Today’s post is a review and fact check of stem cell supplements.
What I found now in 2024 on stem cell pills and related supplements is concerning.
What’s in this article
Quick Article Summary and Claim Review. Stem cell supplements claim that they will improve your health via impacting your stem cells. My research indicates there are no strong data to support such claims. Stem cell supplements also could have risks. They are very expensive too. As a stem cell biologist I recommend against taking stem cell supplements, but consult your physician.
Note that “supplements” here refer to things people can ingest, not “supplements” that us scientists add to the media we use to grow stem cells.
Stem cell supplement capsules, vitamins, more
For context, I’m fairly skeptical of supplements in general. The main reason to take them is if one has a documented deficiency in something. Maybe like iron or maybe (maybe not) Vitamin D, or if you are vegan maybe you should take B12.
As a 10+ year prostate cancer survivor the only supplement I take is Vitamin D. However, I’m having my doubts even about that. Ten years ago it made sense to me theoretically that a hormone like Vitamin D might help prevent cancer recurrence. This idea was based on in vitro results growing cancer cells in a dish. However, the literature hasn’t been very encouraging on any benefit in actual people. I’m mulling it over.
I more recently fact-checked the supposed brain supplement Prevagen. There are reasons to be concerned about their advertising claims and also about potential risks.
Stem cell supplements claims
So what about supplements claiming some link to stem cells?
There’s not much foundation for them and they cost a bundle.
The main claim of these supplements is that they’ll make you have more stem cells. Sometimes they claim to make you have happier stem cells. Others claim the pills aid in stem cells differentiating into the desired cell type. We are seeing more stem cell supplements claim anti-aging effects in the last few years.
A big surprise for me was that searching Clinicaltrials.gov finds many studies on stem cells and supplements. But there is little data. One study that did have data was focused on a supplement called NutraStem. It tested effects on CD133+ or CD34+ cells as compared to a placebo. It didn’t seem to work.
There is no evidence of supposed stem cell eye supplements benefiting eyes or vision either (more below).
Supplement ads & products
A Google search for “Stem cell supplements” yields an array of results and ads.
While Google has rightly (and generally very effectively) banned stem cell clinic ads, it still feels like anything goes with stem cell supplement ads. You can see a screenshot above for some results. An Amazon search yields tons of overlapping and sometimes wild results too. Some price tags approach a thousand dollars a pop.
Take a look at a “grassfed bone marrow”. I’m imagining a test tube of living bone marrow with someone trying to feed it grass. This supplement claims to have something to do with stem cells:
“Contains all the nutrients, specialized cells (including stem cells and base cells), collagen, growth factors, fat soluble activators and substances that the body uses to build, repair, and maintain all tissues”
I doubt there are living stem cells in there. And, what are “base cells”? Basal cells?
What about Visiclear, Visifree & Visishield?
I’ve been hearing more about vision-related supplements. The most popular ones are called Visiclear, Visifree, and Visishield.
These supplements contain vitamins, antioxidants and other factors. Various claims on the web suggest that these products may help vision by either keeping stem cells healthy or restoring stem cell health.
I’m highly skeptical.
We stem cell researchers do sometimes add vitamins or antioxidants to our cultures of stem cells in the lab. Yet it’s not clear that antioxidants that people eat or take as supplements would have benefits to endogenous stem cells, including in the eye.
A quick search on Amazon found that these products are also very expensive. No surprise. There are quite a few unhappy customers who left reviews there as well.
As a stem cell researcher, I wouldn’t recommend Visiclear, Visifree, or Visishield.
Something called Stem-Kine from Neil Riordan, who runs a stem cell clinic firm in Panama, often pops up on the web. A decade ago he published a paper on Stem-Kine. It claimed a link to mobilizing stem cells, but I’m not convinced at all.
Physicians in the hospital can reproducibly mobilize stem cells in donors or patients. However, this is done using powerful, proven drugs. This has been the subject of tons of published research such as related to preparing stem cell transplants after chemo in cancer patients. (By the way, you might find this guest post on a family’s experience with stem cell donation to be an interesting read.)
These stem cell pill supplements are super expensive too. How much does Stem-Kine cost? For a case of 60 x 700mg capsules on Amazon you’ll pay about $70. It seems ridiculous to me.
But could it work?
It’s hard to say without more data, but I doubt it and anything like this has risks too.
Further, it’s not clear that mobilizing bone marrow stem cells in a healthy patient on a regular basis is a wise thing to do.
Check out the comments from Wise Young in the comments section for another view.
The Regenexx brand has a whole supplement product line now including Regenexx Complex. One supplement, called “Advanced Stem Cell Support Formula” costs about one hundred bucks for 32 fluid ounces which is about $400 a gallon.
The description says it’s a “proprietary blend of vitamins, herbs, and supplements that may help support healthy stem cell function and cartilage production.”
The Amazon page for this or a very similar product lists these ingredients: “Vitamin C 1000mg, Vitamin D 2000IU Proprietary Blend 3455 mg of Glucosamine Sulfate and HCl, Chondroitin Sulfate, Curcumin, L-Carnosine, Resleratrol (resVida), Bitter Melon, BioPerine Does not contain wheat, gluten, sugar, soy or dairy. Contains ingredients derived from shellfish and corn.”
Is there any published clinical data to back up this expensive supplement’s use in people? Not that I could see. I don’t see a good rationale for Regenexx Complex either.
Note that Advanced Stem Cell Support Formula comes in citrus or strawberry banana flavor. A good-sized Jamba juice with fresh strawberries and bananas, and a boost of some vitamins in it costs about $6 or $7. I haven’t had one of those in years, but they sound good even if rather full of sugar.
Big picture take-home: do stem cell pills or supplements work?
Overall, in my view “stem cell” supplements are not worth the money, probably won’t do anything terribly exciting in a positive way, and could have risks. You can watch a Q&A YouTube video I did below in which one question and answer was related to stem cell supplements.
Note that I actually had an old post (Top 5 possible natural stem cell boosts) on possible simple ways to possibly boost stem cell numbers in a more general sense, but admittedly even these ideas are speculative and do not involve supplements or paying money. For example, try to sleep a healthy amount and especially exercise more in certain ways.
At this point in my view exercise seems like maybe the only possibly reliable and safe way to impact certain kinds of stem cell numbers in your body.
We’ll see in coming years or decades if any specific supplement can convincingly do something useful that is stem cell-related based on more research. It’s also important to consider that anything that boosts stem cell numbers could also pose the risk of unwanted consequences like abnormal cell or tissue growth.
The Cerule Stemenhance supplement has five papers mentioned in PubMed on it, but I’m not convinced by the data there that there are clear, lasting benefits to users. At least one of the papers suggests in one system the supplement did not promote tumor growth.
Will there ever be a stem cell pill that one can take to somehow improve your stem cells in numbers or function in a safe way that positively impacts specific aspects of your health? We’ll see but right now there is nothing like that.
- Search for articles with “Stem cells” and “supplements” in the title on Pubmed.
- Search for articles with “stem cells” and “diet” in the title on Pubmed.
- Consumer Alert on Regenerative Medicine Products Including Stem Cells and Exosomes, FDA
- Articles listed on PubMed that involve Stem-Kine.