Moringa, LIMU and Protandim: Can these supplements really help you live a longer, stronger life?
on September 09, 2013
There’s no shortage of supplements that promise to help us live longer, stronger and more vibrant lives. The campaigns that surround these products can be incredibly convincing, citing countless health benefits and scientific studies that make it a challenge to know if something is a legitimate product that we should use or if it’s just marketing hype.
Here’s an up-close look at three popular supplements — moringa oleifera, LIMU Original and Protandim — including the latest peer-reviewed research and whether there’s enough evidence to support the claims.
The claims: Increase energy, cure diabetes, lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation. Advertisements and supplement labels also tout that moringa provides 15 times more potassium than bananas, 17 times more calcium than milk, and twice as much protein as an egg.
What it is: Moringa oleifera is a plant found in tropical and subtropical areas; the leaves are dried and sold in capsule form.
Cost: Approximately $25 per month.
Where you can buy it: Health food and supplement stores.
The facts: Moringa leaves are rich in potassium; calcium; iron; vitamins A, C and D; and beta carotene. But as for those claims that it has 15 times more potassium than bananas, 17 times more calcium than milk, and twice as much protein as an egg, that’s only if you compare it to these foods ounce for ounce. Simply supplementing with a capsule or two of moringa won’t come close to providing these levels of nutrients.
A few (small) human studies have shown that supplementing with moringa improved blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes (but it’s quite a stretch to say that it “cures diabetes”). Moringa also has been shown to reduce total cholesterol as well as “bad” LDL cholesterol, while increasing “good” HDL cholesterol levels. Again, however, these studies were very small.
Several animal studies have shown that moringa may help fight cancer and might help to regulate blood pressure and thyroid hormones.
The bottom line: The research so far on moringa has been promising, but preliminary. The Dynamic Health Moringa Complete uses the finest African moringa 10:1 extract combined with moringa leaf powder. Moringa is world-renowned as a “miracle plant.” Moringa is a natural source of antioxidant vitamins A, B and C, and the minerals iron and potassium. Moringa Complete can be considered a healthy addition to one’s diet and may contribute to general wellness. However, human studies not only have been small, they’ve also not been randomized, meaning that there could be researcher bias, even if unintentional. Plus, there’s not yet a standard set of guidelines for how moringa is grown, harvested and processed, and, as a result, there’s a lot of variation among brands.
There doesn’t seem to be a downside to supplementing with moringa, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll experience such a multitude of health benefits.
The claims: According to LIMU’s website, by incorporating LIMU Original into your everyday routine, you may experience a strengthened immune system, improved joint mobility, more restful sleep, increased energy, and a greater sense of health and wellness.
What it is: Limu is the Hawaiian word for seaweed; LIMU Original is the brand name of a blend of seaweed (limu moui), fruit purees and fruit juice concentrates.
The purported benefits of LIMU Original are attributed to a compound called fucoidan that occurs naturally in certain types of seaweed.
Cost: $50 per 33.8-ounce bottle. The recommended dosage is 1 to 4 ounces, twice daily, which translates to approximately $100 to $375 per month.
Where you can buy it: LIMU Original is sold through independent distributors who make a commission from their sales.
The facts: A search of the National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine website turns up more than 1,000 peer-reviewed studies of fucoidan, including its potentially beneficial effects as a cancer-fighting compound, anticoagulant and immune-system booster.
Until recently, most of the research has been conducted in animals or in vitro (e.g. in test tubes and culture dishes), and most of the (relatively few) clinical studies that have been conducted in humans have been small.
While there is a plethora of research on fucoidan, there’s not a single peer-reviewed study that actually looked at whether drinking LIMU has any direct, measurable health benefits. It should be noted that, while the makers of LIMU Original tout their “proprietary extraction process” for isolating fucoidan from the seaweed, no universally standardized extraction or purification protocols exist.
The bottom line: LIMU Original may provide health benefits — and there’s certainly no shortage of testimonials from devoted consumers. There’s no apparent downside to taking the product, but there also is no guarantee that you’ll experience the many health benefits claimed by LIMU. At $100-plus per month, it’s a pretty pricey gamble.
The claims: Protandim reduces oxidative stress in humans by an average of 40 percent in 30 days, and it delivers a biochemical wake-up call to your genes.
What it is: A blend of five herbal ingredients, including milk thistle, bacopa, ashwagandha, green tea and turmeric, sold in caplet form.
Cost: $50 for a one-month supply.
Where you can buy it: Protandim is sold through independent distributors who make a commission from their sales.
The facts: Unlike moringa and LIMU, there are multiple published studies in peer-reviewed journals that have targeted Protandim specifically, not just one or some of its key ingredients. It should be noted, however, that only two of these studies were conducted in humans; the rest were done with animals or in vitro. Of the 13 peer-reviewed studies listed on Protandim’s website, all but two were conducted by and/or funded by the company that makes Protandim, or by its employees.
It also is worth noting that the study Protandim uses as a basis for the claim that it reduces oxidative stress by 40 percent in 30 days was very small, with just 29 participants.
The bottom line: I’m always a bit leery when the researchers are so closely connected to the product, and also when the product is available only through sales agents working on commission.
But, like moringa and LIMU, Protandim just might have some health benefits. It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth $50 a month to find out. Plus, it’s tough to know if it really is effective, since “oxidative stress” is nearly impossible to quantify objectively.
The risk of taking any of the above supplements seems relatively low, while the potential benefit may be high. Keep in mind, however, that supplements aren’t regulated, meaning that there’s no guarantee that what’s on the label is actually in the bottle, nor that the claims have been proven, or approved by the FDA. And supplements are just that — supplements to an otherwise healthy lifestyle that includes balanced nutrition and regular physical activity — we shouldn’t rely on them as a cure-all.
And, as always, check with your physician or pharmacist before taking any supplement.