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Protandim: The Most Important Supplement of Our Time, or Just Another Pricey Pill?
"Arguably the most important supplement of our time." That's what it says on one of the information pages on the web site for the supplement Protandim.
That's a pretty hefty claim, so I looked into it. It's an impressive supplement, although I'm not so sure about whether it's a good value. Let's take a look. . .
Continued below. . .
How Protandim works
Protandim is patented and marketed by a company called LifeVantage Corporation. It reportedly stimulates the body to produce its own antioxidants.
The main ingredients of Protandim are five extracts: milk thistle, green tea, turmeric, bacopa, and ashwagandha root. All five have been shown to have antioxidant-enhancing effects in one form or another.
Milk thistle, for example, has known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, as well as protective effects for the liver. Green tea is highly regarded as a source of bioflavonoids, which are well-known for their anti-oxidative and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Turmeric is well-documented for medicinal properties used in Indian and Chinese medicine. I'm impressed with the evidence that it helps prevent and treat some cancers, and I take the active ingredient, curcumin, as one of my daily supplements.
Numerous studies show turmeric is an effective anti-inflammatory, which means it's useful against not only cancer but heart disease, diabetes and joint pain, too. I believe the significant decrease in pain I've experienced in the last couple of years is probably due, in part, to curcumin/turmeric.
Protandim's fourth ingredient, bacopa, is important in Ayurvedic medicine as a cognitive enhancer. It's also believed to scavenge for free radicals (in other words, it's believed to have antioxidant properties). It's claimed that the fifth ingredient, ashwagandha root, helps prolong life. I'm not personally familiar with bacopa or ashwagandha.
The whole point of Protandim is to reduce oxidative stress within the body. Advocates say it does this by increasing the quantity of certain enzymes such as catalase (CAT) and superoxide dismutase (SOD — we wrote about that in Issue #92, available at www.cancerdefeated.com/newsletters).
SOD and CAT, in turn, boost antioxidant activity within the body. The antioxidants then fight off free radicals that result from oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress happens when destructive molecules cause damage to cells. These free radical molecules are what speed up the aging process. They can also initiate the development of diseases like cancer.
Now, the older you get, the more free radicals you have in your body. To make matters worse, as you age you have fewer antioxidants to fight those free radicals. This means less and less protection from problems associated with aging (such as cancer, arthritis, heart disease and other diseases that become more likely, the older you get).
I've often talked about the antioxidants found in food and in conventional supplements, like vitamins A and C. These antioxidants are considered consumable. This means they get used up at a rate of one-to-one as they neutralize free radicals. In effect, they are consumed by the process of destroying free radicals.
Protandim, as I mentioned earlier, stimulates your body to produce more of the special antioxidant enzymes SOD and CAT. It's believed that the antioxidants prompted by these enzymes are catalytic antioxidants. In other words, they don't get used up after attacking free-radicals the way consumable antioxidants do.
According to the Protandim website, "A single daily caplet of Protandim creates a cascade of your body's natural catalytic antioxidants that are able to destroy millions of free radicals per second, on a continuous basis — 24/7."
Some distributors of Protandim claim it reduces oxidative stress within the body by 40%. They also say it slows the aging rate of cells to the levels of a 20-year-old.
Sounds great, especially given that the side effects are mild. The only recorded side effects (besides allergic response) are upset stomach, headache, and a rash on the hands and feet.
What others think and say about Protandim
The supplement has been around for seven years now. It was first formulated by Paul Myhill, who comes equipped with an undergraduate degree in theology and a graduate degree in business.
Another fellow, Dr. Joe McCord, is more or less the "face" of Protandim and was hired to represent the supplement. Myhill stated in one interview that Dr. McCord, who has a good reputation, was hired for marketing purposes.
There have been eight peer-reviewed studies of Protandim, though all but one was done on animals. On the whole, that's pretty good evidence when it comes to a supplement formula.
Two of the studies were sponsored by the manufacturer. Of these two studies, one supported the claim that Protandim increases SOD and catalase levels (though I should note this was a non-randomized, non-controlled trial in humans).
Another study was done at Louisiana State University in conjunction with Dr. McCord, who also serves as Science Director at LifeVantage. The LSU study found Protandim suppresses skin tumor incidence in mice.
A separate study published in the Journal of Free Radical Biology and Medicine showed significant increases in glutathione levels for Protandim-treated cells. Glutathione is an antioxidant known to prevent free radical damage to cells. The renowned Dr. David Williams, editor of Alternatives newsletter, has said your body's level of glutathione is one of the most important indicators of how long you'll live.
Glutathione levels are fairly hard to boost by way of supplements. A simple glutathione supplement doesn't help — you have to eat a precursor to glutathione that the body then converts into the real thing. There aren't that many reliable precursors. So, if Protandim is one of them it could be an especially valuable pill to swallow.
Critics of the supplement don't believe there is any reliable evidence that it has an antioxidant effect. They believe Protandim's effects in the body — whatever those may be -- can come about when you take each of the five ingredients on its own. They point out that doing so is a lot less expensive.
Some doubts about SOD and CAT
The makers of the supplement claim it extends life, but it's not clear whether increasing the production of catalytic enzymes actually increases lifespan. Some scientists think it might even shorten it. Boosting SOD and CAT levels is a fairly new, controversial area. I think it's safe to say most of don't wake up in the morning thinking, "I've got to boost my SOD and CAT levels." Maybe in a few years we will.
But Protandim contains powerful natural extracts and it appears to do no harm. I think there's plenty of evidence to support the benefits of several of the ingredients.
Myhill has commented in interviews that because Big Pharma and the FDA don't allow supplement marketers to claim their product can treat a medical problem, they have to rely on the scientific literature to make those claims for them. Myhill states, "Most people can then make the connection and understand how Protandim can be a positive part of their health regime."
It's kind of expensive
The supplement is sold by LifeVantage Protandim distributors. They operate through what they call "network marketing." Really, it's multi-level marketing but the name was changed since MLM schemes have developed a bad reputation.
Protandim costs around $45 for 30 pills if you buy it online (roughly $1.50 per pill). Yet, you can buy each of the five ingredients on Amazon for only a fraction of that: Milk thistle for 5.8 cents per pill, turmeric for 4 cents per pill, green tea for 5.3 cents per pill, ashwaganda for 8 cents a pill, and bacopa for 11 cents a pill. (All prices are accurate as of this writing; I made no effort to comparison shop for the best price. Nor did I check out the reliability of different suppliers. They could be selling you corn starch, for all I know.)
But, those warnings aside, you could buy all five ingredients for about 34 cents a dose. Compare this to the $1.50 per pill you spend if you buy Protandim directly. Is it worth it? You could save up to $400 a year by purchasing the ingredients individually.
This is a game I could play all day long with almost every supplement formula on the market. Of course, it's easier to buy the formula than the individual ingredients. One pill and you're done. Protandim comes recommended by some people I respect. Hopefully, it's made with high quality ingredients in the right doses. If you've got the money and prefer the convenience, by all means buy the pre-mixed formula.
Most supplement makers charge many times the manufacturing cost of the ingredients. What you're really paying for is the information they send you. They've done the research and the thinking for you. You want to read up on all these herbs and buy them individually for pennies? Go right ahead.
Very likely without the supplement marketers you'd never hear of beneficial herbs like milk thistle, turmeric and green tea extract. But the service doesn't come free.
How Protandim Works. http://www.protandim.com/
Wikipedia: Protandim, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protandim
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