Update 7/6/20. PB125 is said to be the “next-generation Nrf2 activator” made from “naturally-occurring plant-based ingredients.” Sounds impressive but what exactly does that mean? It means PB125 is an antioxidant supplement. If activating NrF2 sounds familiar, it should, because this is how the supplement called Protandim is said supposed to work too. Protandim is one of the most popular supplements in America. So what's better: PB125 or Protandim? In this review, I'll cover the research in PB125, its ingredients, and compare it to Protandim.
Other Anti-Aging Reviews Posted
From the supplement's website, the PB125 is said to:
- Help support the body's natural antioxidant defenses
- Reduce TBARS
- Decrease markers of cellular inflammation
- Activate the Nrf2 pathway
I'm sure TBARS and NrF2 are unfamiliar to most people so let's talk about those next.
What Are TBARS?
TBARS are short for ThiobarBituric Acid Reactive Substances. They are compounds formed when fat is damaged by free radicals. Reducing TBAR formation is taken to mean less free radical damage to our cells.
- Higher TBAR levels = more free radical damage (oxidative stress)
- Lower TBAR levels = less free radical damage
To measure your TBARS, you want to ask your doctor for a “Lipid Peroxidase test.” This test costs about $200 although it may be less depending on where you live.
Ask your doctor if your insurance will cover the test.
The makers of the Protandim supplement also claim to be able to lower TBAR levels too. Dr. Joe McCord, who heads the Pathways Bioscience research team, used to work for LifeVantage, the company which makes Protandim.
What Is NRF2?
NRF2 sounds complicated – because it is. Basically, NrF2 is a protein that helps regulate our natural antioxidant defenses. Anything which enhances/activates NrF2 is thought to improve how well we deal with free radicals.
So, the idea is better NrF2 activation = better ability to fend off free radical damage to our cells.
NrF2 regulates antioxidant defenses such as:
- Superoxide dismutase (SOD)
Another name NRF2 for this is NFE2L2.
The PB125 supplement is said to possess “NRF2.0 Technology.”
Notice the difference: NRF2 vs. NRF2.0.
It's a subtle difference meant to convey that PB125 is better/more advanced than other supplements that claim to activate the NRF2 antioxidant pathway. It's the 2nd generation of NRF2.
It's really good marketing if you ask me 🙂
PB125 Video Review
PB125 Clinical Research
Does PB125 have any clinical research proving it works? The company published the first study in 2019. It showed the ingredients in PB125 activated the NRF2 pathway in isolated cells and that they worked synergistically – better together. This is good but isolated cells are not humans.
On the Pathwaysbio.com site, the company makes reference to an investigation involving 9 men with elevated TBARS.
After taking PB125, their TBARS were reduced.
Sounds good, but they don't tell us if this study is published as a clinical paper. We also don't know things like:
- How much PB125 did they take? Assume it was 1 capsule per day.
- How old were the men?
- How long did the study last?
- Did the men change their diet during the study?
In a Press Releases, the company states Pathways Bioscience received a grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to pursue Phase I research. That's good.
The NIA website also lists PB125 as a compound they are conducting tests on. That's good too.
Any Other Research?
On the pathwaysbio.com homepage, pictures of 3 clinical studies are listed.
- Oxidative stress in health and disease: the therapeutic potential of Nrf2 activation.
- The clinical potential of influencing Nrf2 signaling in degenerative and immunological disorders.
- Superoxide dismutase. An enzymic function for erythrocuprein (hemocuprein)
But these are not studies of PB125.
The first 2 investigations are of another NrF2 supplement -called Protandim which Dr. McCord used to be involved with.
The 3rd study describes Dr. McCord's 1969 discovery of superoxide dismutase, a powerful antioxidant enzyme – yes he really discovered this stuff!
Let's next look at the ingredients in PB125.
Each 1 capsule of PB125 has the following 3 active ingredients:
|Ingredient||Amount per capsule|
|Rosemary leaf extract (Rosmarinus officinalis standardized to Carnosol content||68 mg|
|Ashwagandha root extract (Withania somnifera standardized to Withaferin A content||23 mg|
|Luteolin (from Sophora japonica bud extract||9 mg|
The supplement label also lists these other ingredients:
- Rice flower
- hydroxypropyl methylcellulose
These two ingredients have no role in the effects of the supplement.
Rosemary Leaf Extract
The supplement label tells us rosemary leaf extract (Rosmarinus officinalis) is standardized according to the amount of carnosol it has. This tells us carnosol is the extract used.
Various studies show both rosemary leaf and carnosol are antioxidants and can activate NrF2. Other researchers have noted carnosol can reduce TBAR formation in human blood cells.
Additional studies reveal these compounds have also been investigated for reducing cellular inflammation and helping diseases such as cancer and diabetes. But the majority of studies seem to be limited to lab animals and isolated cells (“test-tube studies”).
Here's Rosemary Leaf Extract on Amazon
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) also called “Indian ginseng,” is a popular herbal ingredient in several supplements previously reviewed such as:
Like all herbs, ashwagandha has many different extracts. The PB125 label tells us the ashwagandha in this supplement is standardized to the withaferin A extract it contains. This tells us withaferin is very important to the results of the supplement.
Withaferin A has been documented to induce NrF2. Many studies appear to be preliminary, being limited to isolated cells and mice.
Other researchers have noted ashwagandha can boost levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD) in lab animals. Superoxide dismutase is a powerful antioxidant enzyme. Ashwagandha was also shown to reduce auto-antibodies and free radical damage in rats that had arthritis.
Researchers in India have reported ashwagandha reduces the perception of daily stress in people more than a placebo did. This study used 300 mg of a “high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract.” The researchers did not name the specific supplement used in this investigation.
Heres Ashwagandha on Amazon
Luteolin (lou-tee-olin) is the phytonutrient extract from the tree called Sophora japonica. It's also found in:
- the spice, thyme
Keep in mind, luteolin is not lutein, the eyesight health nutrient found in carrots and spinach. Luteolin is found in many foods, however.
Foods Containing Luteolin
Foods rich in luteolin include:
Various compounds in Sophora japonica have been shown to activate NrF2. Researchers have also documented luteolin can also increase NrF2 and has anti-inflammatory effects.
Most studies appear to involve lab animals (mice/rats) and isolated cell research.
Does luteolin (or Sophora japonica) augment NrF2 in people? It's difficult to say without seeing human research.
Luteolin And ALS?
In some circles, Luteolin has a reputation for improving symptoms of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). I was intrigued by the testimonials I saw in this video:
The supplement they are talking about in the video is called LutiMax (LutiMax.com). At least one study has noted people experiencing “ALS reversals” tend to take more supplements such as luteolin.
While clinical studies on LutiMax cannot be located, given the severity of ALS, I thought this was worth mentioning for those searching for answers.
What Foods Activate NRF2?
Various foods and supplements have been shown to activate NRF2 including:
- Fruits and vegetables (especially green vegetables)
- Turmeric and curcumin
- Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA)
- Broccoli (and its Sulforaphane ingredient)
- Green tea and EGCG
- Plumbagin (venus flytrap extract)
- Protandim supplements
So, if you are eating these foods, spices or supplements, you are activating your NRF2 system.
How Much Does PB125 Cost?
Each bottle costs $50 on the supplement website. A bottle will last you 2 months (60 capsules). Shipping is only $5 per order – that's very reasonable. Tax may be extra depending on where you live.
Over the course of 1 year, PB125 will cost $300 (this does not include shipping and tax).
Where Can You Buy PB125?
You can purchase this supplement directly from PathwaysBio.com. Currently, the supplement is not sold on Amazon (double-check to make sure) or at stores like Vitamin Shoppe, GNC, Walgreens, Vitamin World, Kroger, CVS, Rite Aid, Costco, or Walmart.
Who Makes PB125
The company is called Pathways Bioscience, LLC. The website is PathwaysBio.com. The PB in the supplement name is a reference to Pathways Bioscience. The company is located at 12635 E Montview Blvd, Aurora, CO 80045.
This address appears to be some type of science hub. Other businesses at this same location include:
- Gates Biomanufacturing Facility (GatesBioManufacturing.com) which is associated with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
- Z Biotech (zbiotech.com)
To be sure, there is a lot of science going on at this location.
The PB125 company was founded in 2014. Dr. Joe McCord is the co-founder of Pathways Bioscience and the head of its research team. He is a respected scientist and the author of multiple clinical papers.
Contact Pathways Bioscience
The company's phone number is 720-372-4815.
PB125 vs. Protandim
Protandim is a very popular anti-aging /NrF2 supplement. The co-founder of Pathways Bioscience – Dr. Joe McCord – used to work for the Protandim company (LifeVantage corporation).
But, both companies are separate from each other. They do not appear to be related in any way.
So, PB125 vs. Protamdin: What's better? Let's compare the ingredients to each other:
|PB125 (1 capsule)||Protandim (1 capsule)|
|Rosemary leaf extract Carnosol) 68 mg||Milk thistle extract 225 mg|
|Ashwagandha root extract (Withaferin A) 23 mg||Bacopa extract 150 mg|
|Luteolin (from Sophora japonica bud) 9mg||Ashwagandha 150 mg|
|Green tea extract 75 mg|
|Turmeric extract 75 mg|
So how are they different? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Both PB125 and Protandim contain ashwagandha. This tells us ashwagandha is important to both. While Protandim has more of the herb, this does not necessarily make it better. Also, PB125 standardizes its ashwagandha to withaferin A. Is withaferin A better than ashwagandha? I cannot say.
2 There are several published studies on Protandim. So far, PB125 does not seem to have any published research. But, Protandim research has some issues, in my opinion. See the Protaindim review for more insights.
3. Both supplements contain ingredients that appear to augment NRF2.
4. PB125 costs less than Protandim.
Which Is Better?
So, which supplement lowers TBARS more: Protandim or PB125? Good question. So far, no studies have compared PB125 and Protandim to each other.
The big question, however, is does either supplement reduces disease risk in humans? In other words, lowering TBARS is great, but does that also mean you'd be healthier or live longer?
PB125 Side Effects
If you're basically healthy, I think PB125 is safe for most people.
Here are some general things to consider. This list is not complete:
- Start with less than is recommended for the first week. This is to see how you respond.
- Talk to your doctor if you have any health issues like diabetes, heart/blood pressure issues or thyroid problems.
- Talk to your doctor/pharmacist if you take any medicines. For example, withaferin A seems to “look like” a heart drug called digoxin.
- Stop taking the supplement at least 2 weeks before having surgery
- Don't take if you are pregnant/breastfeeding
Talk to your doctor if you have cancer. Your doctor may want you to avoid taking antioxidant supplements during radiation and chemotherapy.
What is PB123?
PB123 is the version of PB125 sold in Mexico, Central America and South America. It's similar to PB125 but not identical. PB123 contains the following ingredients:
- Ginger extract (6-gingerol)
There is no ashwagandha in PB123. In place of ashwagandha is a ginger extract (6-gingerol). Evidence suggests this extract of ginger can activate Nrf2 in isolated cells.
While this is good, the reasons why ginger extract is used in place of ashwagandha are not known.
PB123 is sold via a partner of Pathways Bioscience called Activz (Activs.com). Another difference is the sale PB123 has a multi-level marketing component to it. In other words, people in Mexico, Central, and South America can become an independent distributor of PB123.
In the US, there is no multi-level aspect to PB125 .
1 Is the supplement patented?
Yes, it is. The supplement was patented by Dr. Michael Hypertson and Dr. Joe McCord. It is US patent # WO2017041054A1. The patent also discusses other combinations of herbs which they call PB127, PB129, and PB131.
2 Is this a drug or supplement?
We are discussing a dietary supplement. There is no doubt about this. The company website explicitly states this too.
3 Do they ship internationally?
Not at this time. Right now, it's just sold/shipped in the US.
4 Is it made in America?
Yes. The bottles say “made in the USA.”
5. Is there an auto-ship program?
No. There do not seem to be auto-shipments. When you run out, go back to the website and order more. I actually liked this.
6. How many capsules do you take per day?
Only 1 capsule per day.
7. Can you take it on an empty stomach?
The company does not say either way.
8. Why do they call it PB 125
The letters PB refer to the company, Pathways Bioscience. The reason for the “125” in the name is not known. Adding up the 3 amounts of the ingredients in the supplement comes to 100, not 125.
9. Can it protect against COVID-19?
The company has published a study showing PB125 reduces the ability of COVID-19 to enter liver cells. This is very interesting. However since this is a cell study, it doesn't prove the supplement prevents Covid 19 infection in people or helps people who are infected. It will take a human study to know more about this.
Can You Make Your Own?
I think this supplement is reasonably priced. It comes to about $25 a month. But, since some will ask if you could save money by purchasing the individual ingredients all 3 ingredients can be found on Amazon:
The only issue might be if PB125 undergoes special processing to concentrate the extracts in a way that is different from other companies.
Because ashwagandha is the common ingredient between PB125 and Progandim, some might wonder if they could just take this. But, in the supplement patent, they state the addition of luteolin produced a larger increase in NRF2 activation than the other ingredients.
In other words, the company makes the argument all 3 ingredients produce a better effect than any single ingredient alone. Their cell study mentioned above appears to back up this claim.
PB 125 Pro and Con
|Patented formula||Product lacks human clinical research|
|Ingredients raise NRF2 in preliminary research||Most studies on ingredients involve non-humans|
|Real scientists invented it||Some evidence cited is for a different supplement|
|No auto-ship program||Unknown if it reduces disease in humans|
|Each bottle lasts 2 months. Not expensive||Does it ↓TBARS/activate NRF2 in humans?|
Does PB125 Work?
I'd like to wait for human clinical studies before passing judgment. The ingredients seem logical from a “raising NRF2” perspective but the larger question is what does this mean in the long run? Would taking PB125 long-term make us healthier or lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, etc.? Let's see what their future studies say.
Here is a research-based supplement I like
Cindy e says
Great article Joe, thank you.
I initially took Protandim for a year (2018 – 2019). The benefit of taking Protandim was the disappearance of brain fog that I’ve had for over 30 years. However, I did not like how Life Vantage operated their business (multi-level marketing) and wanted to leave but I still wanted to continue taking Dr. Joe McCord’s invention.
For months I searched the web, knowing Dr. McCord would eventually make available another form of Protandim, and I eventually found him and PB125. I was thrilled and contacted him. I’ve been taking PB125 about a year now and my brain fog has not returned. Thankfully I can buy direct from PB and I love that the price is half of LV.
On a side note, I would like to see a study where PB125 lowers Tbars as compared to Protandim.
Joe Cannon says
Cindy e, thanks so much Im glad my review helped you. Glad to hear PB125 is working as well for you as Protandim did. As you saw in the review the PB125 vs Protandim ingredients are different. Curious if you ever tried ashwagandha by itself? That is the ingredient both PB125 and Protandim have in common.
It would be interesting to see a Protandim vs PB125 study on TBARS and other things.
Cindy e says
Thank you Joe. No, I haven’t tried ashwagandha but I have listened to many, many of Joe McCord’s videos, studied Protandim on pubmed.gov, and his research and study results are extensive and has given me reassurance that this product is ideal for me based on my elimination of brain fog and the reduction of oxidative stress.
Yes, a side by side study with Protandim/PB125 would be very useful.
Joe Cannon says
Cindy e, here is my review of protandim research in case you missed it.
Glad to hear The PB125 continues to work so well for you 🙂
Peter Wagner says
Nrf2 Activator PB125® as a Potential Therapeutic Agent against COVID-19 PMID: 32545518
Joe Cannon says
Peter, thanks for this! I looked at the study and updated this review with that info. It looks like this is a study of PB125 and liver cells. PB125 seemed to prevent covid19 from entering the cells. I’m really glad to see the company doing research like this. It says a lot. I am hoping this is followed up by a human study to see if it treats those infected with Covid. Again, thanks so much for this information!
I’m a throw everything at it and see what sticks kinda guy. I find liposomal glutathione works better for me.. if you have to keep taking the nrf2 to increase glutathione. Why not just take glutathione.
I have high levels of oxidative stress (I’m on the autism spectrum and have autoimmunity), anything antioxidant helps. If I had extra money I’d love to do self testing with the $200 labs before and after. I know I can get my levels back up between products.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Dan, for what its worth N-acetyl cysteine will also raise glutathone levels. NAC supplements may cost less than glutathione supplements too.
Here they are on Amazon if you want to see what people are saying.
Can we ditch curcumin supplements if we take this – or is curcumin still helpful? Also I’m glad to hear another poster say it’s not an antioxidant.
With mounting evidence that too many synthetic antioxidants damage DNA, negate benefits of excercise, etc. It seems we need to greatly reduce supplementing them – unless of course we smoke or have an x-ray scheduled…
Joe Cannon says
August, you bring up an interesting question. It would be interesting to compare curcumin – or better yet, turmeric – to PB125. I dont know which would prevail in a head-to-head comparison. I cant say if curcumin would make PB125 work better or if PB125 could replace curcumin. Like many things in the supplement world, it will take research to know for sure.
While curcumin has some studies, for what it’s worth, I think turmeric is better than curcumin. Curcumin is, after all, a component in turmeric.
Barbara Murphy says
Are their any know side effects to taking PB125?
Joe Cannon says
Hi Barbara, I’m not aware of any side effects. I gave a basic side effects list in the review, which you should take a look at, but I have not seen anything showing up in the research. Basically Id say if you take any medicines, show PB125 to your pharmacist and doctor and see what they say.
Have you noticed any PB125 side effects?
I personally had been taking Protandim for about 7 months and I can vouch for it that it changed my life. I had been dealing with depression for 20 years and completely got off all prescription drugs that I had been taking even pain meds.
My budget was getting tight so I heard about Dr. Joe McCord leaving LifeVantage and starting his own company PB125. I heard the prices were less so I jumped on board and started purchasing it about 6 months ago and I can say not one problem switching over and the results seem the same.
Joe Cannon says
Annette, that is really great news! I am SO glad to hear that PB125 has helped you so much! I have not tried PB125 myself (or Protandim for that matter). Both are very interesting supplements and I agree the price of BP125 and being associated with Dr. Joe McCrord is sure to appeal to people.
Do you feel PB125 has worked better for you than Protandim did?
Jim Moore says
I got an email from Dr McCord so I thought I’d pass it on. I assume you forwarded my questions to him.
The difference in choice of ingredients is due to the 10,000 papers that have been published since Protandim’s formulation describing perhaps 100+ new ingredients from which to choose, many having greater potency, fewer potential unwanted side effects, and differing abilities to control points in the Nrf2 pathways that were completely unknown in 2004 but which account for the synergistic interactions among ingredients.
In addition, all ingredients affect the expression of many other genes that are NOT under control of Nrf2, and these effects may be desirable or undesirable. We see improved gene expression profiles (not related to Nrf2) affecting important areas such as vascular production of nitric oxide, the detoxification of homocysteine, and the production of amyloid precursor protein, to name a few.
These results will not be published on the internet, but only through peer-reviewed journals. For more information, follow the Science section on the PathwaysBio.com website.
I have no relationship with LV, financial or otherwise. I left in 2013 and founded Pathways Bioscience in 2014. PB125 was formulated and began testing about 3 years ago, and was offered for sale in April 2018.
A number of studies are in various stages of progress at several academic institutions (Colorado State U., Emory U., U. of Colorado Denver, U. of Utah, Oklahoma Medical Research Institute). Studies usually take about three years from inception to publication, so be patient.
We appreciate your interest in Pathways. Let us know if you have more questions or comments regarding PB125.
Hi Jim, that’s pretty nice he reached out to you. I did not contact him. I suppose he saw your questions (maybe here?) and decided to reach out to you. Thanks for forwarding his email to you. That’s pretty neat 🙂
Jim Moore says
Sold by weight, Protandim has 675 mg of ingredients while PB125 only has 100 mg. And looking at only Ashwagandha, Protandim has over 6 times what PB125 has, so one asks if you’re getting more bang for your buck with Protandim.
Protandim is about $100/month so 4 times what PB125 costs but contains 6 times the ingredients, by weight anyway. But maybe the extra ingredient weight is not necessarily to accomplish the same or similar results. Just wondering.
Jim, good questions. I wish I had an answer for you. The only way to know for sure is compare BP125 to Protandim in clinical trials. If you ever hear anything on this do let me know. I’m always curious about these things.
Protandim is $40/month
Marie Poirier says
Protandim is $49.99 a month with free shipping. I have been taking it for 7 years with amazing results. I have witnessed life-changing results.. The ingredients in Protandim are effective in activating nrf2 and lowering TBARS, but that is due to a synergistic effect.
The ingredients are great to take on their own, but will probably not be as effective. Dr Joe McCord was the leading scientist that discovered Protandim. Since taking Protandim, I have been medication and pain-free. My blood-work is perfect, and my arthritis has pretty much disappeared. My C-reactive protein (crp) is less than 1. Feeling blessed!!!!
Joe Cannon says
Hi Marie, glad to hear you are doing so well with Protandim. About Dr. McCord, as I understand it he did not discover Protandim but you are right he was the lead researcher in many of their studies. I looked at many of the Protandim studies in the review on that supplement. Let me know if there any I missed.
Here is the Protandim review
Your review and stance on PB125 mirrored my own. I’m more comfortable with their direct sales approach vs Protandim’s MLM, and I like that it’s not auto ship. However, I felt like the studies they listed were a bit misleading, and were an initial turn off.
Do you know how long it generally takes to get results from a study with the NIA? Are we talking months, years, several years?
Hi Mandy, Yes the studies were something I noticed first too – 2 of them were on Protandim. I have feeling those studies will eventually be replaced.
Good question about the National Institute on Aging. It’s going to take a while I believe. It would depend on how complex the study is – mouse vs. test tube vs human – and whether or not the NIA or Pathways Bioscience tries to submit the study for peer review to get it published in a science journal. I believe that is their goal to get research published. It could take a year or more.
Let’s see what happens.
Thanks again for sharing my reviews with your friends. I really appreciate it Mandy 🙂
Marcos Espinosa says
Joe, I was very glad to hear that you were reviewing PB125, as a Lifevantage distributor and convinced user of Protandim, I have to admit that I wasn’t thrilled to learn that Dr. McCord had improved his Nrf2 activator. I know every network marketing company says that their doctors are smarter and better than all the other doctors in all the other companies.
I say this with a bit of humor.
In the case of Dr. Joe McCord, he has the awards to back his reputation, not for Protandim but for his work prior to formulating Protandim. He was the recipient of an Elliot Cresson Medal in 1997 for discovering the biology of free radical reactions in living organisms. He is literally known as the father of free radical biology.
Anyway, when Dr. McCord says something works in a certain specific way I believe it. I don’t know if you had watched any of the presentations that Dr. McCord gave while at Lifevantage to the independent distributors to help them learn how Protandim works. It is quite interesting.
If you watch this video on Youtube you will see in 3 minutes why taking the supplements that compose Protandim individually is a waste of money if you are seeking to activate the Nrf2 protein. https://youtu.be/PcJ6chXSrC8
This is a short clip of a 53 min. talk that was given by Dr. McCord at the Inaugural Global Convention in 2011. Here is the link for that in case you or anyone else is interested. https://youtu.be/Ml2mMx6d2Fk
As you will see calling Protandim or now PB125 an antioxidant supplement is not accurate. I could go on about this but I am sure you see this videos you will dig deeper yourself.
Hi Marcos, thanks so much, I hope it helps you and other Protandim distrubutors who Im sure will eventually be asked about PB125. I really have to thank Mandy who first told me about PB125 in a comment a few weeks ago in the Protandim Review.
Thanks for the videos, I did look at the first video where Dr. McCord says you can’t take the individual ingredients. While I do believe nutrients work in tandem with each other, I’d just like to see his data presented in a clinical study as opposed to a lecture presented at Protandim convention.
Dr. McCord is a legitimate and highly regarded scientist as you say. He’s the real deal. no doubt about it. I don’t think we can say say for sure PB125 is better than Protandim until we see research. As a start, it would be interesting to learn from people who temporarily switched from Protandim to PB125 to for a month or two to see if they noticed any differences?
More than that, I’d like to see a few investigations comparing PB125 to Protandim. Let’s see what the future holds.