause cancer.

Canola oil offers no benefit to those consuming it.  Although only a minuscule amount is in Formula 1, I still do NOT want to eat this stuff.

Dangerous levels of hexane??

 The way oil is extracted from canola seeds involves mixing the oil with hexane. If you remember anything about chemistry class, when hexane is burned it creates a gasoline smell.

Hexane is used in textile manufacturing, degreasing and a solvent for glues and varnishes. The CDC says it’s a neurotoxin, while The EPA (environmental protection agency) classifies it as an air pollutant.

The left over residue is not monitored by FDA regulations so that’s why the product gets approval. Ultimately, you could be consuming traces of hexane in Herbalife.

It really scares me to know that hexane is potentially in a product that is supposed to act as a suitable meal replacement.

Over exaggerated claims

Herbalife have been criticised in the past for having distributors that make over exaggerated health claims.

Distributors are not nutritionist with certified studies or backgrounds. Their sales people.

Every sale they make goes into their pockets as a commission. Any distributors that they recruit under them that makes money also adds to their bank balance. An army of nearly 3million distributors all pushing and promoting the product.

This can be a problem as distributors will say anything in order to sell the product and get profit. Its effective for selling but not for those consuming who will think the product is healthier than it is.

An ABC investigation, revealed that that many Herbalife distributors where making false claims that Herbalife could help diabetes, heart disease, and decrease brain tumours.

See the below false claims taken from research by ABC news:

Herbalife false claims 2

Preying on desperation and internal needs.

By making false claims distributors are preying on people’s desperation. Customers may not seek thorough medical advice, especially if they’re uneducated in the area of nutrition or are desperate to lose weight.

You just have to be sure to watch out for distributors who are overly aggressive or deceptive in their promotional methods.

Herbalife and liver failure … Is herbalife bad for your liver?

In Israel and Switzerland there were reports of liver injury related to consuming Herbalife products.

The batches may have been spoiled or contaminated during production, which led to a group of people falling ill with liver problems.

The use of pesticides, softeners, gums or heavy metals during the production process could of contaminated the Herbalife mix. It may of only happened in two isolated incidents but it still is on record.

Formula 1 contains ingredients that are known to negatively impact the liver. This makes the incidents in Switzerland and Israel all the more believable.

Soy Protein Isolate


Soy is a very popular plant protein found in many meal replacement shakes. People often take it as a alternative to whey protein. The strange situation with Herbalife is that Formula 1 contains milk and soy together.

My thinking is that they did not put enough thought when creating Formula 1 to realise that most people take soy to avoid the lactose in milk.

Soy protein also comes with some negative research:

  • Soy stops absorption of minerals.High amount of phytates contained in Soy can stop absorption of minerals. This can cause a deficiency in nutrients which help the body operate.
  • Soy may increase risk of breast cancer. Elevated levels of estrogen contained in soy can prevent breast cancer if taken during early stages of life. However later on they may increase risk of breast cancer.
  • Soy allergies are increasing. People buying Infant soy milk to avoid cow milk increase likelihood of allergy to soy. This may be reason why in America, soy is one of the most popular food allergies.
  • Soy is a cheap protein. The lobby in America have lots of influence. They push for soy to be sold easily to the public because it is a low cost protein that is great for animals and humans. This leads to higher margins when adding it to a shake, even though Soy may not be best protein option.

My Opinion On Soy

I prefer to avoid soy given given the negative research associated with it. There are positive studies too, like soy can reduce risk of heart disease. It is also be low in fats and cholesterol, which can help reduce blood pressure.

However, I believe there is a good reason why a lot of products you see in supermarkets now are deliberate in stating that their products are “soy and gluten free.” They are aware that are people who are opting away from soy and of the potential negative effects of soy.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Herbalife can contain traces of MSG. MSG can be disguised as different ingredients. For example, natural flavours, yeast extracts, and artificial flavours can all have elements of MSG.

MSG is a non essential amino acid that is the salt of glutamic acid. Although sometimes in Chinese food it tastes great but is not healthy at all.

Here are some unhealthy side effects of msg:

  • Can cause asthma
  • Lead to brain damage
  • Significant spikes in new borns
  • Cause allergies


Sucralose (splenda) is an artificial sweetener, that is a popular sugar alternative in many shakes. It is also found in chewing gum.

There is research both supporting and going against the use of sucralose. Considering most studies have been conducted on rats there is no definitive research that proves sucralose harms the body.

However, the studies that have been done on rats have not had the best results.

For a start sucralose may wreck gut bacteria. The Rats that were given sucralose saw a decrease of beneficial gut bacteria by nearly 50%.

Another study was done which showed that sucralose can produce carcinogens if heated at a high temperature. Although FDA approved we still don’t truly know how high sucralose is heated when formula 1 is created.

I believe low amounts of sucralose are fine to consume but ultimately it is a risk considering some of the reasons above. Be aware of how your gut feels. Pay close attention to your skin too.

Is Fructose In Herbalife Bad?

Fructose is a natural sugar found in fruit, some vegetables and honey. Fructose is also found in table sugar. The fructose found in Herbalife is unlikely to be organically sourced from fruit but a form of added sugar.

All you favourite sugary drinks like cocoa cola, mountain dew, Fanta contain high amounts of fructose. It is thought that too much fructose can cause liver and heart disease and diabetes.

Honey powder

Formula 1 vanilla flavour  contains honey powder.

Honey powder is great alternative to sugar. Its’ tasty, has vitamins and minerals and is one of the cheapest natural sweeteners.

The only drawback is that they normally combine it with other ingredients to add more flavour.

Formula 1 vanilla flavour contains both fructose and sucralose.

 Are there any positives??

Herbalife is low in calories which means you won’t be gaining weight. Like all meal replacement the low amount of calories takes the guess work out of counting calories through meals. Herbalife also contains vitamins and minerals. However, it does contain only a low percentage of your daily value.

 Summing it up!

Herbalife Formula 1 is not healthy. It contains sucralose, fructose sugar, elements of msg, fructose, canola oil, and soy.

Herbalife is good in that it has restricted calories, vitamins and minerals and protein to make a complete meal. However, it really is not a safe shake and certainly not worth the price you pay for it.

They could of made it so much healthier. If you are looking for a great alternative I recommend my favourite plant based shake in garden of life. It works well, all plant based, low sugars, and is super effective.

My no 1 recommendation.


Garden of Life Meal Replacement Shake

Check Price On Amazon


Garden of life contains low sugar from stevia, quality plant based proteins and contains fiber, vitamins and even some probiotics. It’s better to be safe than sorry and I would rather have a high quality shake than one that is damaging my body.

For more great shakes check out: My best Low Carb Shakes

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