"I believe LifeVantage’s current science program to encourage or promote issue-specific studies is a sound strategy indeed. Since Big Pharma (through its proxy, the FDA) doesn’t allow supplements to make any disease claims, I think it’s important for the scientific literature to make those claims for us. Most people can then make the connection and understand how Protandim can be a positive part of their health regime."
It is worth noting a three things here:
Paul Myhill admits that LifeVantage is "encouraging" the studies. This seems to mean that the scientific community is not independently interested in studying Protandim. This explains why the research is all tied back to LifeVantage.
The other interesting thing here is that he seems to admit this effort isn't about studying Protandim, but it is about putting scientific literature out there to market towards the average person.
Finally Paul Myhill defames the pharmaceutical industry with an unfounded claim that the government organization, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) works as a proxy for their interests.
Vogel found a radio show on this page: Our Health and Abundance. The show takes questions from callers. One caller says:
Hi Dr. Gordon, my name is Marian Gates, I live in Marin County in California and My mother in Boston last week just had quintuple by-pass surgery. She's doing well. She's home now. However do you recommend she start Protandim immediately?
Dr. Gordon: Well if she's had by-pass surgery, if you read the by-pass graft study, yeah, the earlier the better. If it were one of my family members, yes, I would definitely have them start taking it. But as I told you, I don't make recommendations specifically to patients for the reasons that I mentioned.
So what we have here is that Dr. Mark Gordon does recommend the person take Protandim in direct answer to the readers question. In fact he goes beyond that stating that "the sooner the better." Then he ends with a sentence saying that he doesn't make recommendations. At this point it is too late, he already has.
Later on in the same interview Dr. Mark Gordon is asked about insulin levels going down while on Protandim and specifically asked if "that's what [he's] heard." He agrees and gives a testimonial of his wife's cousin's 12 year old daughter who is a type 1 diabetic who cut back insulin usage in 30% in 30 days.
He makes these recommendations despite the fact that LifeVantage itself says, "Protandim is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease." The FDA has not approved Protandim for use with post-op heart surgery or diabetes.
"Besides jail time and fines, doctors convicted in the cases could lose their licenses for a time and be excluded from the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, severely limiting their potential pool of patients.
Dr. Charles D. Rosen, an orthopedic surgeon and president of the Association for Medical Ethics, predicted that the pending cases would tarnish the entire profession. “The abuse of the public trust by the few will hurt the many,” Dr. Rosen said."
Dr. Rosen is right. The abuse of the public trust by people like Mark Gordon will hurt many.
Many Protandim proponents (say that 5 times fast) like to ask questions like, "What do doctors have to say about Protandim?" Typically doctors who aren't "encouraged" to create science for LifeVantage's marketing purposes don't have much to say about Protandim. The product isn't on their radar, most likely for a number of reasons already discussed in this blog.
There are number of worthwhile quotes that are worth addressing. Let's dig right in:
"What is Protandim? It’s a combination of Milk thistle, Bacopa extract, Ashwagandha, Green tea extract, and Turmeric extract. I looked these up in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. None of them is known to have any significant clinical benefit from antioxidant effects."
When discussing one of the studies Dr. Harriet Hall makes a point:
"I could only find one study suggesting that TBARS levels might be helpful in predicting outcome in patients who already have cardiovascular disease. This review article critiques TBARS and other measures of antioxidant activity and suggests that measuring isoprostanes might be more meaningful."
This calls into question the validity of TBARS which is a major point used in the LifeVantage Protandim FAQ.
On the topic of relying on the blood test results instead of patient results she has the following to say:
"It’s all very well to show that a remedy changes blood test results or even a known marker for disease; but what we really need to know is whether it improves health, prevents cancer, prolongs life…We need POEMS: Patient Oriented Evidence that Matters. Avandia improves hemoglobin A1C levels in diabetics but increases mortality. Mortality matters a lot; Hgb A1C levels don’t matter so much. 'The operation was a success but the patient died' is not good enough."
There was also this quote that I thought was interesting:
"The second study listed above really intrigues me. They tested the individual components and apparently established that there was a marked synergism when the ingredients were combined. If this is true, it is unusual and deserves further investigation. In general, mixing natural medicines has produced additive but not synergistic effects, despite the claims of naturopaths that synergistic effects are common and are a basic principle of herbal medicine."
This is a doctor clearly publicly calling the research into question as it is “unusual and deserves further investigation.”
It was called into question almost two full years ago. Has there been any further investigation on this research?
[Editor's Note: More thanks to Vogel for this find...]
A LifeVantage distributor may make the claim that Protandim has been studied at Harvard. They often refer to it, saying something to the effect of "Why is Harvard studying Protandim if it's a scam?" Turns out that Harvard isn't studying Protandim. You can search Harvard's website for Protandim and you'll find there are no results.
This is another one of those stories that start out as a lie from LifeVantage and get passed around by distributors like it's one of those high school rumors.
"Since the initial clinical studies completed in 2004 and 2005, Protandim has been, currently is or is planned to be the subject of approximately 25 studies at academic medical centers. Seven of the pre-clinical studies have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, including: a study that we funded which explored the mechanism of action of Protandim®; an animal study using mice to examine the tumor prevention capabilities of Protandim® conducted at Louisiana State University; an animal study exploring pulmonary hypertension and subsequent right heart failure conducted at Virginia Commonwealth University; an animal study examining the effects of Protandim® in mice with induced Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and at the University of Colorado..."
The DMD study they were referring to was this one, coauthored by McCord and supported in part by LFVN:
Qureshi et al. The dietary supplement Protandim decreases plasma osteopontin and improves markers of oxidative stress in muscular dystrophy mdx mice. J Diet Suppl. 2010;7(2):159-178.
"This work was conducted at the University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center."
In contrast with what LFVN stated in their 10-K, the DMD study was not conducted at either Massachusetts General Hospital or Harvard Medical School, but at McCord’s institution in Denver.
One of the authors, Brian Tseng, is affiliated with Harvard. Another, Qursehi, was formerly affiliated with Harvard but transferred to Texas Tech University. Now let’s look at the rest of the people on the study’s author list, all affiliated with UCDHSC.
Joe McCord, PhD – LFVN executive and insider shareholder
Warren C. McClure, MS
Nicole L. Arevalo, MA
Rick E. Rabon, BA
Swapan K. Bose, BS, BPharm
Notice that aside from McCord, there’s not a PhD among them — and they were the ones that did the work at the University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center.
Bottom Line: Instead of a study conducted at Harvard, as LifeVantage stated, we have a study conducted by McCord’s grad students in his Denver lab. LFVN is lying to the SEC, lying to investors, and lying to consumers.
"It also concluded that Protandim improves markers of fibrosis in a model of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). The study was performed by Dr. Brian Tseng and his colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Colorado Denver."
When reviewing a journal article it always worth looking at the quality of the journal publishing the article. Not all journals are considered equal. In the journal industry they are a couple of ranking systems. One of the most popular one is Impact Factor. According to Wikipedia, "[Impact Factor] is frequently used as a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field, with journals with higher impact factors deemed to be more important than those with lower ones."
I've had a number of Protandim distributors suggest that one should simply search Pubmed. If one is going to take the time to look for the journal articles, they should take the extra step and look at the importance of the journal that is accepting the articles for publication.
In future articles, specific Impact Factors for the published journal articles will be discussed.
[Yet another amazing piece of research from Vogel. The article is a mixture of some of his words and some of mine...]
Here's a video from a LifeVantage distributor meeting in Baton Rouge, LA. LiveVantage's Chief Operations Officer, Kirby Zenger, makes some atrociously false and misleading claims about the company and its products.
Here are key excerpts of Zenger's presentation.
At the 3:42 mark:
"We will be different and here's why…First, of all, our science. Go to PubMed; do whatever you need to; don't oversell it. The most beautiful thing you guys have right here is LSU confirmed EVERYTHING. And it confirmed that Protandim works against the what? [Audience member replies: 'cancer']. The BIG C! Who gets that anywhere in the world, including Pharma companies? If we ONLY had that, you guys, we will WIN. We got 8 others so far; 20 others in the works. No one can touch us; they won't touch us for YEARS. Is that cool? Is the science backed up by our own lab? No. It’s backed up by independent third-party research. It’s done in context with an Elliott Cresson Award medal winner. Why didn't he sell out for a big check years ago? Why? Because he's the right-minded people like all of us are; we want something different for everybody, not just ourselves. That’s why none of us took big checks in a [inaudible]; that's why he hasn't taken a big check in a [inaudible]. It's more important to make a bigger larger contribution. OK. That science will be unparalleled for a long time."
"What’s the second point that that does that differentiates? The regulators LOVE US! You guys might be thinking 'oh the FDA's gonna shut these guys down’. And from my perspective and our experience the FDA is gonna love us; point to us. 'Be like LifeVantage'! 'Go get this kind of science and then we'll allow you to do some of the things that we think that this industry should do with supplements'...My point is, the FDA is gonna say what? 'Cool company, cool science'."
"What's the FTC going to say? The other regulatory body that watches our industry. Are we up here going, 'He makes 10 grand a month, he makes 40 grand a month, here's my check.' Do we do that? [Audience member answers No]."
The above quote is clear evidence that LifeVantage implies and intends its supplement Protandim to treat cancer. As we found out in the article, LifeVantage President Encourages Distributors to Break FDA and FTC Laws, this is illegal. Protandim has not undergone the necessary clinical trials or even attempted to get approval from the FDA for this claim.
Here are some more points on that chunk:
Zenger also lies and says that says that the science is backed up by independent third-party research. This is false. You can see LifeVantage Officer Joe McCord's name on the "research."
The Elliott Cresson Award is more window-dressing. No one has even heard of such a thing, and it hasn't been awarded for years. In addition, the award was for work that is completely unrelated to Protandim. McCord is a highly paid company spokesman, nothing more.
"Normally, everybody's in the game to what? Get the check! I buy 200 to 5000 dollars worth a product a month and stash it in my garage so I can get that check. Here they don't. Nine out of ten people you talk to will want the product. They may want to join you in the business – YET – but they'll want the product. Unusual! FTC loves us! It's not a house of cards. Wall Street loves it because you have predictable forecast-able (sic) income on those monthly authorships of all these consumers who are merely enjoying the byproducts of health. Killer! Killer for you."
Telling distributors that 9 out of 10 people they talk to will want the product is one of the worst LFVN lies ever told. I can't imagine that it's even as good as 1 in 50.
"Nine out of ten (MLM companies) fail for what reasons? Undercapitalized, bad business plan, bad product, and the worst component in my mind – bad people."
Well Kirby Zenger certainly has the "bad people" covered part of LifeVantage. This website has shown many other bad people lying and misleading others as well. So I guess we can expect LifeVantage to fail.
"You get to see our misfires as well as our successes in a public company -- it is transparent as a protection for you. We've beaten off most of the naysayers and the bad plays, and now every quarter you can see whether we’re smart or we’re goofy, and you can get as a shareholder base new people in place if you wanted to. Powerful protection!”
They haven't "beaten off" any naysayers that I've seen. This website now has dozens of articles and LifeVantage hasn't responded to a single one. The company is pumping and selling LFVN stock to their own distributors, just like they do with the products. This is yet another pyramid scheme within a pyramid scheme.
Furthermore, it's a horrible idea to invest in your own company's stock. We saw what happened when Enron employees lost their whole financial future - there job was taken away and the company stock that they invested in because worthless.
For what it's worth, Zenger also made a couple of indirect comments in the video about "ministries" and military service (14:55) indicting that his audience members were former military and involved in some kind of church ministry. I mention that only because it adds to the image of exploitation. Our servicemen certainly deserve better than to be robbed by some smooth talking reptile in a cheap suit.
A couple of the Protandim studies have been published by Public Library of Science (PLoS). Since we know that all journals are not created equal, it is worth looking into value of PLoS (we will look at other journals in future articles).
"Public Library of Science (PLoS), the poster child of the open-access publishing movement, is following an haute couture model of science publishing — relying on bulk, cheap publishing of lower quality papers to subsidize its handful of high-quality flagship journals."
"An analysis by Nature of the company's accounts shows that PLoS still relies heavily on charity funding, and falls far short of its stated goal of quickly breaking even through its business model of charging authors a fee to publish in its journals. In the past financial year, ending 30 September 2007, its $6.68-million spending outstripped its revenue of $2.86 million, according to the publicly available accounts."
It gets worse for PLoS (note the emphasis below is mine):
"But its financial future is looking brighter thanks to a cash cow in the form of PLoS One, an online database that PLoS launched in December 2006. PLoS One uses a system of 'light' peer-review to publish any article considered methodologically sound. In its first full year of operation in 2007, PLoS One published 1,230 articles, which would have generated an estimated $1.54 million in author fees, around half of PLoS's total income that year. By comparison, the 321 articles published in PLoS Biology in 2007 brought in less than half this amount."
Pubmed, as of this writing (June 27, 2011), lists two articles on Pubmed that were published on Plos One - which is not to be confused with the more reputable journals that make PLoS main journals:
"Protandim, a fundamentally new antioxidant approach in chemoprevention using mouse two-stage skin carcinogenesis as a model." - Robbins D, Gu X, Shi R, Liu J, Wang F, Ponville J, McCord JM, Zhao Y.
"The chemopreventive effects of Protandim: modulation of p53 mitochondrial translocation and apoptosis during skin carcinogenesis." - Liu J, Gu X, Robbins D, Li G, Shi R, McCord JM, Zhao Y.
(It should be noted that these articles are very similar in nature and share 6 of the same authors.)
Here are a couple of other prime quotes from the Nature article about PLoS One:
"PLoS One has published 1,158 papers since the beginning of this year, which is almost as many as it published during the whole of 2007. Another factor is that it costs authors only $1,250 to publish in PLoS One."
"'There's so much in PLoS One that it is difficult to judge the overall quality and, simply because of this volume, it's going to be considered a dumping ground, justified or not,' says John Hawley, executive director of the free-access Journal of Clinical Investigation. 'But nonetheless, it introduces a sub-standard journal to their mix.'"
A lot of the Protandim distributors have been making conflicting claims about the US Navy and or the Navy Seals allegedly studying Protandim for some purpose. I spent a lot of time performing what I believe to be an exhaustive search to find out if this indeed true or if this another one of those false rumors that get passed along the MLM industry like the lie that Harvard Business School teaches MLM. My research didn't come up with any official company press releases, SEC filings, or anything from the Navy substantiating any connection between LifeVantage Protandim and the Navy.
It seems like there's a video in a recent "Science Update" from LifeVantage that explains the Protandim-Navy rumor:
At the 2:44 mark, the video splices in a segment from McCord from back in April 2011 about the US Navy and a study they are conducting:
"There’s a human exercise trial funded by the US Navy underway, and the Armed Forces of course are very interested in performance of soldiers under battle conditions, and recovery times, and, you know, how much damage is done if you have to just exert yourself over the top for, let’s say, 15 minutes of intense exercise. So they’re interested not only in recovery to damage but this one is looking at mitochodriogenesis. So there are things you can do to help yourselves build more mitochondria, which means they can perform aerobically for longer period of time. So that’s an interesting study."
[Note that this video also appears on LFVNs official website, but we've used the easier to embed version on YouTube.]
Look at what the video is saying closely. Notice that McCord merely says that "a" trial is being "funded" by the "US Navy" (not Navy Seals as some distributors have claimed) and, more importantly, he didn’t say that Protandim was involved in the study at all. In the context of the video, the person watching it make infer that, but the company is clearly making the claim. This the companies way of dropping bait for the distributor to pick up and run with. And the distributors have picked it up and ran! What are they saying about this alleged study funded by the Navy; the one that McCord didn’t say had anything to do with Protandim or with him? The answer should disappoint anyone who is affiliated with this company. These quote are from the top Google hits for ‘Protandim + Navy’.
McCord's seemingly innocent and innocuous discussion about a single study that he:
(1) said was merely funded by (not conducted by) the Navy (not the Navy Seals)
(2) said the "Armed Forces" would probably be interested in
(3) did not say he involved Protandim
(3) did not say involved him in any way...
…suddenly becomes, essentially, this:
"Not only is Protandim being tested in two human double blind placebo trials by the US government, elite Navy Seals, Department of Defense, Marines, and special forces, in a study they commissioned Joe McCord to conduct, it is now also being used by the Seals and Marines in Afghanistan to cure altitude sickness, and the Seals support the product — and I know that all of this is true because Joe McCord and David Perlmutter said so (and it’s unthinkable that they would lie or distort the truth)."
This is exactly the same thing that happens when McCord lectures about Protandim and cancer; never actually saying that Protandim has any real therapeutic effect on cancer, but making every effort, indirectly, to make the distributor think that it does. And that's the message they all walk away with and relay to the public - "Protandim cures cancer... Joe McCord said so, and he won an Eliot Cresson medal for co-discovering superoxide dismutase 45 years ago, so it must be true."
1. I want to thank Vogel for much of this find.
2. I'm categorizing this under "LifeVantage Lies" until we have official announcement from both sides LifeVantage and Navy confirming the research being done.]
[Editor's Note: The following is 99% the work of Vogel in a comment that you can read at the main Protandim Scams article. I've done a little clean up and fit the links in to flow like a traditional article on the web.]
PubMed shows that between 2003 and 2008 there were 20 research articles published in which the effect of curcumin on NRF2 was described, and in that same timeframe, many articles have been published on the activation of NRF2 by a variety of other common compounds aside from curcumin, such as green tea polyphenols (such as this one and this one.
Curcumin and green tea extract (75 mg each) are 2 of the 5 ingredients in Protandim.
McCord is also an insider shareholder of LifeVantage, owning (or having owned) a 10% share of the company, and he receives a substantial amount of money (50 cents) from every bottle of Protandim sold. Here are details on his financial interest.
One of the other authors of the 2003 article on curcumin and NRF2 published in Biochemical Journal (Balogun et al. 2003) was Jawed Alam, PhD (from the Department of Molecular Genetics at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans), was also an author on the 2009 LifeVantage study on Protandim and NRF2 by Velmurugan and McCord et al.
In a nutshell, that's a smoking gun. LifeVantage’s 2009 report about Protandim simulating NRF2 in vitro was totally predictable, given that the product contains curcumin and green tea extract. They merely piggybacked on a pre-existing line of research, which presumably they had to have been aware of for years (prior to the creation of Protandim). It is also presumably no mere coincidence that the genesis of the Protandim/NRF2 article took place right around the time that the company announced the hiring of David Brown (former CEO of infamous Metabolife) as their new President/CEO – i.e., LifeVantage announced Brown’s hiring in a January 2008 press release and the Protandim/NRF2 manuscript (which included only in vitro experiments, which can be performed fairly quickly) was first submitted to the journal on July 8, 2008 (according to the publication details in the article).
LifeVantage's sleight of hand trick with respect to NRF2 reminds me of how other MLM supplement companies (e.g., Monavie, Juice Plus etc.) spike their products with vitamin C and then publish worthless studies showing that the products have antioxidant effects, which in reality is attributable simply to the added vitamin C (a cheap commonplace ingredient).