Friday, February 25, 2011

The ViSalus scam: Pyramid schemes and your health

What is ViSalus?

ViSalus Sciences sells health and fitness products in the form of dietary supplements, protein shakes, energy drinks, and the like. Like all weight loss and fitness programs, they rely on heavily Photoshopped images and anecdotal evidence to prove that the products work. Miraculous stories of people losing 100 plus pounds are not uncommon on the Web site, but they are, misleadingly, uncommon. Here's the fine print:
 "Results not typical. Healthy weight loss is 1-2 lbs. per week. Results vary by amount of weight you need to lose, diet, exercise, and adherence to the program. ViSalus products are not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Note: You should not take this product if you are pregnant or lactating, or using blood thinning medication. Please consult your physician prior to use."
"Results not typical."
Perhaps the products are not so miraculous - perhaps ViSalus is a pyramid scheme using these products to disguise itself as a "legitimate" multi-level marketing company.

What is a pyramid scheme?

Don't sugar coat it, guys. Multi-level marketing (MLM) is a pseudonym. Scheming companies promise exorbitant gains after a "minimal" investment, but they don't tell you just how much work you'll have to put into it. What do I mean? Let's look at what a pyramid is real quick.
Pyramid: tall, pointy, smaller at the top than the bottom. Most famously found in Egypt. 
As an initiate at ViSalus you'll find yourself at the bottom, part of the herd. How do you advance? Well, you have to find someone to take your place. How do you do this? Well, convincing people that the company is legitimate through social media like Facebook is one route, of course it also helps when the company promises a miracle product, free cars, Hollywood vacations, and prizes for referring more customers.
"Joining a pyramid is risky because the vast majority of participants lose money to pay for the rewards of a few people at the top." - Bureau of Consumer Protection
The money flows upward. To incentivize you, the company pays you for each person you persuade to join the scheme. You pay dues in the form of monthly memberships and advertising kits (and perhaps little pieces of your soul), as does each "entrepreneur" below you. These dues flow upward to the company executives, who in turn rub their hands together greedily and laugh manically. Meanwhile you'll be lucky to break even let alone make a significant amount of profit.

A legitimate pursuit?

Google search results for ViSalus reviews are inundated with copycat sites that simply repeat the same information ad nauseum. Objective reviews on the company or their products are nonexistent. The first two pages of the search results (and many more following, but let's be honest, who looks that far?) are sites linking to supposedly legitimate and "third party" reviews. If ViSalus is good at one thing, it is marketing. They've certainly mastered the art of flooding search engines. 
Pseudoscientific evidence: a shadow on the wall.
My point here is that there are no objective studies on the company's products. The white papers they present on their Web site are full of jargon and do not directly relate to any of the products ViSalus offers. Again, they are unrelated to the products. Even if they were related, the layman is not going to be able to understand these papers.

ViSalus, if you had hard evidence for the success of your product then you would not throw jargony fluff on your site as proof. That's Public Relations 101. Kudos on the stock image of a scientist filling a test tube, though. Priceless.  

With lack of evidence comes...

False analogies. Here's one:
 "Think about how often we manage to change the oil in our cars. Probably every 3,000 miles, right? But how long will we go before we give our bodies the tune up it requires?"
Cars are not people!
One major problem here - cars are not biological. They have no means of self-repair, they have no caloric intake. Excess gasoline does not become fatty gasoline deposits that make the vehicle feel self-conscious. While it sounds good, the analogy lacks logic.  

But what about your health?

As in all things: moderation and a healthy amount of skepticism. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry published a study on dietary supplements that ends with a few tips on staying healthy and being aware of miraculous products like the ones ViSalus offers.

1. Demand scientific studies
ViSalus offers no hard scientific proof that their products work. They rely on extreme anecdotal evidence to pull in desperate consumers. The white papers on the Web site are not even related to the products.

2. Follow the FDA criterion: only follow nutritional advice if proven to be safe and effective.
It was in the fine print. ViSalus products, along with similar weight-loss products, are not evaluated by the FDA - period.

3. View the nutritional advice of “experts,” ... with a hypercritical eye. Their track record is poor.
Yes, this even means the supposed experts that ViSalus puts under its "Science" page - Dr. Michael D. Seidman and Steven A. Witherly.


  1. You are very wise!It's amazing how many people fall for pyramid schemes! A very cleverly written expose.

  2. Lol, I find this article laughable as I have taken this product directly to doctors and pharmacists on my own and they say they have never seen a better product! I have taken the products myself for over a year and feel wonderful and energetic. I have quit my traditional business to promote Visalus full-time because, like anything else, if you apply yourself and follow direction and the business system that is in place, you are and will always be a winner. AND winners always rise to the top!

  3. Lol, I find this article laughable as I have taken this product directly to doctors and pharmacists on my own and they say they have never seen a better product! I have taken the products myself for over a year and feel wonderful and energetic. I have quit my traditional business to promote Visalus full-time because, like anything else, if you apply yourself and follow direction and the business system that is in place, you are and will always be a winner. AND winners always rise to the top!

  4. Sounds like you have made a bad business decision somewhere in your career and are sterotyping all MLM's. I have met many of the people that you say are 'photoshopped' and confirm that they are NOT digitally enhanced. There are 8 people in my family that are on the 90 Challenge with a total of 140 pounds lost. The fine print and warnings are mandated by the FDA...not Vislus. Maybe you need to try the product before you pass judgement and by the way..there is not monthly dues and you don't have to be a distributor to get the product for free. Get the facts and write an article that is truthful..not bias.

  5. I am a new to the Visalus Market and I looked at it this way if I am able to help someone, anyone become a healtier person and beable to play with the kids again, or even live again, that is one thing about this company we are a family and everyone is willing and able to help everyone and anyone. You should really do a bit more research on something before you pass judgement. For example the FDA will not give the approvals on Dietatry Supplments because it is not a drug or food. People like you writing articles like this only do one thing and that is keeps me going I have been on the product for 60 days and have lost 44 lbs. it has saved my life I could not say anything bad about the Visalus Family and friends I have made. The support I get is out of this world and it sounds like that is what your missing. Please feel free to find a local Visalus Rep and talk to him/her it would be life changing for you and your family.

  6. I love this article!! I agree 100% with you! It is so sad that this company has to lie to get customers!! AFter doing a search on youtube I found a video by a Visalus sleeze bag stating that she was CURED of type 1 Diabetes. If they would have taken enough time to look up the definition of Diabetes type 1 they would have found that it isn't curable, you must take some form of insulin becaue the pancreas makes little to no insulin!!! Heck, if these shakes have magical power to work as insulin why hasn't a pharmecuetical company jumped on this miracle shake (overrated slim fast). I really don't know how these people sleep at night. It's sad though because someone could get seriously injured from their false claims.

  7. What I find very Funny is that you DID Not Do your home work to create this article! For one lets really look at your claims of supposed medical experts Dr. Seidman who is recognized as the top 1% of Doctors in the United States. So that means that 99% of doctors aren't as skilled or knowledgable. Secondly lets anlyze your claims against the MLM industry. I think you need to look at the failure rate for the Small business industry as a whole which is well over 50% in the US but in some states reach well over 70%, and mind you these business cost on average over $100,000 in start up funding, not $499 (which of course you dont mention are both 100% tax right offs). To continue lets analyze the term Pyramid Scheme that would be acording to your picture where the average person works and the few get wealthy. Thats also exactly the same model a large business would install (I.E. Microsoft only has one CEO but several thousand programers who all make a sad salary of $60K at an average of 60hrs a week, thats considered a good Job) The MLM industry is just like anything else in life if you work hard and never let anyone stop you escpecially narrow minded people success is yours for the taking. My wife and I have lost over 50 pounds each and kept it off longer then any life style change we have ever tried and as far as getting ripped off I couldnt possibly get ripped off at this point, and thats because my profit out ways my investment and that is the majority of my team the people who fail usually fail from the crabs in a barrel syndrom as I call it. The minute they start to improve there life a friend or family member reaches up and yanks them back down and they choose to quite. There team and company reaching down the whole while trying to pull them back up. So to recap this article is warning for sure but seems to outline how to be a crab at the bottom of the barrel. If you really want to change you position in life read the book by Robert Kiyosaki "The Business School for People Who Like Helping People" and go to the link below to start your life over living out side a pyramid scheme

  8. I for one am glad to find this article. I was in visalus. I even went to a conference. It is all hype! For one, it is hard to sell the products because of teh terrible econmy,second,if you fail at it, you have no friends in it, tehy leave you standing there alone. At teh conference, the only ones they recognize are the ones really making the owners the cash. they even roped off a place for ethe best ones and outed teh ones who were not making the money,and it was degrating. For another instance, if you eat right and exercise, you will have much better results. Here is the thing, I am not over weight, but I tried it in hope of looking better as tehy state and to feel better, well, I gained weight, and after much searching as they really do flood teh search engines, I found countless people who said not only that it did NOT work, but they too were out of money, and gained weight. so before you big ones in visalus get on here and make your false statements, I can honestly say, vislaus is only hype and i am so mad that i bought into it. I could go on but here is my advice, stay away from it ans safe you and your friends the cash. every customer I had, stopped, because it does not work. it is all a scam, a big scam, nick sarnicola and them show you pics of their fab lifestyle but they fail to tell you they had money long before visalus. and if you dont make the sales, you are gonna find out how fast they never liked you anyway, or, in other words, tehy were never your friends. tehy want you to get in on it so you can help to pay for their vacations, their ultimate lifestyles and so on.

  9. Whether or not there is indeed a Visalus scam is something most people that are interested in the company’s business opportunity are not sure about. The only way you can be sure about this is by taking a close look at the company’s profile, leadership, products and the opportunity itself. That is what this Visalus scam is all about.

  10. The FDA, the BBB, the government, and all those companies in capitol hill, those are the real fraud!! How do you think all the insurance companies, banks, and every other company in this nation are so successful, because they all have started with some kind of network marketing.

  11. The sad part about these scams is not the money you lose, which can be a lot. I personally know people that lost their home because they ran up so much debt trying to stay in the game. But the really sad ones who I also know personally that have destroyed their marriage because of the money spent and spent away from home.