Protandim: Can You Hack Your Body Using Plants?
I’ve gotten several requests to review Protandim, which I honestly had never heard about until now. Apparently, Protandim is a biohacking supplement, meant to hack your cells to help you stay younger and optimize your body.
Biohacking is the brainchild of Silicon Valley programmers who want to live forever by ‘hacking’ their body via nootropic supplements, prolonged fasting, and whatever else crazy shit they make up.
Let’s just say that I’m not a huge fan of ‘hacks,’ especially those that attempt to interfere with the body’s natural, normal processes while sucking all of the pleasure out of life.
Four-day fast, anyone?
No thanks, I’m good. I’d rather eat than live to be 150.
Protandim is an MLM supplement line by a company named Lifevantage. Apparently, Erin Brockovich is a salesperson for them, which, well, who gives a shit?
Anyhow, I was curious about the products they sell, because there does seem to be some research behind them. But like in all other situations, just having research behind your product doesn’t mean a thing until you answer the following questions:
Is the research peer-reviewed and published in legit journals?
Is the methodology sound? Are the trials randomized and controlled?
Is the research done on humans, or on plants, animals, or in lab dishes?
Are the trials sponsored by the company producing the product?
I can tell you that most of the studies I see MLMs using as proof that their products work are complete garbage.
The research isn’t peer reviewed and/or it’s published in trash journals
The methodology is a hot mess
The research is done on rats or monkeys, not humans
The trials are sponsored by the company – which vastly increases the likelihood that the results will find what they’re looking for. Call it confirmation bias, conflict of interest, or whatever. It’s a thing, though.
Also, it’s important to note that the positive outcomes in research should be replicated in various studies. It’s one thing for a study to find that something works once. But it’s quite another to be able to reproduce those results numerous times by different labs, which confirms the outcome.
What is Protandim NRF2?
Protandim is a plant-based nutraceutical that contains milk thistle, bacopa, turmeric, ashwangandha, and green tea, and this combination is supposed to increase the body’s antioxidant activity.
This sounds great, but I’m skeptical. How do these readily-available, basic plants do all the fantabulous things that Protandim says they can?
Reducing oxidative and cellular stress
Regulating ‘survival genes’
Supporting the body’s ability to ‘repair and rejuvenate its own cells’
These are some hefty claims. We know that oxidative stress may lead to accelerated aging, and may lead to diseases such as cancer. But remember that these things are complicated, and multifactorial.
Protandim NRF2 Synergizer is “clinically proven to reduce oxidative stress in humans by 40% in 30 days…it has been shown to increase superoxide dismutase levels by 30%, and catalase by 54%. When individuals were supplemented with Protandim Nrf2 Synergizer for 30 days, the age-dependent increase in lipid peroxidation was reduced to the level of a 20-year-old.”
Sounds sciencey! DISMUTASE THO.
Essentially what the company is saying this supplement does, is reduce damage to cells from, well, living life. Lipid peroxidation is simply the process where free radicals (which we don’t want a lot of) are created from fatty acids in the body. Superoxide dismutase is an enzyme that neutralizes free radicals. Catalase is yet another enzyme found in the body, that neutralizes free radicals.
So yes, those things are good to have.
I went looking for the research on Protandim, since it sounded so amazing.
What I found was not so amazing. SHOCKER.
One thing to remember about ALL MLM products: if something spectacularly innovative and life-changing existed, the FDA would be selling it, not an MLM.
I promise you that.
So about that research.
The vast majority of the studies done on Protandim have been done on rats and on cells in lab dishes. And while I don’t think animal studies are worthless, they’re preliminary. We aren’t rodents, genetically, socially, and physically, and we can’t just extrapolate the results of animal studies to humans doing actual human research to back it up.
In other words, a company like Lifevantage can and does claim that its products have been researched at Harvard and other great institutions, but if that research has only been on animals or in a lab, well, I’m unimpressed. Sorry. It’s a huge leap – not to mention disingenuous and misleading – to use those studies to market a product, but so many companies do this.
The 2006 human study that Protandim quoted above is only a half-truth: yes, there was a 40% decrease in oxidative stress in study subjects – using the TBARS test (which is not considered to be a reliable marker.) The methodology was also a mess.
Another human study done in 2016 on Protandim supplementation in athletes found that the supplement had no effect on TBARS or performance. The trial was also not randomized or controlled, two serious marks against it.
And as far as anti-aging, while Protandim may have increased lifespan in male rats by 7%, why haven’t they reproduced these results in humans?
Maybe because they can’t.
I can tell you though that looking through all the studies that have been done on Protandim, there aren’t a lot of results that show the supplements being beneficial to the aging process, disease prevention, mental acuity, or oxidative stress and issues resulting from it. It’s fine to say that your supplement increases X or Y in the body, but what effect does that increase have?
Probably nothing, since we’re all still getting older, and Protandim hasn’t released any compelling evidence to the contrary. And believe me, they’ve had plenty of time.
Protandim’s other products aren’t any better.
The NRF1 Synergizer is the same old thing – they combine L-carnitine, quercitin, alpha lipolic acid, and Q10, and claim that NRF1 gives you energy (‘Boost ATP!’) and more mitochondria.
None of these claims have been proven in any research at all.
In fact, L-carnitine is readily available in food, and our bodies make it themselves. It has a reputation among weightlifters for increasing endurance, but those aren’t supported by science.
Protandim NAD Synthesizer.
Their NAD Synthesizer capitalizes on the recent popularity of the Sirtfood Diet – the one that Adele used to lose a ton of weight (I reviewed it here).
Protandim claims that the combination of theacrine – a compound found in tea, plus niacin, copper, wasabi, and olive leaf improve cell signalling pathways and increases sirtuin activity by 94%.
According to Protandim, NAD Synthesizer:
Improves mood and motivation
Improves focus and concentration
Boosts mental and physical energy
Supports healthy longevity and autophagy
Supports the body’s inflammatory response
Maintains cholesterol levels that are ALREADY in the healthy range
But as you’ve probably guessed, there is absolutely no research to prove the efficacy of this supplement for any of the above claims.
Wasabi? Pass the spicy tuna rolls!
In other words, Protandim is a fucking dumpster fire.
In 2017, Lifevantage was served with a warning letter by the FDA for claiming that Protandim can treat certain diseases. They were supposed to remove all of those claims, and they did. But the livelihood of the product depends on its supposed efficacy in improving health and decreasing risk for disease, and therefore, the company’s marketing still implies that Protandim can have an effect on those things.
Protandim makes a lot of claims that it can’t support. It uses scientific jargon to convince potential customers that the company knows its shit, but it seems like a total fucking scam…they’re selling supplements that human research doesn’t back up.