(Updated 7/17/20). Have you heard of the anti-aging supplement Protandim? Maybe you saw a YouTube video of when Protandim was featured on ABC's PrimeTime? Protandim, called an “Nrf2 activator” has been said to be the “only supplement clinically proven to reduce oxidative stress in humans by an average of 40 percent in 30 days.” That’s fancy talk for Protandim is a type of antioxidant supplement. Unlike other products, Protandim is said to work by helping the body increase its own natural antioxidant enzymes. Sounds good, but does Protandim work, or is it a scam? These are some of the questions I will address in this review. The good news is there are clinical studies on Protandim. I will use that research in this review and help you understand it. By the end of this review, you'll have a better idea if Protandim is right for you.
Other Anti-Aging Supplement Reviews
What Is Protandim?
Protandim might sound like a drug but it's really a dietary supplement. It's said to combat free radical damage (oxidative stress) by stimulating the production of the body's own natural antioxidant enzymes such as catalase, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and glutathione.
The idea goes like this: instead of taking individual antioxidant supplements (like vitamins C, E, etc.) in the hopes they will battle free radicals and combat aging and disease, Protandim is supposed to augment or ramp up your own naturally occurring free radical defenses.
It's a novel concept to be sure.
The supplement website (LifeVantage.com) says the supplement is “clinically proven to reduce oxidative stress to levels of that of a 20-year-old.” Oxidative stress refers to the stress (cellular damage) caused by free radicals.
What Does The Name Mean?
My guess is the name was chosen because the ingredients are supposed to “pro-actively” work in “tandim” to help defend us against aging and disease.
Who Makes Protandim?
Protandim is a product of a company called LifeVantage Corporation. LifeVantage is actually a publicly-traded stock on the NASDAQ. Its stock symbol is LFVN.
The company is located at 9785 S. Monroe Street, Suite 300 Sandy, UT 84070. If you google this address you will see a building with “LifeVantage” at the top. That is good. It tells us the company has a physical location.
Call the company at 866-460-7241.
The Better Business Bureau gave LifeVantage an A- rating when this review was updated. See the BBB file for updates and more information.
According to the product's website, there are 5 ingredients in each caplet of Protandim which add up to 625 mg:
|Amount Per Serving (1 caplet)||Percent Daily Value|
|Calcium (as dicalcum phosphate & calcium carbonate) 77 mg||8% DV|
|Proprietary Blend Consisting of the following||675 mg|
|Milk thistle extract (Silybum marianum) seed.|
|Bacopa extract (Bacopa monnieri) whole herb|
|Ashwagandha extract (Withania somnifera) root|
|Green tea extract (Camellia sinensis) leaf|
|Turmeric extract (Curcuma longa) rhizome|
Notice in the table above they tell us the source of each ingredient:
- The milk thistle extract is derived from the seeds of the plant
- The bacopa extract is derived from the whole plant
- The ashwagandha extract is derived from the root of the plant
- The green tea extract comes from the leaves of the plant
- The turmeric extract is derived from the underground stems (rhizome) of the plant
The supplement label also tells the supplement has these other ingredients:
- Microcrystalline Cellulose
- Croscarmellose Sodium Silica
- Modified Cellulose
- Stearic Acid
- Magnesium Stearate
- Medium Chain Triglycerides
These other ingredients play no role in the effects or benefits of the product. They make up the caplets and/or help with the delivery of the ingredients into the body.
I want to commend the LifeVantage company for sponsoring much of the research below. It's rare to find a product with so many clinical studies.
Protandim is different from a lot of supplements because there really is clinical research on this product. Below is a summary of the Protandim research with links to the studies for those who want to see them for themselves.
Because scientific studies can be wordy and complicated for most people, I will summarize the study and put the research in the proper context to make it easier to understand.
2016 Protandim Research
Study summary: Researchers wanted to see if taking Protandim (675 mg/day) for 90 days would improve 5K running performance and reduce TBARS. The study involved 38 runners who were randomly given either Protandim or a placebo.
Results: After 90 days, those taking Protandim (1x/day) showed no improvement in running performance compared to those taking the placebo. In addition, Protandim did not reduce TBARS or alter levels of antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD) or glutathione peroxidase (GPX) during resting periods. The researchers report however that in those over age 35, Protandim improved SOD twice as much as those taking the placebo.
Study summary: Researchers sought to determine what effect various compounds had on extending the life of mice. Protandim was one of the compounds tested.
The other compounds tested in the study were fish oil, ursodeoxycholic acid (a bile acid, used to dissolve gall stones) and the diabetes drug, metformin. Different mice received the different compounds for their lifespan.
Beginning at 10 months of age, mice received Protandim at a dosage of 600 parts per million (ppm) in their food. This amount was chosen because it was similar to what people use when they use Protandim.
When the mice were 17 months old, the dosage was increased to 1200 ppm because this was thought to be better.
Study results: researchers noted male mice getting Protandim had a 7% increase in average lifespan. There was no life span increase in the female mice getting Protandim. The researchers also point out that while the average lifespan was increased, the maximum lifespan did not increase. Regardless, this was a mouse study.
2013 Protandim Research
Study name: Nrf2 activation: a potential strategy for the prevention of acute mountain sickness. This was basically a test tube study. We are not testing tubes so it's less relevant to us.
Study results: This study noted that mouse heart cells treated with Protandim increased the production of an antioxidant/anti-inflammatory enzyme called Heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1) as well as Nrf2. This is nice, but this was not a human study. It was a test-tube study using isolated mouse heart cells.
This study is actually derived from a Masters Thesis in 2010. The title of the MS Thesis is “UPREGULATION OF HEME OXYGENASE-1 AND ACTIVATION OF NRF2 BY THE PHYTOCHEMICALS IN PROTANDIM .” It is not unusual for a quality MS thesis or other graduate work to go through the peer-review process and be published.
2012 Protandim Research
Study Name: Antioxidants for the Treatment of Patients with Severe Angioproliferative Pulmonary Hypertension? Published in the journal, Antioxidants in Redox Signaling.
Summary: This is a rat study. Protandim increased antioxidant enzymes in rats, protecting the hearts from damage.
Study Name: Phytochemical activation of Nrf2 protects human coronary artery endothelial cells against an oxidative challenge published in the journal, Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity.
Summary: This is a test tube study. Human coronary (heart) artery cells were treated with Protandim. The concentration of Protandim was 20 micrograms per milliliter or placebo (ethanol). All cells were then treated with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) to induce free radical damage. Cells treated with Protandim showed less cell death than those getting the placebo.
Study Name: Protandim does not influence alveolar epithelial permeability or intrapulmonary oxidative stress in human subjects with alcohol use disorders. Published in the American Journal of Physiology. Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.
Summary: This study showed the supplement did not work. To be fair, this was a strange study. Researchers looked at 30 alcoholics . The researchers stuck tubes down the throats of the subjects to take fluid samples from their lungs. They randomly gave the people 1350 mg of Protandim per day or a placebo, for a week. They tested for various things to see if Protandim helped the people. It didn’t.
Personally, I don't know how relevant this study is to whether Protandim works or not. I mentioned it because it was a human study. For a much more in-depth review of this study—written by a doctor—see the review posted on ScienceBasedMedicine.org.
2011 Protandim Research
Study Name: Oxidative stress in health and disease: the therapeutic potential of Nrf2 activation. Published in the journal, Molecular Aspects of Medicine.
Summary: This is a test tube study. Basically, Protandim altered cellular pathways involved in not only antioxidant enzyme production but also those involved in colon cancer, cardiovascular disease (heart disease) and Alzheimer's disease. This is great, but, humans are more complicated than isolated cells. This study doesn’t prove the supplement reduces the risk of any of these diseases.
Study Name: The role of manganese superoxide dismutase in skin cancer. Published the journal, Enzyme Research.
Summary: This is a mouse study. Here, researchers reported the supplement reduced tumor growth in mice. For the most part, this appears to be a review of previous research relating free radical damage to the development of skin cancer. The actual study isn't even discussed until you have read half of the paper—and then it's only a vague description of the research.
Summary. This is a test tube study. Basically, a vein in the leg (saphenous vein) was bathed in Protandim. Researchers noted the supplement reduced the thickening of vein cells. Since the saphenous vein is used in cardiac surgery, this is interesting. It's still a test tube study though. Let's see what other studies find.
2010 Protandim Research
Summary. This is a mouse study. Mice which were genetically created to have muscular dystrophy. They were given Protandim at a dosage similar to what is recommended for humans. After 6 months, the mice given Protandim showed a 46%reduction in the free radical breakdown of fat (TBARS). TBARS stand for ThiobarBituric Acid Reactive Substances.
The greater the TBAR level, the greater free radical damage. Thus, reducing TBARS is taken to be a good thing. This doesn't prove Protandim helps muscular dystrophy. People with muscular dystrophy should discuss this with their doctor for greater insights.
Summary: This is a mouse study. Protandim reduced damage to the mitochondria of the mouse cells. Interestingly the word “mouse” never appears in the summary of this study.
The mitochondria, often called the “powerhouse” of the cell, makes energy —and makes free radicals in the process. The mitochondria is a major area of anti-aging research.
Summary. This is a rat study. Researchers wanted to see if the supplement helped pulmonary blood pressure. After 6 weeks, Protandim did not reduce pulmonary artery blood pressure or the number of lung lesions.
These researchers did say “our data point to a cardioprotective effect of Protandim.” But, this is a vague statement. Here's why:
In the study, the researchers list 4 things they say the supplement did— but nowhere in this list did I see the word “significant.” The omission of this word is huge because it could mean the effects observed might not necessarily be due to the supplement.
Some may say I am nitpicking here, but the holy grail of scientific research are effects that are deemed “significant” —in other words, effects not due to random chance. The omission of the word “significant” reduces the importance of this study in my opinion.
2009 Protandim Research
Summary: This is a mouse study.
Summary: This is a test tube study. Cells treated with supplement showed significant increases in glutathione, an antioxidant compound. This is the study LifeVantage lists as “proof” Protandim increases glutathione levels by 300%. It may raise glutathione 300% – in a test tube – but what about in people?
2006 Protandim Research
This is a human study. In this investigation, 39 healthy men and women, age 20-78 years were given Protandim (675 mg per day) between 30 and 120 days.
Let's review the results of this study:
1. Protandim caused a significant increase in the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD) in red blood cells.
2. There was a non-significant rise (4.9%) in uric acid. Uric acid, besides being bad for gout, is an antioxidant. Might Protandim have raised uric acid levels as a result of its ability to increase antioxidant enzymes? This is not known.
3. No change in CRP levels was seen.
4. No change in HDL, LDL or triglycerides were seen.
Interestingly, a greater free radical breakdown of fat (higher TBAR levels) was seen in those who took the antioxidant supplements vitamin C and E than those who did not. In other words, antioxidant vitamins did not help, but were in fact, bad for the people. Other research has shown antioxidant supplements reduce the body's natural antioxidant defenses.
Protandim Research Summary
Here is a quick summary of the research:
|Study Year / Title||Study Type (Human, mouse, etc.)|
|The Effect of Protandim Supplementation on Athletic Performance and Oxidative Blood Markers in Runners||Humans|
|Longer lifespan in male mice treated with a weakly estrogenic agonist, an antioxidant, an α-glucosidase inhibitor or a Nrf2-inducer||mice|
|Upregulation of phase II enzymes through phytochemical activation of Nrf2 protects cardiomyocytes against oxidant stress||Mouse heart cells|
|Antioxidants for the treatment of patients with severe angioproliferative pulmonary hypertension?||Rats|
|Phytochemical Activation of Nrf2 Protects Human Coronary Artery Endothelial Cells against an Oxidative Challenge||Test tube study|
|Protandim does not influence alveolar epithelial permeability or intrapulmonary oxidative stress in human subjects with alcohol use disorders.||Humans|
|Oxidative stress in health and disease: the therapeutic potential of Nrf2 activation.||Test tube study|
|The Role of Manganese Superoxide Dismutase in Skin Cancer||Mice|
|Protandim attenuates intimal hyperplasia in human saphenous veins cultured ex vivo via a catalase-dependent pathway||Test tube study|
|The Dietary Supplement Protandim® Decreases Plasma Osteopontin and Improves Markers of Oxidative Stress in Muscular Dystrophy Mdx Mice||Mice|
|The Chemopreventive Effects of Protandim: Modulation of p53 Mitochondrial Translocation and Apoptosis during Skin Carcinogenesis||Mice|
|Chronic Pulmonary Artery Pressure Elevation Is Insufficient to Explain Right Heart Failure||Rats|
|Protandim, a Fundamentally New Antioxidant Approach in Chemoprevention Using Mouse Two-Stage Skin Carcinogenesis as a Model||Mice|
|Synergistic induction of heme oxygenase-1 by the components of the antioxidant supplement Protandim.||Test tube study|
|The induction of human superoxide dismutase and catalase in vivo: a fundamentally new approach to antioxidant therapy.||Humans|
To be fair, it's possible I may have missed some research. I'll update this table as I become aware of new research.
My Thoughts On The Research
After looking over the research, 2 things occurred to me:
First. Of all the investigations, I found, only 3 humans studies. These are:
- The 2006 study (click to see study)
- The 2012 study (click to see study)
- The 2016 study (click to see the study)
Second. The earliest (and presumably the first) study located was from 2006. This study involved humans. Following that are a series of lab animals and tests of isolated cells (I call them test-tube studies). It seems this trend is changing and human research is once again the focus.
Protandim And Weight Loss
There is no good evidence this supplement helps people lose weight. As you can see from all the studies listed above, not one of them was about weight loss. While lack of research does not necessarily mean something does not occur, I suggest asking for real research (not testimonials) before believing weight-loss claims. To the credit of LifeVangage, they do not market this supplement for weight reduction.
Protandim And Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is caused by damage to the protective covering of nerve cells. While the damage is due to an autoimmune disorder (the immune system attacks nerve cells), this damage is thought to be the result of free radicals.
Some have put forth the idea that disruption of free radical stress – via stabilizing Nrf2 (the stuff this supplement is supposed to improve) might help MS.
So, is there any proof the supplement helps MS? There was an investigation presented in 2011 at the 5th Joint triennial congress of the European and Americas Committees for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
The title of the presentation was: Nrf2 activators: a novel strategy to promote oligodendrocyte survival in multiple sclerosis?
Oligodendrocytes (oly-go-den-dro-sites) form the protective covering of nerve cells― the covering that is destroyed in MS.
Here, researchers treated rat and human oligodendrocytes with several compounds ― one of which was Protandim ― and then exposed the cells to a chemical to create free radical damage.
These researchers noted Protandim was seen as “the most potent inducer” of Nrf2 antioxidant enzymes defenses. In other words, Protandim helped the most.
This is intriguing, but it's not the same as giving it to people with MS to see if their symptoms improved.
There is also some evidence that stimulating an antioxidant pathway called Nrf2 might reduce cellular inflammation via inhibition of NFkb. Inhibition of NFkb is also something another supplement – called Anatabloc – was supposed to do.
See the Anatabloc review.
Also, see the review of Zyflamend too.
Protandim And ABC Primetime
In 2005 this supplement was featured on ABC's Primetime news show. In this segment, ABC correspondent John Quinones met with Dr. Joe McCord, a respected researcher. Here is the ABC Primetime segment :
According to his Wikipedia page, as a grad student, Dr. McCord was involved with the seminal discovery of Superoxide Dismutase, an important free radical savaging enzyme. He is a great scientist with many accomplishments. He is also a contributing author of many of the Protandim studies listed above.
Basically, John Quinones gets a blood test to measure his TBAR level (an indicator of oxidative stress). He's given Protandim for 2 weeks and then returns to the lab where he has his blood tested again.
Dr. McCord tells John Quinones the supplement caused a “45% reduction” in oxidative stress and goes on to say this is the level seen in a “newborn baby”.
The ABC Primetime segment is often used as proof the supplement really works. But, as I see it, one problem is John Quinones doesn't have is blood tested by an independent lab. This is poor science in my opinion.
Of course, the Primetime segment is interesting. But it's been over a decade since this segment aired. You'd think such an impressive result would warrant a follow-up. I wish Primetime and John Quinones would do a follow-up story.
Dr. McCord is now involved with the PB125 supplement.
Protandim And The FDA
In 2017, the FDA reached out to LifeVantage to inform them they considered Protandim to be a drug and not a supplement based on claims made about it as an NRF2 Synergizer. Basically, the FDA was saying the claims being made at the time, made people think the supplement could treat disease. This is something not allowed under US supplement law.
This may be the reason for the dramatic change in the LifeVantage website and marketing. There are no more claims about the effects of the supplement. Instead, the company now calls itself “a wellness and personal care company” and makes references to “bio-hacking.”
Do Doctors Endorse Protandim?
While the supplement is not endorsed by the American Medical Association (they don't endorse any supplement), I'm sure some doctors believe in it and others who don't.
Does Protandim Have Caffeine?
According to the product website, each tablet has 1.8mg of caffeine. That's much less than in a cup of coffee and most energy drinks. I don't think this small amount would keep people up at night, but because we are all different it might be wise to not take it close to bedtime.
Is It Kosher?
No. this supplement is not kosher or organic. It is however made in the US. That is good.
Protandim Side Effects
Are there any Protandim dangers out there? I don't think so. I believe this supplement is pretty safe. I am not aware of any side effects. That said, here are a few general things you might want to think about if your not healthy. This list is not complete:
- Start with less than the recommended dosage for the first week to see how you respond
- Speak to your doctor/ pharmacist if you are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Stop taking the supplement at least 2 weeks before having surgery
- Speak to your doctor /pharmacist if you take any prescription drugs like blood thinners
One study noted the supplement might raise uric acid levels (by only 4.9%). This might be of interest to those who have gout. While this was a human study there is no direct proof gout pain is increased in humans. See the review of Tart Cherry Juice for more info.
While allergic reactions are likely uncommon, LifeVantage does mention this possibility in some people. Specific symptoms mentioned on the LifeVantage website include:
- gastrointestinal disturbances (i.e., stomach ache, diarrhea, vomiting)
- sometimes as a headache or rash on the hands or feet
Stop taking the supplement if you experience these symptoms.
The company website warns against using the supplement if you are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer. This is likely because of the unknowns of combining antioxidants with some cancer therapies. If you have cancer or are getting treatment for it, ask your doctor. I'm glad the LifeVantage company informs people about this.
LifeVantage also stresses the importance of talking to a doctor if you have any autoimmune disease like arthritis or Type I diabetes. I'm not aware of any problems in anyone but I appreciated the company mentioning this.
How To Measure Your TBARS
Remember TBARS are a measure of free radical damage (oxidative stress) of cells. Protandim is said to reduce TBARS. The TBAR test is also called a Lipid Peroxidase test. It costs about $200 to have the test done by a doctor.
For those who really want to know if Protandim is working or not, getting this test done first—and a month later— might be a good thing to do. I'm not sure if insurance covers the test or not. Talk to your doctor for more information on this.
Aged Garlic Extract also has some evidence it might reduce TBARS (click to see review)
True Science is a brand name under which various beauty products made by the company can be identified. Products offered under the True Science brand include:
- Scalp serum
- Facial cleanser
- Eye serum
What is PhysIQ?
PhysIQ is the brand name associated with various fitness-related products. This brand includes:
Protandim For Dogs
Protandim Dogs (formally called Canine Health) is for pets. According to the LifeVantage website, this supplement contains 150 mg of the same ingredients as Protandim – as well as omega 3 fatty acids and collagen. The website goes on to say:
“Reducing oxidative stress in dogs may reduce many of the disorders associated with aging in canine.”
To support this, the organization states a 3rd party animal health company has found the supplement reduces oxidative stress in dogs.
Protandim vs. PB125
PB125, by Pathways Bioscience is another supplement whose makers claim can reduce TBARS and activate NrF2. PB125 is the supplement by Dr. Joe McCord and associates. Recall Dr. McCord used to be associated with the LifeVantage company.
While PB125 is said to be the next generation of NrF2 activators, no studies have yet compared these supplements to each other to see which is better. The ingredients in both products are different for the most part.
See the PB125 Review for much more information.
Protandim vs. Elysium Basis
Basis by Elysium is a popular anti-aging supplement that contains very different ingredients than Protandim. One of those ingredients seems to also improve NFR2 levels, like Protandim. So, which is better? I don't feel the research is there yet to give a definitive answer.
See the Elysuim Basis Review for more insights.
Protandim vs. SeroVital
You've probably seen TV ads for SeroVital. How does Protandim compare to SeroVital? Both supplements contain different ingredients and are touted to work differently.
While Protandim is said to help boost our bodies antioxidant enzymes, SeroVital is marketed to raise human growth hormone (HGH).
If we just look at the research, Protandim wins hands down. The makers of Serovital only have one study.
Where To Buy Protandim
This supplement is not sold in stores like Walmart, Target, Cosco, CVS, Walgreens, Kmart or BJs. It's also not sold at GNC or Vitamin Shoppe. Rather, it's mostly purchased from LifeVantage independent distributors.
It is also available online as well although when using a distributor, you may get the individualized attention you might not get by buying it yourself.
According to the LifeVantage website, a one month supply (30 capsules) costs $59.99 retail. If you order it through a LifeVantage distributor, it costs $49.99 – and that is on a monthly basis. In other words, auto-shipments.
If you want to purchase one month only to test drive it first, speak to your LifeVantgage independent distributor. Some might work with you.
How much is that in 1 year? If we round the price to $50, over the course of 12 months, Protandim would cost about $600. Shipping and tax may be extra. If you only want to order 1 bottle to try yourself, you can get it on Amazon too.
Well, if you can afford it, go ahead and give it a try for a month or so and see if you feel any better. If you really
want to know for sure, get your TBARS measured first.
Protandim Pro & Con
Here's a quick summary of what I liked and didn't like. These are my opinions. They may or may not matter to you.
|There are clinical studies on Protandim||Not all the studies are on humans|
|Company has been around a long time||Not available in stores|
|Company sponsors research on Protandim||Expensive|
|Lots of hype about benefits|
Does Protandim Work?
While I'm very intrigued at the prospect of slowing down aging, I'm not sure if Protandim works or not. Even though there is interesting research, most of it is not on people. So, does Protandim really work? Let's just say I'm looking forward to more human research.
Here is it is on Amazon If you want to check it out/see what others are saying