Protandim is an herbal supplement consisting of a mixture of five herbs with putative anti-oxidant properties. It is marketed by LifeVantage as an anti-aging product which has been validated by renowned universities. To substantiate that claim, the company lists 13 publications on its website which have been published between 2006 and 2013. A review of those publications shows that there is no credible scientific evidence to suggest that Protandim has any beneficial clinical effect in humans.
There is reasonably strong evidence that Protandim applied to cells in-vitro (outside living organisms) causes changes in expression of enzymes related to anti-oxidant activity, though there is no direct evidence that these changes result in beneficial effects in living organisms. There is some evidence in animals, such as mice, that Protandim causes an increase in anti-oxidant enzymes and a decrease in some products of oxidation. However, since these studies cannot examine every possible enzyme, it is unclear whether these changes will result in a clinically beneficial effect as other enzymes or products may have changed in opposite directions.
It is concerning that after 10 years of study there has been only one controlled trial in humans subjects and it failed to find a significant effect of Protandim administration. This is particularly concerning because a proper trial of a supplement, such as Protandim, is relatively easy to design to test claims of clinical efficacy for a specific condition. The fact that no peer reviewed studies have revealed a significant clinical benefit in humans in 10 years argues strongly that Protandim does not have a significant clinical benefit.
Of the 13 studies listed on the LifeVantage website, only 1 is a placebo controlled blinded study administering Protadim to human subjects and measuring a clinical outcome (Burnham et al. 2012). This study failed to find any significant difference in the target clinical outcomes between subjects receiving Protandim and those receiving a placebo.
Of the remaining studies, 3 are reviews of other studies and so present no new data which can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of Protandim; rather, they present the authors' views of the other existing data.
Three of the remaining 9 studies examined the effect of Protandim administration to non-human animals. While two of these studies suggest that Protandim may cause enzymatic changes in the animals which could act as anti-oxidants, it is not possible to know from these studies whether other changes may have occurred in other enzymatic pathways which would offset these changes at a clinical level (and such counter-acting changes are common in living organisms). One study administered Protandim to a line of mice which are pre-disposed to develop tumors and showed a decrease in the number of tumors, though in this study the assessment of tumors was not blinded to whether the animals were receiving Protandim.
One additional study examined the effect of administering Protandim to humans and observed enzymatic changes consistent with those found in non-human animals. The interpretation of these findings is subject to the same difficulties as those discussed above for non-human animal studies, namely, other enzymatic changes may have occurred which would counter any putative clinical effect of Protandim.
Five remaining studies examined the effect of Protandim mixed into the fluids used to nourish cells outside the body (in-vitro studies). These studies generally showed changes in enzymes involved in oxidative processing and possible changes in the number of cells dying in these artificial environments. It is of course not possible to know from such studies whether such changes would result in a clinically beneficial effect in humans, where other changes in the body may also occur.