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.