I’m happy that more and more people are using natural supplements but sometimes the hype goes too far. The hype is especially true for MLM companies where proselytizing members help ratchet up the placebo effect to incredible heights. One MLM product, Protandim has crossed my path many times – the most recent, a fanatic member who insisted that it was better than anything I had to offer.
He knew nothing about me or my products and didn’t stop long enough to find out. I managed to say that a herbal “stimulant” formula is acting like a drug and not going to give the body the building blocks to allow it to take care of itself. But he was adamant that relief of his symptoms was all he was looking for, which is the definition of a drug.
Protandim is a 5-herb combination of Milk thistle, Bacopa, Ashwagandha, Green tea, and Turmeric. The herbs are not organic and that’s important because of the potential for pesticide and herbicide contamination. All five herbs have individual effects in the body; together, the company says there is a synergistic action on the mitochondria through proteins called Nrf1 and Nrf2. Of course, they throw in the words “biohack” to let you know they are keeping up with the times. They say Protandim is a biohack for the brain and antioxidant gene activity.
Whenever I hear about a product stimulating antioxidant activity I get concerned. Here’s what I read. “Nrf2 responds to the increased stress levels by signaling to the cell to start making hundreds of different protective molecules that work to bring stress levels back within the normal range.” How so? These molecules reduce the stress and promote normal body function by:
- Removing toxins that cause cell damage
- Cleaning up damaged cells
- Improving cell function, and
- Activating a protective response that defends against future stress
Sounds good, right? But we all know that these actions require nutrients in order to work the biochemistry. In fact, if you simply took those nutrients, mostly magnesium (ReMag), minerals (ReMyte), and B vitamins (ReAline), you would be doing all these functions naturally and wouldn’t be suffering from stress and therefore you wouldn’t need a herbal drug to boost your defenses.
Also, I’m quite concerned about the amount of antioxidants that people are being told to take as if it’s a panacea. If you continually take antioxidants you can interfere with the necessary oxidative functions in the body! Or with a flood of antioxidants, the body may stop producing its own. Once again we humans think we know more than our body.
Another thing to consider when researching herbal treatments is to look at the therapeutic dose. Protandim’s herbal doses are in brackets and the average therapeutic doses are to the right. You will see that most of the herbs are well below the therapeutic range.
- Milk thistle extract (225 mg) : Therapeutic dose: 400-600mg per day
- Bacopa extract (150 mg) : Therapeutic dose: 200-400mg per day
- Ashwagandha root (150 mg) : Therapeutic dose: 5,000-30,000mg per day
- Green tea extract (75 mg) : Therapeutic dose: 400-3,000mg per day
- Turmeric extract (75 mg): Therapeutic dose: 1,200-1,800mg per day
Why you ask do these MLM products seem to have an abundance of testimonials associated with them? Assuming that the testimonials are real, there is the immense placebo effect of the “rah-rah” promotion in group meetings or when assaulted by someone at a cocktail party. Also, most people are not living a healthy lifestyle and anything they take will have a positive effect. And if you are making money by promoting the product, you are being paid to feel better.
When asked by customers if they should take Protandim I used to say go ahead but don’t drop any of your Completement formulas because that’s where your building blocks are coming from. However now that I’ve reviewed the so-called research on Protandim, I’m concerned that you don’t want to overwork your antioxidants in drug-like proportions just because it’s the newest sexy supplement with a lot of PR behind it.
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Carolyn Dean MD ND
The Doctor of the Future®
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