Bad Science: Debunking Shakeology’s Scientific Evidence

Lo and behold my horror when a friend told me about Shakeology–a nutrition shake that allegedly helps you lose weight and detoxify with its unique blend of all-natural ingredients. When she said that a study was done on Shakeology and it was “shown to work,” I knew I had to investigate.

Turns out she was right–there was a study conducted on Shakeology. There are even columns of testimonials from happy customers. They’ve all lost weight, and they look happy and slim.

So it works, right?

According to the science, not necessarily.

Faults with the Shakeology Study
First, we’re going to talk about the Shakeology study, which they proudly display on their website, They use one study as verifiable proof it helps people lose weight and become healthier.

I looked for three things:

– If the study held up to the rigors of scientific evaluation
– How the study was designed and carried out
– If the actual study was conducted on the shake, not the diet

Here’s what I found.

The Study Design
For starters, the Shakeology study isn’t actually published–at least not publicly. A rudimentary search showed that the only reference to this study was on the Shakeology website, contained in one, bite-sized sentence:

“In a 90-day study, participants replaced one meal per day with Shakeology, ate a balanced diet, and exercised moderately three times per week.”

This is the first red flag. In the world of science, all peer-reviewed studies are made public and people can view it for free or for a nominal fee. Why Shakeology won’t publicly publish this study is up to debate.

Secondly, this study does not indicate if it was held up the rigors of scientific evaluation. This means there are no indications if there was a placebo group, if the study was a double-blind study, or if the study was reviewed independently by a professional (called a peer-reviewed study) for validity. All of these measures are used to remove any biases, faults or weaknesses from the study, as well as ensure the study isn’t manipulated to determine an outcome that benefits a group or person.

There is no indication these controls were in place during the study.

So we have a huge issue right off the bat, just by looking at how the study was set up. While I cannot say for certain if the study was manipulated, there are signs that strongly suggest it was not conducted in the manner a normal scientific study would.

How the Study was Carried Out
Now let’s look at how the study was designed and carried out. What I’m evaluating is how the study was set up to test how the Shakeology shake itself increased weight loss. Was it set up in a way where only the shake was tested? Or was it tested as part of a diet? If it’s the latter, that’s a big concern because it’s not testing the actual shake, and therefore the data won’t be as accurate.

Looking at the study, you can see that they didn’t evaluate the shake. Instead, they evaluated how much weight people lost while eating a balanced diet, exercising moderately and replacing one meal with a shake. This design is extremely flawed.

For starters, there is absolutely no way to determine what caused the weight loss here. Instead of testing the shake separately, they decided to use it as part of a diet plan. There is no indication if this diet was a diet the participants were already on, or if they had just started it when they started consumed the shake. Therefore, you don’t know if the weight loss was caused by the shake or the overall diet.

This issue is compounded by the fact that they also included moderate exercise. Again, they did not indicate if the participants started exercising moderately during the start of the study or if was something they already did. When you add this into the mix, the weight loss could have been caused by the diet, the exercise, a combination of the two or perhaps the shake. But you can’t determine which one it is from this study.

Big problem.

To make things even more difficult, the study had the participants replace one meal with a Shakeology shake. According to the Shakeology website, one shake contains 140 to 160 calories; calories change depending on the flavor chosen. This is less than the typical American meal.

Let’s assume a person is eating 1500 calories a day, spaced out into three meals. During each meal, she eats 500 calories. But once she replaces one of the meals with the shake, the 500 calories is switched out for 160 calories. Her total daily intake is changed to 1160 calories. This increases her daily deficit by 340 calories; the weekly deficit increases by 2380 calories.

Therefore, the Shakeology shake is creating a bigger calorie deficit, which facilitates weight loss.

So, the weight loss could have occurred because of this increased deficit–but you’ll never be able to determine that from this study, since it was poorly set up. But, even assuming the shake was the cause of the weight loss, you can see the shake itself did not help people lose weight. Instead, what made them lose weight was the increased calorie deficit.

But you don’t need a shake to get in a deficit. You simply need to eat fewer calories.

It’s not rocket science.

Concluding the Study
After evaluating the study, I have determined that there are a lot of faults with this study. They won’t publish the study publicly. There is no indication of a placebo group. The study was actually evaluated a diet and exercise plan used with the shake, not just the shake. Worse, the shake itself seems to only create a bigger calorie deficit; there are no scientific indications showing that the individual ingredients in the shake improve weight loss.

Oh–and there’s no scientific proof a shake, or any beverage for that matter, will remove toxins from your body.

Final word: If you like the Shakeology shake, that’s fine–continue to use it as a weight loss tool. Just be aware that the study contains many flaws which I encourage Shakeology to address.

More from this contributor:
Does Your Child Have Exercise Bulimia?
How to Practice Flexible Eating, With Examples
If it Fits Your Macros (IIFYM): Good Diet Strategy or Excuse to Eat Junk?

“The Science – Shakeology,”
“The Shake – Shakeology,”

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