The hot topic of water coolers worldwide, Isagenix has been garnering a great deal of interest since its establishment in 2002.
Isagenix is a US-based company marketing dietary and weight-loss supplements. They draw a yearly revenue in excess of $300 million, and employ over 200,000 sales representatives. Their advertising is heavy on testimonials, and they advocate ‘cleansing’ alongside their line of shakes, bars and snacks.
Being an innate sceptic, I’m wary of any company selling food replacements for big bucks. Particularly when they use what I think of as ‘nothing’ descriptors, like nutritional cleansing, cellular replenishing, and youthful ageing – what do any of those actually mean!?
But of course, you can’t judge a book by its cover, so I delved into the world of Isagenix to find out the facts. The way I see it there are just a few flaws…
- Isagenix is what’s known as a multilevel marketing company – similar to Herbalife, a company that I’ve had my own negative experience with. This means that those distributing the products are nothing more than salespeople, often ones who have often been coaxed into the position to make a little extra money on the side from their day job. Nothing too wrong with that, except that they’re totally unqualified to be providing what’s essentially health advice – and they only make money on successful sales, giving them a vested interest in pushing the products on consumers.
- The products are marketed on the basis of shoddy evidence, all of which is drawn from self-funded, inconclusive and very short-term studies.
Take this study for example, which examined weight loss in obese middle-aged women, by using a one-day-a-week intermittent fasting program. On these days, one group consumed an Isagenix shake, while the other group consumed the same number of kilojoules, but made up of normal food. Though there was initial advice given from dietitians, the remaining meal choice was up to the participants, and food intake was self reported.
The results were positive for the Isagenix group, as they ended up losing an extra kilo compared to the control group, though it has to be pointed out that the Isagenix group actually consumed around 250 calories (~1000kj) less than the control group, accounting for the extra weight loss. There’s also a pretty big question mark around the idea that intermittent fasting was part of the research, considering it has absolutely nothing to do with Isagenix!
- Our bodies do not need to be cleansed. Contrary to the pseudoscience and scaremongering Isagenix employ, our internal organs will not “become clogged and deteriorate” if we don’t detox! Isagenix liken the human body to an air conditioner that needs its filter changed (via a cleanse, of course), but as I’ve explained before, our liver, skin, kidneys, intestines and lymphatic system all work to detox our bodies daily, and they do a great job of it.
- Isagenix is expensive. Purchasing a ‘suite’ of their products could set you back upwards of $500 for a months supply, and the trick is that you’ll have to keep paying for it to keep losing, or to maintain your weight loss. If something only works while you keep paying, is it worth it?
- The weight loss is circumstantial. As Isagenix involves replacing a number of meals with their own low kilojoule shakes, it’s unsurprising that weight loss follows. No miracles here, simply calorie restriction.
- What’s even in these products? According to Dr Harriet Hall, a self-confessed sceptic with a particular interest in debunking alternatives medicines, Isagenix have thrown in just about every nutrient and herbal supplement they could get their hands onto. Over 240 ingredients feature in Isagenix products, some of which are useless, some of which are potentially harmful – and as a mixture, there’s no way of knowing how they may interact.
- The products have not been evaluated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the Australian government body in charge of regulating medicinal products. What this means is that the products are unverified for safety, yet freely available to anybody.
So, that’s how I see it. Sadly, the speedy weight loss, alongside (in my opinion) a combination of placebo effect and perhaps a boost in previously deficient micronutrients, are enough to have followers singing its praises.
Results from the Australian Health Survey this year revealed that on average, less than 7% of us reach the recommended 5 serves of vegies a day, yet so many of us are willing to fork out hard earned money on short-term fixes like Isagenix. So please, save your cash and run a mile if faced with nothing descriptors, like ‘nutritional cleansing.’