Two years ago liver doctors sounded the alarm about cases of liver damage in users of Herbalife products. They were unable to say which component in Herbalife products was causing the liver damage, but researchers at the University of Bern made an attempt to do so in an article published this year in the Journal of Hepatology. They found the bacteria Bacillus subtilis in Herbalife products.
In the article the doctors discuss two cases of people who became ill after using Herbalife products: a man aged 78 and a woman aged 50. The man's urine had turned dark brown, he had hepatitis and had been feeling unwell for a couple of weeks. He had been using the Herbalife F1 Shake [Strawberry and Cappuccino flavours] for three years on his daughter’s advice [she was a Herbalife salesperson], as well as various other medicines. According to the analyses, the man had a liver complaint. When the doctors took him off the shake his blood values recovered, but they deteriorated again later. The doctors gave the man corticosteroids and ursodeoxycholic acid, after which he recovered completely. You can see the fluctuations in the man’s blood values in the graph below.
The woman sold Herbalife supplements. She took half a dozen different Herbalife supplements, including the Personalized Protein Powder Mix Formula 3. She had stomach pain and hepatitis and the doctors found signs of liver damage in her blood. They got the woman to stop taking the supplements and the graph below shows how the liver values in her blood improved.
The researchers examined samples from the livers of the man and the woman and found signs of damage in both. The doctors turned the supplements that the men and women had used inside out, but found no contaminants: no heavy metals, no pesticides, no antibiotics, nothing. But when they examined the Herbalife products for micro-organisms, they did come across something. The meal substitutes the man and woman had been using contained the bacteria
Honestly speaking, we’re not sure what to make of this. As far as we know, B. Subtilis is found in pretty much everything, and it’s not particularly dangerous. [Wikipedia] Some studies even regard it as a probiotic. It would seem pretty unlikely then that B. subtilis is the cause of such serious liver damage.
By Ronny Linder-Ganz | Mar.12, 2009 | 1:24 AM
Israeli woman sues Herbalife, claims products caused liver disease Woman filed NIS 2.5 million lawsuit claiming Herbalife products had caused her chronic liver disease.
An Israeli woman filed a NIS 2.5 million lawsuit yesterday against Herbalife International and its Israeli affiliate, Herbalife Israel, claiming that the companies' products had caused her chronic liver disease, with the risk of future liver failure necessitating a transplant.
In her suit, submitted to district court, Mali Nir, 54, alleged that products marketed by the California-based nutritional-supplements and weight-control company and its Israel affiliate as natural and promoting "health for life" destroyed her health.
The suit claims that she "was never advised that consuming the companies' products could cause irreversible liver damage, and that they could even be poisonous to the body."
Nir said she began taking Herbalife supplements in 1998 and even signed on as an Herbalife distributor. She says that the first sign of a problem surfaced in 2001, when she began to experience fatigue and weakness. She then discovered that she had serious liver damage.
When she stopped taking the supplements, her liver function reportedly returned to normal, but with indications of cirrhosis of the liver, along with problems that included pain, chronic fatigue, weakness and insomnia.
Attached to the suit was a medical opinion from Hadassah Hospital internist Dr. Mayer Brezis. In it Brezis stated that research literature from as far back as the 1990s reported the risk of liver damage from herbal products, and that there was a high probability that the Herbalife products caused Nir's liver problems.
The suit also alleges that Israeli researchers documented 12 cases of severe liver damage similar to Nir's in patients who used Herbalife products like the ones she took.
Herbalife Israel said in a response that the company had not yet received the lawsuit.
Herbalife sells a wide range of dietary supplements, appetite-control and weight-loss products, to "maximize your health and fitness goals," the company writes on its international Web site.
By Ronny Linder-Ganz