Updated 3/29/23. Protandim is promoted as a biohacking, anti-aging supplement. The supplement said to be an NRF2 activator, is touted to reduce TBARS, an indicator of cellular stress, and maybe premature aging, according to research. This review summarizes the results of the first Protandim exercise study. You'll learn what happened to runners who took the Protandim synergizer for 90 days. Did it work? Did it have any side effects? Can this biohacking supplement help you in the gym? Let's see.
What is Protandim?
Protandim is a dietary supplement made up of 5 different plant extracts (see below for the list). The supplement is touted to synergize/activate NRF2, which stands for nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2) like- 2. NRF2 has been called the “master regulator” of antioxidant enzyme production.
The science is complicated, but in a nutshell, NRF2 is involved with the production of very important antioxidant enzymes. Most antioxidant supplements work by providing nutrients (like vitamin C, for example). Protandim works differently. By activating NRF2, the supplement is said to help you manufacture more of your own naturally occurring antioxidants.
NRF2 is critical for several antioxidant systems, including:
- Superoxide dismutase (SOD)
In addition, NRF2 also is said to help support healthy inflammation. You get the idea; NRF2 is important. In theory, supplements like Protandim that activate (synergize) NRF2 may reduce free radical damage and inflammation in cells. Interestingly, preliminary research now suggests that an extract of tobacco called anatabine also activates NRF2
What Are TBARS?
Protandim is said to reduce TBARS. Thiobarbituric Acid Reactive Substances or TBARS are a measure of free radical damage (oxidative stress) in cell membranes. The higher the levels of TBARS, the more damage our cells experience.
Since too many free radicals can play a role in aging, higher TBARS might mean we are aging faster than we should be. That's the theory, anyway. Some research finds TBARS increase as we get older. In an earlier study, the Protandim NRF2 synergizer was shown to reduce TBARS in people by 40% after just 1 month.
Each caplet has the following ingredients and amounts.
|Percent Daily Value
|Proprietary blend composed of:
N/A= no daily value has been established.
The ingredients are listed in order as they appear on the Protandim Supplement Facts label.
The Protandim key ingredients are found in the proprietary blend. Each caplet has 675 mg of all 5 ingredients in the blend. Since ingredients are listed in order, this tells us the blend is mostly composed of milk thistle. Turmeric is present in the lowest dosage.
That said, all of these ingredients possess antioxidant/free-radical fighting properties.
Other Ingredients (Inactive)
The Protandim synergizer also contains these other ingredients that play no role in how well it works:
Protandim Exercise Study
Exercise generates free radicals. This is especially true in situations like overtraining. In theory, the buildup of oxidative stress may reduce your workout effectiveness. Since Protandim is said to ramp up your natural production of antioxidants, is it possible the supplement would improve your exercise performance?
In this investigation, 38 runners between the ages of 20 and 46 were given Protandim or a placebo. This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo trial- the best kind to do. For 90 days (3 months) people took 1 Protandim caplet (675 mg) with breakfast or a placebo.
Over the course of the 90-day study, athletes performed five 5K mile runs (3.21 miles). Before and after each run, researchers took blood samples. All runners refrained from taking dietary supplements and multivitamins, which might interfere with results. Runners were permitted to take iron, vitamin D, and calcium.
Here are the results of the study. After 90 days:
- Protandim did not help athletes run faster
- There was no change in resting SOD levels or glutathione peroxidase antioxidant enzymes
- SOD levels rose by 60%, but this was attributed to exercise alone
- Protandim did not suppress TBARS after exercise
- Protandim did not reduce oxidative stress in the runners
- The supplement had no impact on the quality of life. People felt no better or no worse.
One odd finding: Researchers noted that the athletes with higher TBARS at rest actually ran faster than those with lower TBARS. That doesn't compute. Since TBARS indicate free radical damage – and maybe cell aging- you'd think the athletes with lower TBARS would run faster. But that's not what happened.
Any Good News?
This investigation consisted of runners who were ages 20 to 46. When researchers looked at ONLY people over the age of 35, they noticed that the rise in the SOD antioxidant enzyme was greater than those taking a placebo.
SOD levels doubled in the runners over age 35 who took Protandim. In the athletes taking the placebo, SOD increased by 50%. Does this mean the Protandim synergizer might work better in older people? The finding is interesting but more studies need to confirm this and what it means.
See the full Protandim review for a deep dive into all the clinical trials.
Who Makes Protandim?
The company is called LifeVangage, and the website is LiveVantage.com. The company, founded in 2009 is located at 9785 S Monroe St Ste 300 Sandy, UT 84070-4292. While LifeVantage is not a Better Business Bureau accredited company, they do have an A+ rating with the BBB. See the BBB file for more information.
These days, the company has embraced the biohacking movement by marketing its supplements to those looking for do-it-yourself shortcuts to improve their health. In the past, Protandim was marketed as an anti-aging supplement rather than a biohacking supplement. Protandim distributors (those who sell the supplement), often point to this 2005 segment from the TV show, ABC Primetime as proof of its anti-aging benefits:
Back in 2017, the FDA issued a warning letter to LifeVantage over the words used to describe how Protandim worked. Supplement companies are not allowed to make specific claims about their products helping diseases or health conditions. To be fair, the FDA has sent letters to many companies over the years for this same reason.
How Much Is Protandim?
If ordering from the LifeVantage website, the cost is:
- $59.99 (single bottle purchase)
- $49.99 (monthly subscription)
Protandim can also be found on Amazon too.
Protandim Side Effects
Some of the side effects reported in this study included:
- stomach ache
But, these were also reported by those taking a placebo too. None of the adverse effects were attributed to Protandim itself. The occurrence of side effects was similar in both the supplement and placebo groups. Here are some general things to keep in mind when taking this or any new dietary supplement. This list is not complete.
- Start with less than recommended for the first week
- Pregnant and breastfeeding? Ask your doctor first.
- Speak to your doctor/pharmacist first if you take any medications
- Stop taking Protandim at least 2 weeks before surgery
- If you are receiving cancer chemotherapy or radiation therapy, ask your cancer doctor if Protandim is ok to take
Protandim vs. PB125?
PB125 is another supplement promoted to activate NFR2. It's touted to be the “next-generation Nrf2 activator.” The person behind PB125 is Dr. Joe McCord. In the past, Dr. McCord worked for the LifeVantage company. His name appears in many of the studies. The ingredients in PB125 are a little different, and so far, there are no studies comparing these supplements to each other.
See the PB125 review for more on its ingredients and research.
Protandim vs. Tru Niagen
Protandim and Tru Niagen are said to work differently. Tru Niagen contains a form of niacin (vitamin B3) called nicotinamide riboside, which can raise NAD+ levels inside cells. This, in turn, helps antiaging enzymes called sirtuins work better. This is very different than the LifeVantage supplement, which is touted to activate NRF2 levels.
LifeVantage also has an NAD+ booster supplement. It's called the NAD Synergizer. That supplement contains a coper-niacin complex as well as other ingredients. Niacin (vitamin B3) also raises NAD+ levels but how it compares to nicotinamide riboside (Tru Niagen) needs further study.
For more on Tru Niagen, see these reviews:
- Tru Niagen Human Research
- Nicotinamide Riboside Review
- Celltrient Energy Review
- My 30-day experiment with Tru Niagen
Protandim vs. Elysium Basis
Elysium Basis is a dietary supplement made by Elysium Health. It is a combination of nicotinamide riboside (a form of niacin) pterostilbene, a phytonutrient found in grapes and blueberries. Like Tru Niagen, Elysium Basis is promoted as a cell NAD+ booster. There are no studies comparing LifeVantage supplements to Elysium Basis. In one investigation, the Elysium supplement appeared to help people with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Does Protandim Work?
This investigation concluded Protandim did not help people run faster. The supplement is advertised to reduce TBARS, markers of cellular oxidative stress. In this investigation, the TBARS of athletes was not lower after taking the supplement for 90 days. Since this is the first exercise study conducted on humans, the results need to be repeated. For over a decade, the LiveVantage company has supported research on Protandim. It's rare when a supplement company does this. I'm looking forward to more human clinical trials in the future.