Health Fads Edition: Plexus

Disclaimer: I know several people who sell or use Plexus, and this is not intended to attack or mock them or imply they are unethical

A couple of years ago Plexus bounced into my Facebook feed, sold by a family friend. Being a firm believer in the mantras of “There are no miracle cures” and “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” I was instantly skeptical, but decided to ignore it. Over the past several years, however, the popularity of Plexus as a mid-level marketing business and as a supplement grew dramatically. So I finally decided to do a little digging and find out if I was wrong, if there was any evidence supporting the ingredients of  Plexus.

Investigating Plexus’s website, the company claims to have conducted a clinical study of Plexus Slim (highlighted below), but offers no link to the actual study, so there’s no way to evaluate the quality (specifically, number of participants enrolled). Searching the National Institute of Health’s research repository Pubmed, I couldn’t find any published research mentioning Plexus. So I went and looked at individual products on Plexus’ website. Most products linked to several studies purporting to support the efficacy of ingredients in the product. So I googled the papers.

Plexus-1
https://plexusworldwide.com/product/plexus-slim

This is where it got interesting. The paper cited for the use of chromium to balance blood sugar/lipid metabolism states the following: “No significant effect of chromium on lipid or glucose metabolism was found in people without diabetes.” Yet the supplement marketing suggests that it’s good for non-diabetics. This is shoddy marketing at best, if not plain deceitful.

The paper on xylooligosaccharides is a bit more complicated, but basically, the study used 29 volunteers–which isn’t a lot (the paper claims 34, but the numbers don’t add up, so perhaps they dropped the additional five). 16 of these were healthy, while 13 were pre-diabetic . The volunteers were randomized to placebo (control) and xylooligosaccharide (experimental) groups, with 14 total volunteers (7 healthy, 7 pre-diabetic) assigned to the experimental group. The rest were placebo. This means the xylooligosaccharide was only tested on 7 pre-diabetic volunteers—which is roughly statistically worthless. So this paper isn’t sufficient to support the claims of xylooligosaccharides.

Finally, there is no paper cited for the use of green coffee bean extract.

I looked at their other products, and found a similar trend. Some products didn’t cite any studies. Others cited studies for some of their ingredients, but not all. More concerning, the papers only supported what Plexus cited them for about half the time. For instance, the paper on the use of therapeutic fruit peels examined their use in weight lose, not for cleansing, and suggested they weren’t helpful, although Plexus cited it for their biocleanse. Similarly, the paper cited for grape seed extract looked at using it to lower blood pressure, while Plexus claimed it supported “gut health”. (it’s also worth noting that for individuals with low blood pressure, lowering it further is not necessarily a good idea). The worst offender may have been Plexus Nerve. It claims to reduce nerve discomfort, but all the ingredients with cited sources were tested for mood disorders or stress, not hyperactive nerves.

Plexus-2
The claims (https://plexusworldwide.com/product/plexus-nerve)
plexus-3
Actual functions  of ingredients(https://plexusworldwide.com/product/plexus-nerve)

Even when the papers did support Plexus’ claims, they sometimes came with caveats. For instance, Plexus Ease, intended apparently to reduce muscle soreness, contains an oil from the New Zealand green-lipped mussel. The paper cited in support of that did find a small positive effect in reducing post-workout soreness, but noted other studies of the same product (not a Plexus product) had not found a similar benefit. So the jury is still out on green-lipped mussel oil’s benefit.

So, are there any Plexus product supported by science? The probiotic Vitalbiome is probably the best supported by science, and actually listed the strains and species used, but caveated that number of bacteria present as “at time of manufacture”, and didn’t claim they were live (which is crucial). Regardless, as I have previously written, the benefits of probiotics have only been demonstrated for people ill with diarrhea or who have taken antibiotics. There is no benefit conclusively known for healthy people.

So what do we say to all the people who claim to have been helped by Plexus? Well, there a couple of possibilities–

  1. Some of the ingredients in some Plexus products are actually helpful for some people (need proper testing to demonstrate this, and it needs to be published scientifically)
  2. People make additional lifestyle changes when they start on Plexus, and these changes are actually responsible for the positive impact, not Plexus
  3. It’s the placebo affect (albeit a very expensive placebo)

In sum, Plexus tries to look like it’s supported by science, but it largely isn’t. Claims of clinical trials with no links or data on numbers enrolled are not sufficient evidence of clinical trial outcomes. Linking to papers which refute or don’t support your claims is shoddy and deceitful, and doesn’t inspire confidence in any of the products’ quality. So, I’m very unimpressed and would neither buy nor sell any Plexus product. I also would encourage friends and family to avoid buying or selling Plexus products. Feel free to comment with questions.

 

Additional reading:

https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/mobility-fitness/is-plexus-safe/

 

 

 

 

 

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