Plexus Slim: Does it work? Is it safe?

Plexus: Does it work? Is it safe?

Americans spend $40 billion a year on weight-loss programs and products. Right now, the hot product is Plexus. So, what is it? Does it work? And is it safe?

Plexus ambassador Timie Yancey said, "I'm about 8 months in right now, and I've lost 25 pounds."

Plexus ambassador Heidi Speer added, "Common misconceptions that it's just for weight loss, that it's a diet pill, that it's full of chemicals."

It's a powder that you mix with water, and then drink.

"I personally think it tastes like a cherry Tootsie Roll pop," Speer said.

Plexus Slim boasts natural ingredients, free of caffeine and other stimulants...and says on the package it's not a meal replacement.

Yancey said, "About two days in I noticed changes in how I was feeling."

Timie Yancey lost 25 pounds taking Plexus products.

Heidi Speer is a believer, too. She said, "The fact that my appetite and my cravings was not an issue was huge for me."

Both are now company ambassadors.

"I'm getting paid to share these products that we're all taking. I mean, I'm the girl who shares 50% off at Target. So sharing for me comes naturally," Yancey said.

Timie and Heidi are among the 220,000 Plexus ambassadors selling Plexus products.

They say Plexus isn't just about weight loss. They claim the products help people have better sleep, more energy, and less pain.

Plexus Slim was originally developed for diabetics to stabilize blood sugars.

Three of the main ingredients listed are chromium, green coffee bean extract and the fruit extract garcinia cambogia.

I visited with ABC's Chief Health and Medical Editor, Dr. Richard Besser, about Plexus.

He offered a word of caution.

"When it comes to taking supplements for weight loss or anything else, It's really the wild wild west. You don't really know what you're getting. The reason these products are so effective is that everyone will try one. It will work for a little bit because when you're taking it, you're not eating as many calories. That's usually part of the plan. It's something that's not sustainable. And the weight comes back and then everyone's looking for the next product," Dr. Besser said.

Other than the company's own testing, no clinical research has evaluated Plexus for safety or side effects.

Health and weight loss supplements - like Plexus - are not regulated by the FDA, which means they don't have to prove they're safe or effective to be on the market. But what they do have to do is follow FDA guidelines.

That's something government officials allege the company wasn't doing last year.

Dr. Besser said, "It's a fine line that these companies walk and they many times step over that line and say this will treat colds, treat heart disease, boost your immune system. They can't do that. They can't say those things."

The FDA issued a warning letter to Plexus Worldwide stating three of its products were "not generally recognized as safe and effective for the above referenced uses." The letter went on to say "these drugs are misbranded. You should take prompt action to correct the violations."

That's exactly what the company did.

Channel 7's Beth Hunt spoke with Chief Marketing Officer Alec Clark via Skype.

"We don't want to make claims that are not there, etc. So we take it very seriously," Clark said. "We adjusted the website language and made those changes. And now we're in compliance with the FDA's guidelines and everything is good."

Clark has been with Plexus since 2011, and in that time the company has grown at lightning speed.

"In 2010, we did about $1 million in sales. 2014, we were north of $300 million," Clark said.

He admits the company would not be where it is without its ambassadors.

Many of them say this multi-level marketing business has changed their lives.

Heidi Speer said, "I got a free Lexus out of the deal, which is incredible. But it's absolutely blown my mind, the financial opportunity that came with it."

"The fact that I'm getting rewarded to do this and I get to take my family to these trips, and I get to stay at home with my kids. And make extra money - I mean, is this real?" Timie Yancey added.

Promoting that success is part of why these two keep growing their business, but it's not a success shared by all.

Even Alec Clark admits Plexus isn't for everyone.

"Sometimes they just don't work for everybody. That's the name of the business. We want them to work for everybody. Sometimes, our body makeup, chemistry, doesn't allow for work. So, not 100% for everybody."

We heard from a few of those people on our KATV Facebook page. Jinnie Fallis wrote "Tried it. It did nothing for me." Dina Hubbard wrote "I was on it for 8 months and it made my blood pressure go up." Stephanie Wilcher wrote "Didn't work for me. I personally think it's a waste of a lot of money."

Alec Clark says their products aren't one size fits all, which is why the company offers a money back guarantee.

"That proves itself that we stand by our products. Anyone can try them and within 60 days, if they're not satisfied, send it back and we'll refund their money in whole," Clark said.

No matter which side you fall on, everyone agrees before you start taking anything, there's one thing you should do.

Clark said, "They should always take the ingredients and the product to their doctor to - just make sure it's okay for them."

Dr. Besser also said, "There are things in supplements that can interfere with some medication. Talk to your doctor, 'Hey, I'm taking this supplement - don't judge me for that - is there any problem with that.'"

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