The other day I woke up to an exciting new Monday morning. I love Mondays since I get to choose any supplement in the whole wide world to research and put onto Examine.com. At least to me, this is like a kid waking up in a candy store without the knowledge of what ‘diabesity’ is; pure unadulterated joy and no knowledge of why exactly it’s a bad idea (I have a bad habit of calling molecules delicious or sexy).
Then I checked my mail.
Through various sites I had over a dozen inquires about ‘TA-65’. Strange. What is it? Upon first glance, something to do with telomeres and has recently been shown to be anti-aging.
For those of you reading this who want the actual science, I have completed the Examine page on the herb in question which you can read in full here. For the rest of you, here are the Clif notes;
TA-65 is a herb called Astragalus Membranaceus.It serves a central function in a lot of different Chinese and Japanese herbal remedies. Some of the flavonoids like calycosin and formononectin I have never heard of before. The HDTIC isomers just look cool (it’s like they have eyes and a top hat) and some of the studies looked very interesting. I liked the one showing that calycosin could whiten the skin (I joked about it being the ‘white supremacist approved’ isoflavonoid).
For this article, I want to target the compound of TA-65 and why I am both laughing at its existence and facepalming because people are buying it.
First, what is TA-65?
TA-65 is a patented ‘extract from Astragalus Membranaceus’ that is served in a unit of ‘units’. One pill has ‘250 units’ to it, and there is no description about what the heck one ‘unit’ is. Here is their homepage and dosing information. There, you will also find the reason why I do not like them much. I am poor, and they require a $1,200-$4,000 downpayment for a 6 month supply. Ack.
The molecule itself is the steroidal saponin ‘Astragaloside IV’ which is normally at 1-2% of Astragalus by weight. I know this because patents are available online. The related molecule, TAT2, is Cycloastrogaloside, the backbone molecule for all astrogalosides (about 7 of them), and a bit less potent than Astragaloside IV in many regards.
In the article that everybody sent me, the CEO of the company stated that “No one connected to TA-65 will say if the supplement and TAT2 are chemically the same—“it’s a trade secret””. This thing we know as ‘disclosure’, especially when we’re shoving drugs into our mouths, is pretty damn important. That line irked me quite a bit.
Based on what I was reading in the studies about TA-65 and their dosing information, given how they said that two pills (500 units) was ‘proven’ to increase telomere length, and telomere length was increased in their studies at 10mg Astragaloside IV, I’m guessing one TA-65 pill is just 5mg Astragaloside IV. This seems accurate as other news sources I have read quote the owners of the company saying ‘some of our employees even go up to 25-50mg daily!’ in an attempt to show there is no toxicity (and that is true, there doesn’t appear to be any). I don’t know this for sure, of course (trade secrets!) so don’t quote me on it.
Given how the amount of Astragaloside IV absorbed after ingestion is exactly the same from both the whole plant and the pill (based on rat pharmacokinetic studies saying 2.2% was absorbed, and the in-house testing from TA sciences saying it was 1.5% and insignificantly different in humans and rats), would you rather:
– Drop enough money to pay for a pizza night, every night, for 6 months (light pizza night, $25) so you can get these pills?
– Buy straight root powder (I found a pound of it for $25) and get the same rewards, plus a bunch of other goodies (polysaccharides, flavonoids, dem sexy HDTIC isomers) for about $175 for the same six month period
– Do the second option, and then throw $3,825 in small bills into your bathtub and bathe in them with some good wine and a top hat; praising your cunning buying decisions
(For the above comparison, I just used the $25 for a pound deal I saw and compared it to the $4,000 ‘special’ they had for 4 ‘pills’, of 20mg Astragaloside IV; which would be 20g Astragalus root at a 1-2% concentration. I’m being generous here and using 1% for the calculations.)
Apologies for rambling on for so long, but one of my biggest passions is getting people to love supplementation. Due to this passion, I hate when people overprice their products and make supplementation look like a scam or ‘magic pill’ that doesn’t work.
I see no reason to ever get TA-65 due to the existence of pure Astragalus root.
Plus, it’s a plant; a vegetable if you will. Look at the Chinese concoction Dang-gui Buxue Tang (Astragalus + Angelicae Sinensis). They extract the two plants by heating them in some wine and it’s awesomely healthy. Plus, I heard Astragalus has a slightly sweet taste to it. Might make a nice addition to a protein shake or sprinkled on your salad. By and large, it is a functional food rather than a supplement.
Is it actually a good supplement?
Lots of talk about some crazy sounding herbs. But what you all want to know is, should you take it? I rambled on quite a bit earlier, so I will make this succinct. Yes, Astragalus Membranaceus appears to be a very sexy herb and I am going to be putting bulk powder (15g daily) into my routine as soon as I can get some on hand.
On the topics of kidney protection, cardiac health, and anti-diabetic effects the science is in a weird state. When injected, Astragalus is very healthy (according to a plethora of questionably valid Chinese studies I guess…). Does this apply to oral ingestion? It seems to, but to a lesser degree. It seems healthy, but not as magical as the injection studies pinpoint because not all the nutrients are absorbed.
On almost all other parameters (neurology, obesity, cancer, osteoporosis, menopause, longevity, optometry?) it is looking promising but more studies are needed to confirm this.
In regards to life extension, it is similar to resveratrol where it appears to add life to years rather than years to life. Not a bad thing, but it should be marketed as such. Yes, it does increase telomere length; apparently this doesn’t induce increases in lifespan though. Go figure.