Ann M. Coulston, MS, RD

Disclosures

November 09, 2000

Question

Is it safe to prescribe high-protein soy shake and multivitamins/trace elements capsules with fiber supplements (eg, Herbalife) for weight reduction to (1) the general population; (2) diabetics (types 1 and 2); (3) patients with coronary artery disease?

Parimal Swamy, MD

I would like to know about the efficacy and safety of Herbalife.

Roy Shravasti, MD

Response from Ann M. Coulston, MS, RD

At www.herbalife.com, I found more than 30 products for weight management. Formula 1 seems to be the high-protein shake and Formula 2 the multivitamins/trace elements capsules with fiber mentioned in the question. Formula 1 contains 9 grams of soy protein, which is about the same amount of "high-quality" protein found in 8 oz of milk. Soy proteins are agreeable to the general population, patients with type 1 and 2 diabetes mellitus, and patients with coronary artery disease. However, use of these products in patients with pre-existing health conditions must carry the consent of the physician. This is especially true for patients with diabetes, because the amount of protein and calories provided by these supplements must be taken into consideration when developing their nutrition prescription.

The amount of information on the multivitamins/trace elements capsules provided on the Web site is insufficient to evaluate completely. We know that excess amounts of certain vitamins and minerals can be harmful. Check the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine at www.nas.edu/iom/fnbm for the latest information on the tolerable upper levels of nutrients.

Herbalife cautions that their weight loss product line is only effective when taken in conjunction with a low-fat, low-calorie diet plan. Thus, these products are not a panacea, but rather supplements to provide additional protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber to an effective low-calorie, weight-loss dietary regimen.

For further information about specific herbal supplements, consult the following Web sites:

Response from Ann M. Coulston, MS, RD

http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements

http://odp.od.nih.gov/ods/databases/ibids.html

Herb Research Foundation

http://www.herbs.org

A word of caution: Herbal products are not meant for infants or children. When considered for patients with a chronic condition such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, recommend only with the consent of the physician.

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