Exposing the truth about Herbalife & Formula 1 Nutritional Shake Mix

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 Stef dela Cruz, MD 5 Comments

Have you ever used any Herbalife product in the past? Until a few days ago, I never planned on opening the container of Formula 1 Nutritional Shake Mix that Herbalife gave me, to be honest.

To say I’ve had second thoughts is an understatement. First of all, Herbalife uses a direct-selling model for marketing, which I try to steer clear of because it sounds a lot like the many scary pyramiding scams I see on the news. Secondly, I like eating actual food, not powder shakes.

Herbalife Formula 1 Nutritional Shake MixTo drink or not to drink, that is the question.

So when I peeled off the seal from my Herbalife Nutritional Shake Mix, it felt like I was about to open Pandora’s box. To satisfy my curiosity (and to find out if my dread was justified), I interviewed Rosalio Valenzuela, General Manager of Herbalife.

***EDIT: In case you don’t finish reading this, please be informed: I’m not an Herbalife member and I don’t sell these products.


Herbalife: 3 Important questions to ask

Caveat: I already knew the answers to some of my questions but I wanted to know what Mr. Valenzuela would say. Here’s what went down and I’m not going to sugarcoat it.

Question: Herbalife is a direct-selling company – that’s another term for a multilevel marketing (MLM) company. Is multilevel marketing the same as illegal pyramiding?

Answer: “No. Direct-selling or multilevel marketing is different from illegal pyramiding. Our members don’t earn any type of commission from simply recruiting someone new. They earn from selling products they can actually use for better health, not from any type of recruitment fee.”

Not relying on his word alone, I did my research. Call me a skeptic.

Simply put, multi-level marketing allows the company’s members to sell products directly to consumers without the need for retail stores.

Have you heard of the makeup brand AVON? It’s an MLM company, in case you didn’t know.

Knowing the difference between legal and illegal MLM helps. Check out how to differentiate MLM from illegal pyramiding courtesy of the Direct Selling Association of the Philippines (DSAP).

Under the DSAP umbrella, legit MLM companies continue to fight illegal pyramid schemes. You’ve probably heard about these scams on the news – the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission always warns the public about these unethical pyramiding companies.

Here’s one critical cue that points to a scam instead of a legit direct-selling business: a required fee upon recruitment. Here’s another: when money exchanges hands without any product given or service rendered.

Don’t be duped by pyramiding schemes! They are bound to collapse once the participants at the bottom of the pyramid could no longer recruit new members. That doesn’t happen in legit direct-selling companies. Makes sense, since Herbalife has been in existence since 1980.


Question: Many MLM companies are a big turn-off because they force their products on people. Does Herbalife follow the same aggressive marketing tactic?

Answer: “I'm always very upfront about saying that we are ethical. The term ‘multilevel marketing’ may have a negative connotation because other companies are just after selling their products. We are not doing that. We want people to have good nutrition.

“We work with the Department of Trade and Industry. We don't take pictures of cars and money to attract new members. We present good nutrition – that’s all there is to what we do.”

Mr. Valenzuela knows his stuff. A former board member of DSAP, he ensures that the company’s selling practices remain ethical.

Rosalio Valenzuela Herbalife“We don't want to be just another business. We want to become credible as a company that provides better nutrition to the country. We also want to know how we can impact nutrition in the country.” – Herbalife General Manager Rosalio Valenzuela

In case you’re thinking of selling Herbalife products using questionable methods, be warned: You will be reprimanded. “If a member markets our products without following our ethics and standards, there are consequences. That member will not get his commission. He will not get his supply of Herbalife products.”


Question: Herbalife products are often used by people who want to manage their weight. Are consumers prone to abusing Herbalife Nutritional Shake Mix to lose weight in an unhealthy way?

Answer: “You can’t simply buy Herbalife products to go on a crash diet. You get to join an Herbalife Nutrition Club. You are evaluated in terms of your health and your goals.

“We don't want you to find yourself in a situation where you’re hungry. Usually, you get into a 10-day program. We don't want people using our products for crash diets. We strive for balance.”

Nope, you can’t just say, “Me want Herbalife!” like a caveman with eating disorders. Besides, I’m sure Herbalife doesn’t want to get in any legal disputes, which is why they’ve put safety measures in place.

Mr Valenzuela explained that everyone who wants to try Herbalife must receive guidance from members. “In a nutrition club, the one selling you the product has already gone through the process you’re about to go through. It’s a slow process because we don't want people to get into it like they do when they follow fads.”

Disclaimer: I don’t sell Herbalife because I’m not a member. Please don’t ask me to sell you Herbalife products. You’re better off contacting Herbalife directly.

Now that all that is out of the way, I’m compiling a list of dos and don’ts based on my research on the Herbalife Formula 1 Nutritional Shake Mix. Stay tuned!

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!


  1. Thank you for writing this, Dr. Stef! I'm sharing this to my team. :)

    1. Hi, Mayella! Are you an athlete? :) Feel free to share with your teammates! Thank you for dropping by.

  2. What kind of article is this for a doctor..... If you are a doctor, Stef (cute, my sister's name), please write about some of the people that have lost weight, how they feel, how they've had success, How they've gone through so many other programs to lose weight but failed. This article seems to focus on it's business model more than the quality of the products. Are you a business major now? I'm pro-Herbalife and have taken the product for over 20 years. I like pro-Herbalife articles...... that have reputable substance to them from a reputable source.

    1. Hello there! I’m really glad you asked those questions. Let’s dissect everything you said in several comments so that I can answer properly.

      What kind of article is this for a doctor.....

      Last time I checked, it’s an article with facts about health industry ethics, information that can help gullible patients, and words of caution for people hoping to abuse or misuse health supplements to lose weight.

      In other words… it’s an article a doctor-writer should be capable of publishing.

      Besides, I didn’t know there was a limitation on what kind of articles doctors should write. For instance, I’m a columnist in a magazine that focuses on animals. Is that alright or is it not? I also used to have an online corner for a travel website. Is that something I shouldn’t do “as a doctor”?

      Is there a list of articles that doctors shouldn’t write? If so, I must have missed the memo! But considering the shortsightedness of such a memo, I’m glad it didn’t make it to my desk.

      “If you are a doctor, Stef (cute, my sister's name), please write about some of the people that have lost weight, how they feel, how they've had success, How they've gone through so many other programs to lose weight but failed.”

      I have two things to say:

      #1: I acknowledge your request for me to write using a method of your choosing. However, I respectfully decline.

      I would be foolish to try and please everyone. I want to say this with all the kindness in my heart: What topics I discuss on my blog and how I tackle them are my prerogative. Nobody has the right to tell me what slant to take or what angle to use… Well, okay, I’d listen to my editors, which you’re obviously not.

      Equally important: I listen to suggestions. However, please don’t expect me to follow yours as if they were commands, especially because they came with emotional blackmail that claimed I should do them “if I was a doctor”.

      Imagine if someone told you this: You should donate everything you own and run naked in the streets “if you are faithful to your god”. Would you do it? I hope not. Because it’s emotional blackmail.

      #2: Providing testimonials that the product “works” is providing the lowest form of medical evidence: anecdotal proof. Besides, there is a reason these products are SUPPLEMENTS, not DRUGS.

      They are meant to supplement, not cure. Urging people that these products can undoubtedly “cure” obesity or weight issues is unethical and misleading. Recommending health supplements using your proposed tactic – that is, sharing customer testimonials (remember anecdotal proof?) – is not a good practice.

      However, these products can “supplement” the measures being taken towards weight management. There are no promises. There shouldn’t be. There’s a reason there are these four words on every health supplement on earth, including those which friends and family claim are effective: NO APPROVED THERAPEUTIC CLAIMS.

      Also, yes, my nickname is cute, thank you for noticing! I use it because my complete first name… well, it’s not as cute and people misspell it all the time. :)

    2. To continue…

      “This article seems to focus on it's (sic) business model more than the quality of the products. Are you a business major now?”

      The health industry is full of scams. Too many sick people get duped by “snake oil salesmen”, promising cures in unethical ways. (These snake oil salesmen, by the way, use a LOT of testimonials to sway potential customers. I thought you might want to know.)

      Doctors are healers, teachers, and health advocates. This is why doctors like me should study the business ethics of companies that sell health products. Any doctor – with a degree in business or otherwise – who neglects to do so isn’t a very smart one, don’t you think?

      “I'm pro-Herbalife and have taken the product for over 20 years. I like pro-Herbalife articles...... that have reputable substance to them from a reputable source.”

      By "reputable sources", were you actually referring to the testimonials you mentioned? I hope not.

      If you think that articles containing facts about health industry tactics don't have substance, that's something beyond my control. But considering the many people who get duped into buying health supplements because of unethical selling schemes, you might want to rethink that.

      I am not (nor do I have plans of) authoring a study that determines the effectiveness of Herbalife products. I also sincerely doubt if there are peer-reviewed journal articles about Herbalife products. Besides, as previously pointed out, providing studies that Herbalife products "work" is not even the aim of this article.

      Of course, you’re free to believe what you want. Such is the beauty of internet democracy, one which I uphold and enjoy! Cheers to online freedom. :)

      I hope the information I provided has given enlightenment to those who read it. Thank you for dropping by my blog and I hope you visit again soon!