Canine Health from LifeVantage–Protandim by Any Other Name & Still No Real Evidence

I was recently asked to comment on yet another “kitchen sink” mélange of herbs and supplements promoted w/ claims of broad benefits for dogs: Canine Health from LifeVantage. This proved easier than I had expected since the product is identical to Protandim, except for a couple of additional ingredients.

You may recall that Protandim is a supplement which I have reviewed previously (1), and which Dr. Harriet Hall has discussed at Science-Based Medicine several times (2,3,4). The theoretical justification for the product rests on the supposed anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the ingredients. None of the ingredients have well-demonstrated benefits or clear evidence that there is negligible risk in using them, though several have interesting properties that warrant further study. It would not at all surprise me if compounds derived from some of these ingredients turned out to have therapeutic value, but that is a far cry from justifying the kind of claims made for this product.

In any case, there is growing doubt about the hypothesis that oxidative damage is a significant cause of many disorders or that anti-oxidants are necessarily safe and beneficial (5,6). And all well-studied anti-inflammatory medications have significant potential risks as well as benefits, so it is almost certain the same would be true for compounds like those in Protandim if these turned out to have significant anti-inflammatory effects.

Of course, it doesn’t appear that scientific research and evidence is necessarily the primary concern for the founder of the company that sells Protandim, based on his own explanation for why he has discovered a miraculous remedy the scientific community has overlooked:

I already mentioned this in Entry #1: Motivations, but it bears repeating here. All the details you’re about to read concerning the development of Protandim mean nothing – absolutely nothing at all – without acknowledging that God used me as a vessel in brining Protandim to fruition. For almost 35 years scientists were looking for this tool after Dr. Joe McCord and Dr. Irwin Fridovich discovered Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) in 1969. For almost 35 years the pharmaceutical industry failed. For almost 35 years the nutraceutical industry failed.

Then God intervened . . . and has taken us on this unlikely, exciting journey.

The bottom line for this supplement hasn’t changed since my original review:

The underlying theory used to promote this product, that anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects are always safe and beneficial, is highly doubtful. There is only weak in vitro and animal model research to indicate that the ingredients in Protandim, or the combination product, have potentially useful effects on cells or biochemical markers. There is absolutely no clinical trial evidence to indicate Protandim has any of the claimed benefits in humans or animals. While the absence of evidence is not proof the product is unsafe or ineffective, it is absolutely a reason to be skeptical of wild claims of miraculous benefits. At best, using this product is simply rolling the dice and hoping for the best.

Like Protandim, CanineHealth is said to prevent or improve a wide range of seemingly unrelated conditions, including problems in the joints, brain, heart, and eyes. It is purported to do so by reducing “oxidative stress.” The difference between the two products is the inclusion in Canine Health of omega-3 fatty acids” and “Type II chicken sternum collagen.” As with Protandim, no details or dosages of these ingredients is disclosed.

The most common source of omega-3 fatty acid supplements is fish oils. There is good evidence that these can improve symptoms of allergic skin disease (7), some weak evidence suggesting a benefit for arthritis treatment (8,9). It has been suggested that their inclusion in diets can improve signs of dementia in dogs, but the mmore specific evidence in human isn’t very supportive(10, 11). It isn’t clear if fish oil is even the source of essential fatty acids in Canine Health, but if it is it has only weak evidence to suggest a benefit, and there is no reason to mix it with all of the other untested stuff in the product.

With regard to Type II Collagen, despite a number of studies there is insufficient evidence to support any benefit of this supplement as a treatment of arthritis in humans (12, 13). There is also no convincing evidence supporting use in dogs.

As for the product itself, the company claims to have paid another organization to conduct a double-blind, placebo controlled clinical study showing “a reduction in oxidative stress, improvement in mobility and improved cognitive function.” Naturally, the results of this study have not been published and the details are not available to the public, so we have to take LifeVantage’s word for the results.

So we have another catchall, anti-oxidant based mixture of herbs and supplements claimed to have wide-ranging benefits but with no convincing scientific evidence supporting these claims. Numerous red flags of quackery are present, and there is heavy reliance on testimonials and celebrity endorsement rather than scientific research to promote the product. None of this is definitive proof that it doesn’t have some or all of the miraculous benefits claimed, only that there is currently no good reason to believe it does. Yet another roll of the dice with our pets’ health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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66 Responses to Canine Health from LifeVantage–Protandim by Any Other Name & Still No Real Evidence

  1. Lauren Ford says:

    I have actually read those. Doesn’t change my opinion. I have dogs that had health conditions. Tried diet change, pharmaceuticals and so on. Negligible improvement.

    Once I started them on Protandim and then Canine Health when it came out – their health improved and it was measurable in their blood tests and by watching my senior with hip dysplasia manage the stairs with no problems; and my other senior became social again and able to jump into my waist high bed with his severe arthritis. NO OTHER CHANGES WERE MADE AT OR NEAR THAT TIME other than removing them from the other natural supplements and prescription NSAID my vet had recommended (fish oil, flax seed, and so on) that they had been on for 6 months with again, negligible results, once I decided to try Protandim.

    You can believe there is no ‘magic’ pill. I never intimated there was.

    But I know what the test results are, and how their mobility has improved.

    You, as am I, are welcome to your personal opinion. I would recommend against responding to people in the vein in which you have responded to many on this thread. You appear to have some personal or emotional attachment to the outcome.

  2. skeptvet says:

    I’m not sure where you get the sense that I have any motive other than trying to educate people about the uncertainties and risks of making decisions about untested medical products by anecdote and trial and error. Nothing personal or emotional involved, but I think your approach isn’t reliable, so I’m saying so. It’s up to you whether you accept or reject that argument, and it’s up to you whether you choose to take what I say personally. No need for any amateur psychoanalysis of me or my motives.

  3. Bodil Marc says:

    I appreciate your efforts to help us keep our pets safe and healthy by providing clear and concise information on this and other “supplements” which seem to mostly benefit the “inventor” and the MLM sales force.

  4. Arielle R. says:

    First and foremost, I would personally like to apologize for any of those claims anyone may have seen. LifeVantage’s Compliance team is very strict on that and try to correct it. They cannot claim that it cures or treats any illnesses, however, the one thing distributors can say it does is focus on lowering oxidative stress levels. I personally do not like people making claims outside of this because, for one their wrong, and two, it really does put a terrible name and reputation to a company.

    However, there is actual research and tests done on the patented product, Protandim. I noticed this article was published in 2013, so you may not have seen any by that time, but there is some true science behind what Protandim is and what it has done. If you go to PubMed.gov, and do a search for Protandim, you will find 22 peer reviewed studies. While none of these are specifically for the canine health, LifeVantage does have a case study available to the public about this, and that may not be enough for some. Yet, keep in mind that the canine health has the protandim in it, which still comes with that focus on lowering the oxidative stress levels. However, none of them are purchased studies. The associations and universities that did these studies, did them on their own accord on some of them, and others LifeVantage asked if they would be willing to do the studies.

    Link for Protandim search on PubMed.gov:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=protandim

    Also, one of the doctors that collaborated on the Canine Health, was Dr. William Barnett. He is well known for his focus on pet nutrition and animal health. If you look him up, has has actually done some really interesting things!

    Anyways, that’s what I’ve got for now! I’m not a scientists or anything close to that, but these are the facts I know and researched about. I agree, although the personal stories are great to hear for others, they do not state the facts, science or evidence of all of it.

  5. skeptvet says:

    I appreciate your interest in sticking to claims that have been validated by appropriate research. Supplements cannot make treatment claims under the law without undergoing the FDA approval process for medicines, and it is disappointing that so many marketers of such products violate this law.

    That said, I don’t seem anything in the literature on PubMed since 2013 that demonstrates any clinical benefits. Most studies do, as you point out, look at proxy markers of oxidation. This is an interesting field, but no firm link between such markers and health of disease exists, so the meaning of such effects is still unclear. One of the papers you cited provides an illustration of why the science behind this product is not at all convincing.

    Ueberschlag SL, Seay JR, Roberts AH, DeSpirito PC, Stith JM, Folz RJ, Carter KA, Weiss EP, Zavorsky GS.
    The Effect of Protandim® Supplementation on Athletic Performance and Oxidative Blood Markers in Runners.
    PLoS One. 2016 Aug 11;11(8):e0160559.

    In this study, not only was there no measurable effect on athletic performance compared to placebo, there wasn’t even a measurable overall effect on the proxy markers for oxidative stress you claim are meaningful. Only by doing a post-hoc subgroup analysis were the authors able to find any apparent effect, and this is exactly the kind of bias-introducing statistical methods that the American Statistical Association warns against because they create a false impression of effects for interventions that aren’t actually doing anything clinically significant.

    The other studies in the last three years are all in vitro or lab animal studies, and none support any claims of health benefits in actual people or patients. So the only appropriate claim for this product is that it might have some effects on oxidative metabolism which might or might not have beneficial or harmful effects on individuals in the real world. Hard to sell a product with such a weak, though technically accurate, claim, however, which is why I suspect distributors are so tempted to rely on anecdotes (including case reports, which are simply formally presented anecdotes) and make claims that go beyond the evidence.

  6. Arielle R. says:

    Well then I guess I don’t understand the “hard” evidence you are looking. Mice and rats are actually used for many research studies.

    This article explains why the use of mice and rats:
    http://www.livescience.com/32860-why-do-medical-researchers-use-mice.html

    So while mices are rats are not humans, a lot of studies generally don’t like humans for test studies. I’m not saying that is LifeVantage’s reasoning, however they express when they talk about these different studies that they use mice for their studies. So the consumers and distributor’s should be aware of how these studies are done.

    Again, distributors are not suppose to make other claims that what it is intended to do. The distributors are actually taught this very much to follow compliance. So while these studies again might now be enough for them due to the case that they are mice, a lot of it still does come from sharing with loved ones and seeing the difference in their life, their personal testimonies. The ignorance of a distributor is what leads them to making false claims, this is not LifeVantage’s doing though. Like I said, their Compliance team works hard at trying to catch those doing so, and putting a stop to it.

    Everyone needs the evidence, and I appreciate you trying to find that hard evidence, but what is it that defines “hard” evidence?

  7. skeptvet says:

    The hierarchy of evidence is well-established;

    Evidence Pyramid

    Low-level pre-clinical evidence establishes basic physiologic mechanisms and gives suggestions as to how a potential therapy might work and what risks it might have. However, the overwhelming majority of treatments that look promising at this early stage fail because they either don’t work well or have unacceptable adverse effects in complex, living patients. Animal models are a necessary precursor to clinical trials to establish the real safety and efficacy of a treatment in the patients one intends to use it in, but they do not prove safety or efficacy and they do not replace such trials.

    So when I say there is no reliable or “hard” evidence, what I mean is that the standard applied to medicines is repeatable benefits and minimal or acceptable risks in patients similar to those one wants to use the treatment for. If you want to use a product, for example, to treat lymphoma in dogs, showing it kills cancer cells in a petri dish and that it seems to help mice with carcinoma is a useful step towards validating the treatment for dogs with lymphoma, but you can’t trust the treatment is actually safe and effective in such dogs until you have a proper replicated, randomized, placebo controlled studies in dogs with lymphoma.

    This, of course, frustrates people who want to do something now, because good science is slow and difficult and expensive. However, good science has double average human life expectancy and eliminated disease and suffering to an extent unprecedented in history. It is worth relying on because it works better. And using proxy markers in vitro or in lab animals is merely the first in a series of steps needed to know if this product actually helps real patients. As you can see form the study I referred to, sometimes when you use test the product in people you don’t see any effect despite the suggestive observations in preclinical research, so this illustrates exactly why using such a product before clinical studies showing it is safe and effective is rolling the dice. Sometimes, in desperate circumstances, such a risk is appropriate. However, widespread use of products like this that haven’t had proper evaluation is unlikely to be safe or beneficial most of the time.

  8. Amandaav says:

    You forgot to mention Nrf2 or maybe these people think that Nrf2 is a scam as well

  9. skeptvet says:

    It is a tidbit of science misused to market a scam.

  10. Allen says:

    I have been giving my 13 year old dog, LifeVantage for over 3 years now. I first tried it because she was showing signs of stiffness and slowing down some of which was probably from her getting lymes. Contrary to the skeptvet, I did not want the typical type of chemical medicines that most vets push. Most doctors in hospitals for that matter. History shows us there is NOTHING better for us than a healthy lifestyle and good diet. That’s exactly why I chose LifeVantage. It seemed like a more gentle approach with natural ingredients that would either work or not work, but at least I wouldn’t be putting the normal kind of harsh medicines/chemicals in my dog. I noticed a difference in about a week. She just seemed happier…She moved easier, had more energy, maybe acted a little younger. I give her a pill everyday just before she eats.

    In my opinion, as others have noted, it seems the skeptvet is not just skeptical but on the side of biased. The comments and “opinions” of skeptvet definitely come off as negative and pushing us towards traditional medicines. If I’m wrong, so be it, but I’m not the only one to pick up on that.

    All I know is it seems to help my dog. That and the fact that there’s nothing really harmful in it will ensure that I continue to give LifeVantage to her until she passes. Hopefully this review will help some of you.

  11. skeptvet says:

    The “bias” you detect is the firm belief that science and evidence work whereas anecdote and blind trial-and-error don’t. There is no reason to believe this stuff is safe or effective, and if you choose to believe so based on unreliable evidence, that’s up to you. But you’ve been misled. And you might be interested to know (though probably not) that the FDA recently warned LifeVantage against continuing to commit fraud by selling its products with medical claims they have done nothing at all to prove are true.

  12. Allen says:

    His response to my comment is exactly what others and myself have noticed. He or she takes this personally. Why? The response to my comment even attempted, though poorly, to belittle me claiming I wouldn’t be interested in facts or knowledge. You claim I’ve been mislead too…how so, exactly? I tried a safe (no harmful ingredients) method to help my pet and it worked. I have a perfectly healthy, 13 year old fur ball laying at my feet as living proof. She, without a doubt, feels and acts better while taking LifeVantage. What proof do you have that this doesn’t work? What studies have YOU done that show YOU it doesn’t work? I have an almost 4 year study that proves it does…

    Ingredients work differently for everyone and everything, that’s a fact. Doctors know this and vets should know it. So why you’re so adamantly putting down a product that could potentially help others pets is beyond me. It won’t harm them, so what’s the risk? I truly hope two things. One, I hope you’re not really a vet. And two, I hope you’re very young. Now feel free to attack me again, say I don’t care about facts, whatever you feel the need to do…but I have a healthier, more mobile and alert pet because of the product you say doesn’t do anything.

  13. skeptvet says:

    I don’t know what would suggest I took anything about your comments personally. You’re wrong, and you have the common but false belief that your personal experience is a reliable way to test medical products. That doesn’t affect me personally, but since it’s a misconception that has led to tremendous unnecessary suffering through the use of ineffective and unsafe medicines, it is worth identifying the error for what it is. As for my comment that you would not be interested in the FDA condemnation of this company, was that not correct?

    Anecdotes like yours (“I did X and the patient got better”) exist for every failed therapy in the history of medicine, from bloodletting and ritual sacrifice to homeopathy and supplements like Protandim. Either everything works for somebody, in which case we should give up trying to understand health and disease because blind trial and error is the only option, or anecdotes like this aren’t reliable. The history of medicine, and the unprecedented success of science compared to everything else we’ve tried, makes it pretty clear that anecdotes are meaningless, even when people feel as strongly about them as you do.

    I’m glad your pet is doing well, and I hope the product actually does work and doesn’t eventually do harm to her. But without the evidence, no one really knows, including you. And the burden of proof is on those recommending and profiting from the product not on those who ask to see the data before they accept the company’s claims or testimonials like yours.

    Why Anecdotes Can’t Be Trusted

  14. Allen says:

    Now memes are involved? lol. Simply, WOW! I suddenly feel like I got sucked into a teenagers forum…

    I changed NOTHING about my pets lifestyle or diet other than introducing LifeVantage and she improved noticeably to myself, my family and even friends that hadn’t seen her in a while. But I’m sure you’re right…it’s the same as blood vetting. Thank you for my education on how natural supplements can do nothing unless approved by the FDA.

    You talk about being mislead, yet you blindly follow nothing. You claim there aren’t any studies, yet you adamantly say a product doesn’t work. All while being told, by actual people that have tried the product, that it does work. I think I’ll stick to the living proof at my feet while you go off the studies that haven’t been done…

    The last word is yours. Make sure you find the perfect meme…

  15. skeptvet says:

    You are not listening. I didn’t “say adamantly it doesn’t work.” I said there is no evidence and without evidence no one knows. How can we discuss this if you don’t even read what I’ve said? You are fighting a straw man of your won making and refusing to even consider anything that contradicts your beliefs. That’s the hallmark of blind faith, which has no place in medicine.

  16. Andrea says:

    How is your dog doing now?

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