Blog Post

The Protandim Conundrum

protandimDF writes: “I've been approached by a relative about getting started in a MLM business that she feels is ‘Christian based’. They promote paying it forward and helping those in need. The product is called Protandim. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.”

I’ll be honest, I’m not hearing good things about Protandim – mostly because it’s followers do the product a grave injustice by attacking anyone who raises legitimate questions about it.

For those who have never heard of it, Protandim is a nutritional supplement marketed by LifeVantage Corporation that claims to contain ingredients that cause the body to produce its own antioxidants to fight the damaging effects of free radicals. (The ingredients are milk thistle, bacopa, ashwagandha, green tea and turmeric.)

The website claims that the product “activates Nrf2, which communicates with cells, instructing them to do what they’re already designed to do: up-regulate ‘survival genes,’ genes that enable cells to survive in the face of stress from free radicals and other oxidants, and down-regulate other genes to help the body function at an optimal level.”

A reputable biochemist named Dr. Joe McCord has been involved with the company since 2006, serving as its Director of Science, Chief Scientific officer and then a member of the company’s science advisory board until his retirement in 2013. Listed by the Security and Exchange Commission as an insider shareholder of the company, he has been well compensated for his work, at one time receiving a salary of $10,000 a month and a 50 cent commission on every bottle sold. His retirement package amounted to $1.7 million.

protandim logoAlthough the company advertises many studies that support the science behind Protandim, McCord was the author of most of them. Thirteen studies appeared in peer-reviewed publications, but again, most were conducted by people associated with the company and/or product and all but two were conducted either in vitro or in vivo animal models.

The website also claims that "In a bold and daring move," the product was removed from retail stores in 2009 in order to implement a "network marketing business method" - aka multi-level marketing strategy - which would be "better suited" to the product. Truth be told, the move was made because the company had been experiencing multi-million dollar losses.

We can only wonder why. The product comes with a steep price tag - 30 capsules for $50. If you take this product for a year, that could amount to $600 just for the product (before shipping costs).

That said, there have also been product recalls for serious reasons such as metal fragments found in one of the ingredients. The company is to be applauded for conducting these recalls on a voluntary basis even though it cost them a handsome sum to do so.

Side effects of Protandim are related to allergic reactions and include gastrointestinal disturbances such as stomach aches, diarrhea and vomiting, headaches, or a rash on the hands and feet.

Amazon reviews of the product were mixed. Out of 353 reviews, 187 were 5-star (the highest possible) and 166 were 4-star or less.

As for this being a "Christian based" product, I see no evidence of the presence of any religion on the website and can only surmise that this pertains to a particular distributor's manner of doing business.

This article by Harriet A. Hall, M.D. on the Science-Based Medicine blog describes the many problems with this product - from its science to the unfortunate behavior of its promoters. Another article by Dr. Hall describes the problems with one of the two humanstudies conducted on the product.

Supplement Geek also does a nice job of breaking down the studies and explaining in plain language exactly what they are about and what, if anything, is wrong with them.

These articles are a must-read for anyone who might be considering either purchasing this product or selling it.

As for all of the Protandim "groupies" who will attempt to contact me regarding this post, comments will remain closed until you learn how to behave yourself.