TBARS: An Unreliable Test of Oxidative Stress

[Editor’s Note: The following is taken from a discussion about LifeVantage’s Protandim. You can read the full comment in context here. Future verions of this article will be edited for readability and to stand as a more general source on TBARS.]

From LifeVantage’s FAQ

“Q: Where can I go to get a T-BARS test done?”
“A: To the best of our knowledge no commercial lab offers a T-BARS test. Why is this? First of all, because there is no “fix” for T-BARS other than Protandim and so it is not a priority. Next, it is a difficult test to perform outside of a research lab because the products are unstable and the samples have to be measured very quickly, a process that is difficult to do under commercial conditions. For these very reasons, the commercially offered T-BARS can be inconsistent and unreliable.”

I vaguely remember seeing this claim from the company. It’s really amazing. I’ve described here before how the TBARs test is horribly unreliable and non-specific (not to mention labor intensive…and I know because I’ve done it). The reason nobody offers it commercially is because it is basically useless. Virtually any antioxidant (or extraneous artefact) can produce positive results in a TBAR assay — that’s one of its drawbacks. Vitamin C or E will do it; a multivitamin will do it; a sip or two of tomato juice or just about any fruit/vegetable will do it. In fact, the research on the efficacy of such cheap interventions is absolutely mountainous in comparison with the one piddly TBAR test that LFVN did with Protandim. But don’t take my word for it, just check PubMed:

Influence of lycopene and vitamin C from tomato juice on biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation. Br J Nutr. 2008;99(1):137-46

Multivitamin-mineral supplementation prevents lipid peroxidation during “the Marathon des Sables”. J Am Coll Nutr. 2007;26(2):111-20.

And the two studies above are just examples of the small subset of studies that have employed the TBAR assay to measure the antioxidant effects of inexpensive practical interventions. If one takes into consideration research using other more reliable and/or widely used assays (F2-isoprostanes, 8-oxo-dG, protein carbonyls, electron spin resonance, etc.), Protandim’s trivial results suddenly seem about as significant as a grain of sand. Also bear in mind that, other design flaws aside, the Protandim study reported TBAR data for only 10 subjects who had taken Protandim for 120 days (29 subjects were initially enrolled and no reason was given for the omission of the 120-day TBAR data for the other 19 subjects).

LifeVantage is basically boasting (on the basis of unreliable data from a mere 10 people) that Protandim is the only compound that will positively impact the results of an unreliable non-specific test that is seldom used and isn’t offered commercially. And it’s not even true because a penny’s worth of vitamin C would do the same thing.

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21 Responses to TBARS: An Unreliable Test of Oxidative Stress

  1. Paul says:

    I find this all very interesting. It is always amusing to me that websites and people often hid behind anonymity and cast stones. How about giving some constructive information, and quite frankly I don’t care who created the product as long as it performs as stated. All all the the peer review articles on pubmed.gov related to protandim inaccurate, wrong and biased by the company.

    • Paul, you seem to be anonymous yourself casting stones. Instead of worrying about casting stones or anonymous, why not discuss the issue. After all it doesn’t matter if a space octopus from Kelmar is providing this information as long as it is accurate. Can you show it to be inaccurate?

      As for the peer-reviewed articles see: PubMed, Impact Factor, Peer Review Journals, and Fraud. Notice that there is nothing but failure for Protandim on ClinicalTrials.gov.

  2. Dr. Davenport says:

    Thiobarbituric acid reactive

    Find this on Pub Med!!!!
    And you are incorrect about Vitamin C

  3. Dr. Davenport says:

    Thiobarbituric acid reactive
    substances (T Bars)
    Type this in on Pub Med
    over 10,0000 studies


    Then type in the word Protandim in the search bar on http://www.pubmed.gov

    • “Dr.” Davenport,

      You seem to lack the ability to write in complete sentences. You also don’t make any points that debate the article.

      Please provide more information about why I’m wrong about Vitamin C?

      Who cares about a search of Protandim at PubMed.gov? There are thousands of more results on Vitamin C, so the few done by LifeVantage’s Joe McCord on a product that no other scientists seem to be concerned about. LifeVantage itself hasn’t done any legitimate clinical trials that have shown positive evidence for Protandim. You’d think in 7 years, they’d want to get on that.

      • Ray says:

        Ok, simple enough you take your Vitamin C and I will take my Protandim and nothing more need be said. I have had tremendous success with Protandim and many others I know have had some great success. On the other hand others who have followed the vitamin C are no longer with us. They believed the hype of the companies to let the Vitamins do the job which it can’t unless put together in away that can benefit them. I know I have tried it and it doesn’t work but Protandim does. I have the personal testimony of it not only of myself but others. Now you can argue it all you want but the evidence is in.

        • If you want to take it, go right ahead. However, just don’t sell Protandim to others without giving them the truthful information. LifeVantage is

          Protandim hasn’t been shown to work, you can’t claim it does. Hundreds of years of studying the placebo effect shows us that personal testimony is not useful evidence. Clinical trials are useful evidence and they are easy for LifeVantage to do, but they refuse to.

          Catch up on the accurate information at: Exposing the Protandim Scam!

        • Gigi says:

          protandim contains bacopa and ashwagandha. both are anti anxiety herbs used in ayurveda for ages.
          You dont’ need to pay $40 for that.

          Just go to amazon and buy from banyan botanicals or a good company.

          As for your increase in energy and ability to focus, well, that’s what brahmi (bacopa) does. When your depression and anxiety go down, u naturally feel better with those good side effects. Just purchase brahmi and ashwagandha. that’s all. easy peasy.

      • Glenn says:

        “LifeVantage itself hasn’t done any legitimate clinical trials that have shown positive evidence for Protandim. You’d think in 7 years, they’d want to get on that.”

        LifeVantage doesn’t need to do their own trials because there are Universities wanting to pay for trials themselves. And guess what? They’re all positive!

        LifeVantage doesn’t have to pay for its own positive spin or company created white papers because other well respected entities are doing it.

        Vitamin C is a hundred year old science so duh no wonder their are more studies on it. This isn’t direct antioxidant supplementation we’re talking about, this is NRF2 activation. None of the vitamins or fruits you say do the exact same thing DO NOT do the exact same thing. Protandim is not a vitamin!

  4. TBARS is available commercially through your Provider with Metametrix lab.
    Yes it is quite complex and would only be recommended if one can trust the preparation technique of the 3rd party lab preparing the specimen. Though I do not recommend it for my patients, I do have some that want to pay and have it done pre- and post- Protandim. It is quite amazing that a natural group of phytochemicals is such a potent Nrf2 Activator causing the DNA of our cells to correct incorrect expression. My hat is off to Dr. McCord and the other scientists who are continuing to perform and publish peer reviewed research on the significance of this new technology.

    • There’s actually very little evidence that Protandim does anything and LifeVantage hasn’t shown any positive clinical trials for it in the last five years (there aren’t any legit ones before that either).

      You should probably put your hat back on for Joe McCord: LifeVantage and Dr. Joe McCord Lied about the Creation of Protandim!… and realize that Paul Myhill, Inventor of Protandim, Admits Science is for Marketing


      Question: What were the results of your patients tests done pre-and post Protandim? Have you done the test pre- and post Protandim as well? If not, why not, if so, what were your results?

      Also, have most Distributors personally tested pre- and post Protandim? If not, why not? I would think they would simply to assure themselves of the validity of the product.

      • If LifeVantage won’t pay to do the large-scale clinical trials of their own product, I’m not going to. Once you know that there are dozens, maybe hundreds of these products in the MLM world with all the same claims (see this article), there’s really no reason to think that might actually even work. It’s why no one, even the companies themselves, won’t do large scale trials. Instead they do small studies where they can carefully control all the circumstances around the experiment to give a result that their sales people can market.

  5. patricia says:

    My Labrador wouldn’t know a placebo from a dog treat. She just eats what i put in her mouth. I started giving her half a Protandim when she started limping after chasing her ball. I wasn’t faithful giving Protandim to her consistently. After not having Protandim for a week or more she would limp. If I gave her Protandim regularly for a week or more she did not limp. One thing she does do every day is chase her tennis ball when I throw it. She is 7 and runs and jumps without limping when I give her Protandim. Proof enough.

  6. Bruce says:

    I see you are a member in good standing of the evil octopus vampire squid club. You probably don’t acknowledge the revolving door with the big pharma companies and the FDA and other influential positions in government. This is all in common PBS documentaries but you probably have an excuse for the bad behavior that continues to rake in billions for the big pharma community while giving dismal results and death to most who pursue this avenue. At this time the evidence is stacked against your so called scientific position on any matter you stand behind that you come off as the biggest quack I’ve seen! This web site should be re branded “Quacks-R-us” as you intentionally misinform the public and continue running the biggest scam in America known as the AMA.

    • Bruce, I didn’t see your comment here. Sorry for the delay.

      You seem to enjoy putting words in other people’s mouths about Big Pharma and the FDA and then try to damn them for it. There’s a revolving door with Wall Street and some of the Federal Reserve Bank’s employees as well.

      No one is saying that they are perfect systems, but it is certainly better than no medicine regulatory body or no financial system at all. Unless you can think up and implement something better, why not use what we have because its working well an extraordinarily large percent of the time.

  7. Allen Lee says:

    To the person who claimed that there was as in issue with the data regarding the original Protandim study, it says in the beginning of the study that the participants were divided into two groups. 20 people were assigned to take the product for one month, and 12 people assigned to take it for 3 months. You might want to try reading the study. And if you want to try to make the the case that the science behind this product is flimsy, you have quite a bit more reading to do as well. A good place to start would be the Louisiana State studies, the Virginia Commonwealth Study and the Colorado State study. Enjoy.

  8. Allen Lee says:

    Sorry – correction. I meant to say University of Colorado, not Colorado State, and I forgot to mention the Ohio State study as well.

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