May 15, 2012

Body-By-Vi Review: Is ViSalus a Scam?

If you have even a passing affiliation with the fitness and health industry, you’ve, no doubt, come across a number of individuals (both fitness professionals and lay people alike) promoting ViSalus products or the Body-By-Vi challenge.

In fact, over the past six months I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve been approached by Visalus reps suggesting I promote their products.

And my answer each time is the same: a polite “thanks but no thanks”, while silently rolling my eyes and cursing the sorry state of the weight loss industry.

“To all my little Hulkamaniacs, say your prayers, take your vitamins ViSalus and you will never go wrong.”

For those of you who haven’t heard of ViSalus yet (and I’m guessing that is possibly only 4 people in North America), ViSalus is a multi-level marketing (MLM) company promoting a line of supplements as part of a 90-day weight loss challenge.

The essence of the program is as follows: users purchase one of five ViSalus weight loss supplement kits available (ranging from $49-$299/month) as part of a “transformation challenge” and at the end of the 90 days, those with the most impressive transformations are eligible to win huge prizes.

Now before I address ViSalus products, to be fair I should applaud ViSalus for attempting to inject some excitement among the lay public into the very real problem of how to motivate North Americans to address our growing obesity epidemic.  If dangling the chance to win a trip, photoshoot or gift card motivates someone to drop body fat, then by all means continue doing so!

But culture of excitement aside, that’s about where it ends in terms of valid reasons why fitness professional should consider recommending ViSalus products.

One of the biggest red flags that should immediately jump out at fitness professionals deciding whether or not to promote ViSalus comes from the ViSalus website itself. When you visit the ViSalus website, you’ll discover that roughly 80% of their site deals more with trying to recruit you to become a ViSalus sales rep, instead of actually discussing their product.

Now call me old-fashioned, but when the #1 objective of any company’s promotional material is aimed at recruiting new salespeople and not actually highlighting the benefits of their product or outlining why their product is superior to that of their competitors, this is pretty much a dead giveaway you are dealing with an inferior quality product.

Incidentally, I have no problem with MLM companies provided they actually confer a real service or product, which ViSalus does. So in that sense, ViSalus definitely can’t be considered a scam.

I believe every company is entitled to recruit salespeople or ambassadors for their brand. I’m also more than happy to recommend products or services to my clients (whether or not I receive an affiliate commission for doing so), as long as the product I’m recommending is in my client’s best interest.

However, judging from the number of “BMW reward photos” featuring ViSalus salespeople populating my Facebook feed (many) compared to the number of awesome Body-by-Vi transformation photos (zero), it seems to me that the major benefits of this product DO NOT come from actually using it yourself.

But suspect sales tactics aside, the most egregious offenses to fitness professionals everywhere have to be that:

  1. Visalus, the company, shows a pretty suspect understanding of nutritional science.
  2. The quality of the ingredients used in their products is sub par and embarrassingly over-priced.

I’ll address this 2nd point in greater detail Thursday, so remember to check back.

So without further ado let’s examine the evidence.

 

ViSalus-Sciences: Where Is the Science?

For a company calling itself ViSalus-Sciences, I was amazed at how difficult it was to locate any information on their website concerning the scientific benefits of their products. However, after an exhaustive search I eventually stumbled across the “white paper” section on their website, which contains some information.

Normally, the term “white paper” is used to denote an authoritative paper issued by an organization. So, one might expect this section to contain a number of great summary papers about the impressive weight loss benefits of their products or at least the weight loss benefits of the ingredients contained within their products.

Of course, expecting a supplement company to actually provide concrete science in support of their products is probably as wise as expecting great success from your efforts at teaching your pet pot-bellied pig to fly.

However, under the white paper section of Visalus’ website you’ll find such illustrious titles as:

  • Resveratrol-induced apoptotic death in human U251 glioma cells
  • Otholaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery
  • Biologic Activity of Mitochondrial Metabolites on Aging and Age-Related Hearing Loss
  • Anti-Intercellular Adhesion Molecule – 1 Antibodys Effect on Noise Damage
  • Aging of the Cochlea
  • Age-related Hearing Loss and its Association with Reactive Oxygen Species and Mitochondrial DNA damage
  • Effects of Dietary Restriction and Antioxidants on Presbyacusis
  • Auditory research involving antioxidants
  • The Rationale for Consuming Protein Blends in Sports Nutrition
  • Biologic Activity of Mitochondrial Metabolites on Aging and Age-Related Hearing Loss
  • Effects of resveratrol on acoustic trama
  • Influence on lecithin on michondrial DNA and age-related hearing loss

 

Come again ViSalus, you’ve got to be kidding right?!?

Oh where or where to begin…

 

Problem #1: None of these links are “white papers”.

All of these titles are actually just original research papers, not authoritative summary papers issued by ViSalus or another organization specializing in weight loss.

I suppose that assuming a company calling itself Visalus-Sciences would understand that an original research paper IS NOT AT ALL the same thing as a white paper.

But as the old saying goes, “when you assume you make an ass out of you and me

Well fool me once, shame on you.

Problem #2: None of these research articles actually apply to weight loss.

I find this stupendously amazing: ViSalus links to 12 articles, 7 of which relate to possible auditory benefits but NONE actually deal with weight loss.

Maybe I was mistaken with the point of the Body-by-Vi challenge; I thought it was supposed to be about weight loss. I didn’t realize the real purpose of spending hundreds of dollars a month on supplements was to markedly improve your hearing <insert eye roll>.

Considering that even a lazy Pubmed search for the term “weight loss” yields 84,133 published articles, how is it even possible that Visalus’ research team couldn’t locate even one article that links any of the ingredients used in their products to weight loss.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

Frankly, how can any self-respecting fitness professional not be appalled by the effort ViSalus puts into validating the quality of their product.

Remember, your reputation and professional integrity are on the line every time you recommend your client take something.

So this leads me to question: do those fitness professionals recommending ViSalus not know that ViSalus is marketing an inferior quality product for premium prices? Or do these fitness professionals not care about the quality of the ViSalus products and are simply interested in padding their own wallets at the expense of their clients’ well-being ($299/month for supplements… are you freakin’ kidding me?!?!)

Needless to say, if I were a client of any trainer or nutritionist peddling ViSalus I wouldn’t be impressed.

But I’ll take it on good faith that any trainer or nutritionist recommending ViSalus really just doesn’t understand why ViSalus is an inferior quality product.

So, Thursday, I will be back with a critical look at the ingredients of ViSalus shakes (something the ViSalus research team apparently couldn’t be bothered with) and see if we can’t build a much more effective product for our clients at a fraction of the cost.

Till next time, train hard and eat clean!

Part II –  ViSalus Shakes: The “Science” Behind The Shakes

 

Graeme Thomas

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