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Oxidative stress is a major player in the formation of pathological conditions such as chronic inflammation, high blood glucose, heart disease, accelerated aging and neurodegeneration. Anti-oxidant rich foods, herbs and supplements are used to protect the body from unwanted oxidative stress. Recent research has found a new signaling pathway that plays an enormous role in amplifying the effects of anti-oxidants on the body.
The body adapts to function in a state of homeostasis or balance. When the body is confronted with major stressors the cells must quickly modulate their antioxidant capacity to counteract the increased oxidative stress. In order to do this the body is able to activate a massive anti-oxidant effect in a matter of nanoseconds through a specific genetic pathway.
The Nrf2 Genetic Pathway and Your Health:
Nrf2 (NF-E2-related factor 2) is a transcription factor in humans encoded by a specific gene that regulates the expression of a set of antioxidant and detoxifying genes.
Green Tea - ECGC:
Green tea is rich in the polyphenol anti-oxidant catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). This anti-oxidant is thought by most to be responsible for the health benefits linked to green tea consumption. EGCG has been identified to have a profound effect on the Nrf2-ARE pathway (1)
Research has shown that EGCG stimulates the Nrf2 anti-oxidant activity in immune cells, liver and intestinal cells (2, 3). Through this mechanism it also modulates cancer cell proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, adhesion, angiogenesis and metasisis (4, 5).
A study published in December 2004 in Cancer Research discussed how ECGC in green tea was able to decrease insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) while increasing levels of IGF binding protein-3, which binds IGF-1. This reduced the risk of breast, colon, prostate & lung cancer. It also inhibits key cancer survival proteins and reduces the expression of compounds associated with cancer metastasis (6).
Turmeric - Curcumin:
The orange Asian herb turmeric has been traditionally used for centuries by Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. Curcumin is the most powerful active anti-inflammatory compound within turmeric. Curcumin has been shown to be a powerful suppressor of chronic inflammatory mediated disease processes.
Curcumin has been shown to reduce inflammatory mediating prostaglandins, cytokines and other molecules such as interleukin 6, Nuclear Factor Kappa Beta (NF-kb) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF – alpha) (7,8). With a high enough dosage this has the ability to pull the body out of a strong inflammatory cascade and reset anti-inflammatory behavior at the cellular level.
Curcumin exerts both direct and indirect antioxidant effects by scavenging reactive oxygen species (ROS)(9) and inducing the expression of cytoprotective proteins in an Nrf2-dependent way (10). Human studies showed a significant increase in curcumin absorption when co-administered with Bioperine, a patented black pepper extract.*
This is the compound found in cruciferous veggies and most densely in broccoli sprouts. SFN was identified as a chemopreventive agent over a decade ago on the basis of its capability to induce phase II detoxification enzymes, and to inhibit phase I enzymes involved in the activation of carcinogens (11).
Research demonstrates that sulforaphane, through induction of Nrf2-dependent phase 2 enzymes, protects the brain against hypoxic-ischemic injury and may improve cognitive function when administered following traumatic brain injury (12, 13). Additionally, it protect the brain from neurodegenerative states and amyloid plaque buildup as seen in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (14, 15)
Pterostilbene - Resveratrol:
This is a naturally occurring phenolic compound/analog of resveratrol that has comparatively better oral bioavailability, has been shown to possess cytotoxic, cytokine-inhibiting, and antioxidant properties (16). This compound has also been shown to slow the process of aging by reducing telomerase activity (17).
Resveratrol has also been shown to increase the protein and mRNA expression of Nrf2. There is evidence that Nrf2-mediated attenuation of oxidative stress and cytokine induction could be partially responsible for resveratrol’s potential effect on cell-life regulation (18). This compound has profound effects on regulating estrogen metabolism and inducing cancer cell apoptosis (19)
In rat and animal studies, resveratrol/pterostilbene have been shown to upregulate a significant number of genes involved in mitochondrial function as well as to modulate cholinergic neurotransmission and improve cognition (20)
Introducing Nrf2 Power
This supplement is a combination of bioactive ECGC (Green Tea), Curcumin, Sulforaphane and Pterostilbene. These unique compounds synergize to boost up the anti-oxidant pathways.
As a clinician, I believe this supplement is the best way to boost antioxidant defenses by increasing the activity of the Nrf2 pathway and positively affecting the development of antioxidant genes.
It is also something I personally take to prevent inflammation and improve my overall performance.