The Proven Science Behind Nrf2's Ability to Protect Your Dog's Health
How Can Nrf2 Protect Your Dog?
- Increases catalase production by 36% (one of our body's most powerful protective enzymes)
- Increases cellular protection
- Increases cognitive function and overall physical functions in dogs
- DNA repair
Canine Health Adversely Affected by Cellular Stress
Oxygen is indispensible to the lives of all mammals on earth, with energy-production and metabolism linked to oxygen-generated ATP production in the mitochondria. Mitochondria are the “energy factories” in each of our cells – every body has trillions of mitochondria – and more than 90% of the oxygen taken up by the body is used by our mitochondria to generate cellular energy from our food. It has been estimated that 1-4% of consumed oxygen is converted to damaging free radicals (super oxide, hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radical) and that the rate of free radical generation is proportional to the amount of mitochondria and our rate of energy production (so the more energy we generate, the more damaging free radicals). And because they have an even higher metabolism, dogs are particularly prone to increased cellular stress.
All cellular membranes and cellular components (as well as our genetic material, and the mitochondria themselves) are susceptible to attack by free radicals, but the cells of all mammals have a built-in protective pathway—Nrf2—that senses cellular stress, minimizes cellular damage, performs a “housekeeping” cleanup/repair function, and reduces cellular stress. Nutritional antioxidants from our diets are referred to as “non-enzymatic” antioxidants (factors such as glutathione, vitamins C & E, beta-carotene, etc.) because they function in a “one-to-one” relationship to quench or counteract free radicals and interrupt the chain-reaction spread of free radical damage. The type of antioxidants that our cells can manufacture themselves are “enzymatic” proteins such as superoxide dismutase (SOD, which fights the super oxide radical), catalase (that fights hydrogen peroxide), and the family of glutathione enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase/transferase/reductase (that fight a range of peroxide/hydroxyl radicals and perform a wide range of detoxification functions).
Science Proves Nrf2’s Ability to Enhance Canine Health
Management of cellular stress is important for long-term health in all mammals, but is particularly important for dogs. Dogs are exposed to high levels of cellular stress due to their high metabolism, high activity levels, pesticide/herbicide exposure (i.e. sniffing the ground), and relatively long life.
Numerous research studies have documented the range of age-related diseases in dogs, including arthritis, mental/memory deficits, and cancer – all of which are related to cellular stress. For example, the brains of aged dogs accumulate cellular damage to proteins and lipids (fats) in the same way that occurs in humans. Considering that the brain of both humans and dogs consumes approximately 20% of the body’s total oxygen, and has both a high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids (which have a very high susceptibility to damage by free radicals) and a low endogenous antioxidant activity relative to other tissues (low ability to protect itself), it is quite logical for us to observe such high rates of age-related brain dysfunction in aged humans and aged dogs.
The good news is that reducing cellular stress by inducing the body’s own internal cellular protection pathways (and thus improving overall health) has been proven in two recent humans studies and one canine study.
The first human study was conducted by scientists at the Webb-Waring Institute for Cancer, Aging and Antioxidant Research, at the University of Colorado, Denver (Free Radic Biol Med. 2006 Jan 15;40(2):341-7). Results showed a significant and dramatic increase in levels of protective antioxidant enzymes (super oxide dismutase by 30% and catalase by 54%) and reduction in cell membrane damage (40% lower), leading to a complete disappearance of any age-related increase in oxidative damage. After 30 days of supplementation with a natural Nrf2-triggering herbal blend, the oldest subjects (78 years) had the same youthful (low) levels of cellular stress as the youngest subjects (20 years).
In a recent placebo-controlled study of 80 dogs (Experimental Biology Scientific Conference, April 2015), researchers found some important benefits of natural Nrf2-tiggering from improving health and performance in older dogs. These dogs were 8 years old on average, and were supplemented with the herbal blend or a placebo for 60 days. The group taking the Nrf2 herbal blend had a dramatic 36% increase in catalase levels (one of our body’s most powerful protective enzymes), while the placebo group showed an 11% reduction in catalase levels. This tells us that in a similar manner to how Nrf2-activation works in humans, the herbal blend is increasing cellular production of our natural internal protective antioxidant enzymes. It’s also noteworthy that with this heightened level of cellular protection in the Nrf2-herb group, the dog owners noticed a significant 23% improvement in their dog’s cognitive function and overall physical function. These results demonstrate an important wellness benefit of reducing cellular stress in dogs.
A follow-up human study conducted by researchers at Colorado State University found the same cellular protection benefits with a similar Nrf2-triggering herbal blend (The FASEB Journal vol. 28 no. 1 Supplement LB399. April 2014). It was interesting to note in this study that the specific combination of 5 herbal ingredients was effective in reducing cellular stress and delivering a biochemical “anti-aging” effect, but a similar 4-ingredient combination of herbs was ineffective. This finding is strong evidence that the “recipe matters” in terms of inducing Nrf2 and effectively protecting cells – it you don’t have the correct ingredients in the proper ratios, chances are that your effectiveness is diminished or completely absent.
Case Study Demonstrates Nrf2’s Effectiveness
A recent case study of a middle-aged herding dog taking the Nrf2-triggering herbal blend for 25 days found almost a doubling of overall physical performance. In the trial, there was a clear improvement in the dog’s ability to retrieve a Frisbee, cover a longer distance between throws, and fetch for a longer period of time prior to exhibiting any signs of physical discomfort or reduced performance.