For 40 years, Herbalife Nutrition has made a name for themselves in the health and wellness industry. Around the world, more than 4.8 million people consume their nutrition products every day. Like Herbalife, many companies offer dietary supplements for nearly every category. The idea behind this is that proper nutrition and supplementation can improve your overall health. Of course, not all supplements are made alike. The truth is that the quality of a product starts at a smaller-than-microscopic level-with DNA verification.
As the market is flooded with more and more supplements, it is up to reputable supplement providers to make a difference. Based on our research, Herbalife Nutrition appears be at the cutting edge of botanical testing innovation in healthy lifestyle products.
Here is a little more about how Herbalife Nutrition ensures quality control from the time ingredients are sourced to when the products make it to your pantry.
The term “botanical” comes from the Greek word botanē, which means pasture, which eventually morphed into the name botanikos, or “herb.” Today, botanical is used as an adjective to describe many food-related items. The use of botanicals in what we eat and the supplements we take affects our overall health. Botanicals are essential to Herbalife ingredients, as well as the integrity of what they put into their products.
Much of what we know of modern medicine and healthy lifestyles comes from traditional medicinal practices, and many of these practices involved the use of botanicals. Even today, almost everyone globally relies-in one way or another-on botanicals in their diets and supplements. This ranges from teas for health and wellness, herbal remedies like Echinacea and Valerian Root, and even simple vitamin and mineral supplements.
Unfortunately, as the world population has grown, so has the need for botanicals. This has not only exacerbated the demand for botanicals worldwide but has made it so that the supply chain is much more intricate. This increased intricacy has made upholding quality assurance difficult on a global scale. Adulteration is a known problem in the industry that could compromise the quality, safety or effectiveness of a product. In addition, there are now so many different producers, manufacturers, and sellers that the customer might not know whether the products they are buying will provide what they paid for. That’s why it’s so crucial for companies to be transparent about the processes behind the production of their products.
One of Herbalife Nutrition’s most sought-after ingredients is its tea, which is sourced directly from the lush, green landscape of rural China. After all, China has been the gold standard for tea for thousands of years. It is where all the most popular and revered global tea brands source their tea leaves.
Herbalife Nutrition acquires all its botanicals from trusted suppliers that have been producing quality ingredients for generations, eliminating one of the common problems many supplement providers have with the supply chain. Trusted tea farmers, for example, use the same quality of teas, planting methods, and utilize the same climate standards that lead to standardized growth. This ensures quality control between the generations of tea plants raised. Herbalife ingredients all share this standard supply chain sourcing method, which is the company’s way of upholding best practices.
Herbalife does not just rely on their raw material providers to verify authenticity. Their scientists and quality assurance teams verify the authenticity of plant-based ingredients using DNA-based forensic biotechnology. This highly unique and hyper-focused process allows Herbalife to uphold quality assurance on its products as deep down as their DNA. To do this, scientists extract DNA and conduct a molecular diagnostic test.
Why go through a seemingly complicated process for products? The reason is multifold, but really, it’s to protect customers. Across the food and drink industry, this process is routine in ensuring foodborne pathogens do not reach consumers. However, it also ensures that each batch of a product remains similar at the molecular level.
Although DNA-testing is not verified or regulated globally, the NHP Research Alliance is currently working with leading supplement providers worldwide, including Herbalife Nutrition, to ensure that all the botanicals included in their supplements are DNA-verified with global consistency. The NHP Research Alliance, based out of the University of Guelph, is committed to product authentication, sustainability, and development.
Why work with a third-party organization like NHP? It not only verifies that the ingredients going into Herbalife Nutrition’s products are held at the highest standards, but it also paves the way for better health and product regulations for the consumer.
Herbalife Nutrition is committed to quality and therefore pushes the envelope when it comes to botanical DNA testing methods. Pushing qualitative, quantifiable measurement is essential not only for improving the products that Herbalife Nutrition already uses but also for future scientific endeavors. It ensures front-end supply chain testing (something that many of their competitors do not do) and encourages better testing throughout production.
Collecting botanical specimens is also critical to preserving species for the future. These front-end specimen collections allow for archival saving, DNA referencing, and more. Climate change continually threatens even the most essential plant species, and that-as well as human interference-has caused the systematic extinction of many native plants. Plants collected as reference preserve species in the event of extinction and aid in present-day research. So, this research is a safeguard to biological diversity, but it also allows scientists to study the many ways in which botanical ingredients influence and fortify human health.
Archiving botanical knowledge will be critical in a changing future, but it also helps us understand exactly what is going on in the present with food-related plants. Monitoring front-end product samples allows botanists and scientists to observe changes under scenarios like climate change, human-related environmental change, and more. They can match variations against previous examples to study these things in real-time.
Recently, Dr. Steven Newmaster, founder of the NHP, spoke about the process of DNA testing with Herbalife Nutrition and the NHP, explaining,
“[It is] exciting when we spot a unique pattern of genetic variations in a plant, because it is critical to assembling comprehensive genomic and metabolomic libraries. This data is then matched against the end product – dried leaves, powders, and extracts. Through DNA identity testing, we can validate if the correct plant species were, in fact, used, leaving no room for assumptions of the tea’s authenticity and origins.”
In layman’s terms, it gives scientists insight into how plants were sown (as well as where they were sown), but it is also a hyper-scientific process that will allow transparency at the consumer level.
Herbalife Nutrition is setting the standard for supplement suppliers globally by advocating for better transparency in DNA testing. In conjunction with the chemical standard botanical reference material libraries at the University of Guelph, globally-consistent testing would include the following:
On-site testing standard operating protocols (SOP) including:
Although based on scientific testing best practices, these suggestions also align with Herbalife Nutrition’s “Seed to Feed” commitment, which verifies each process of product manufacturing from start to finish. Their Seed to Feed process generally involves the following:
The NHP is a relatively new organization, created when scientists saw the need to standardize testing of food-grade substances like supplements. To garner support from the supplement and food science community, the NHP reached out to some of the biggest and best-known supplement suppliers globally, including Herbalife Nutrition.
Herbalife Nutrition’s alliance with the NHP means that the company uses standardized DNA identification tools to ensure that every ingredient in their supplements matches their claims. Even a minor variation in plant type can skew these claims, so this one more effort of many to ensure these products meet company (and consumer) standards.
The first NHP investigation was a DNA analysis of Herbalife Ingredients in their Cookies ‘n Cream Formula 1 Healthy Meal Nutritional Shake Mix. The NHP examined samples of the raw product alongside the final product. They extracted the DNA from each and compared the sequences to verify that the final product contained those authentic raw ingredients. To support the scientific process and fair and accurate testing, the NHP did multiple batch testing of each and concluded that the Cookies ‘n Cream formula used verifiable raw products in their final products.
Herbalife Nutrition’s commitment to upholding scientific testing standards around the world creates opportunities for the company and young scientists. Recently, Dr. Newmaster’s student, Adam Faller, had the opportunity to visit Herbalife Nutrition facilities in China to perform research on the molecular authentication of Botanical DNA.
As a young PhD student, he wanted field experience to answer questions such as:
Many of these questions are relevant to the dietary supplements industry. Customers of nutrition products also ask the same questions, though stated differently:
Newmaster guided Faller through his research, which sampled botanicals at the tea fields in China that Herbalife Nutrition sources for their tea. In China, he also met and worked with Dr. Yanjun Zhang, a principal scientist at Herbalife Nutrition’s Natural Products Methods Research Team. For the project, Faller picked front-end tea leaves from Herbalife Nutrition suppliers and examined them at all stages of the tea process (from dried leaves to powder). He measured DNA metrics during each of these supply tests and compared them to ensure that it was sourced from the original plant.
Of the project, Faller said, “When all of this comes together, we have a real possibility of advancing science, engaging academics, and elevating the industry’s quality standard.”
Herbalife Nutrition has and will continue to be part of initiatives that engage with scientific integrity and expand the future of food science and academics.
The future applications of these tests aside, most of these scientific studies come down to proving the authenticity and ending sales fraud in the nutritional supplements industry. Because Herbalife Nutrition prides itself on providing authentic products, authenticity is essential.
However, customers are not always initially concerned with the authenticity or origin story of the products they use. Regardless of this fact, they should be, and this is true for botanically-sourced products, too. Adulterated products (or products tainted at some point during production) do not always provide the same nutritional quality as their raw product. Customers who pay for a product expect it to uphold its claims, which isn’t possible if a supplier or company cuts corners or substitutes ingredients with inferior species of the same botanical. Therefore, as a manner of principle, authenticity and transparency should be at the forefront of the health and wellness industry.
Science is an ever-growing field, and at some point, all scientific processes or methods become obsolete. However, the best scientific practices and procedures are consistently added to and improved upon with continued study. Herbalife Nutrition is an innovative and integral part of the scientific integrity of product sourcing through its botanical authentication and testing initiatives.