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Update on Herbalife®

The liver toxicity associated with Herbalife® supplements may be due to vitamin A toxicity

August 24, 2010 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Images thanks to Otota DANA.


What about herbalife supplements? We were concerned about liver toxicity And we’re still, concerned about liver toxicity. We think it may be because it has too much vitamin A. In fact there’s even been calls to have all animal-based vitamin A supplements just pulled from the shelves because of concerns about safety.
Of course it’s naturally found in fish. This year from the Journal of Food Protection: someone ate some red snapper and got vitamin A poisoning. Just a few hours after ingestion, headaches, vomiting, fever, visual disorientation, followed by peeling of the skin. This poor 41-year-old guy suffered serious peeling of the skin that took more than 3 months to heal.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And for more information about Herbalife®, check out Herbalife® Supplement Liver Toxicity. Also, there are 1,686 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

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  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And for more information about Herbalife®, check out Herbalife® Supplement Liver Toxicity. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • Lizetteb1

    Hello Dr. Greger 

    I’m a distributor and due to the fact that my twins had Herbalife all through my pregnancy (4 shakes a day and 1 meal – I was eating for all three of us) and in their bottles from the time they were 5 days old, they have been extremely healthy. They have never been in a hospital for sickness and in 11 years we had one ear infection. However, I am now facing terrible slander because I am giving “dangerous supplements” to my children. I am looking for facts and information that I can put out there to inform the world that the sugar in their kids’ cereal is way more dangerous than Herbalife. I’m not saying they must put their kids on the weight loss program, but a shake or NRG can only benefit the children. 

    Best Regards,

  • Roy

    Is it because of overdosing in Herbalife products? Or is it that they contain a toxic ingredient?
    I would love to get more information about this as I am about to become a distributor and don’t want to encourage people to risk their health. What recommendations would you give me?

    • Don Forrester MD

      I don’t generally recommend any supplements except Vitamin B12(see video’s in February 2012 for cost/efficacy/dosing). A low fat plant based diet of whole food that avoids GMO’s is the best place to start. I briefly perused the Herbalife website. I can’t support supplemental protein for any reasons as consumption of adequate calories gives all the essential amino acids you need… asparagus and broccoli have the same amino acid profile as eggs. See Dr. McDougalls articles on protein in his newsletters dated 12/03, 04/07 and 01/04. Mineral supplements are not needed unless specific deficiencies are identified. Many mineral supplements contain copper, zinc and iron which have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Products that profess to replace fruit and vegetable intake with a pill isn’t a healthy approach based on current science. Finally it is often impossible to know what all the ingredients are as they are often “proprietary”. Of course the supplements may be an improvement over the foods they replace but why not avoid the supplements, save the money and go for the best scientifically supported diet.

      • Roy

        Thanks for the information Dr. Forrester, I myself would prefer to go vegan than start relying on such products. However, it seems like some products may help some people (those who refuse to eat healthy) get somewhat healthier. Which supplements do you suggest to avoid?

        • Don Forrester MD

          After over 35 years in clinical practice I am a pragmatist and generally support anything that helps folks transition to a better lifestyle especially improved nutrition. I want to be clear that I am aware of no good scientific studies supporting the use of supplements with continuing poor nutrition as the preferred path. There are many supplements out there and there is alot of money being made and wasted on these products. With so many it is hard to get into specific products. I do research specific products for my patients. I generally go to the appropriate website and/or label and look at ingredients and cross reference the ingredients with the information and studies from reliable sources such as Dr. John McDougall, Jeff Novick RD, Dr. Michael Greger and Dr. Neal Barnard. At this point I can’t list any that I recommend. Hope this helps.

  • gladiator

    herbalife uses any performance enhancing drugs or steroids directly or indirectly . Please as we are keen knowing since after it gives good results quickly which i feel is a bit suspicious. I am wandering of long time side effects which would be seen after many years that could be catastrophic .

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  • Ken

    I am using Herbalife and have done so for more than 12 months. Recent bloodtests have revealed high uric acid and confirmed some of the symptoms I have of gouty arthritis. Is this confirmation that the high protein diet is to blame?

  • Megan

    I have used herbalife products for a little over a year. I had to recently stop using herbalife, because my blood results for my liver have come back very bad. I took off from herbalife meal replacements, and my AST and ALT numbers went down. I do believe there is something in Herbalife’s products that can cause liver damage. I honestly loved herbalife before this.. such a bummer.

  • Erin

    Hello, I was considering giving Herbalife a try for weight loss. However, I have stage 4 diverticulitis, DLE Lupus, and have been diagnosed with Chronic Migraine Disease. (Sounds like I should be taken out back and shot!) Anyways, is Herbalife safe for me to try?

  • Majid

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    How to increase good cholestrol.
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