Nrf2 and the Cardiovascular System
The proven science behind Nrf2's protection of the heart and blood vessels
How Can Nrf2 Protect Your Cardiovascular System?
- Maintains function of the endothelial tissue (a key tissue in blood vessels)
- Protects blood vessels from cellular stress
- Enhances production of nitric oxide (NO)
- Increases production of specific anti-atherogenic (heart-protecting) enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx)
- Protects blood vessels from inflammation
- Reduces high blood pressure and improves heart muscle efficiency
The Health Toll of Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the developed world. A critical component to the development – or prevention – of cardiovascular disease is proper balance of internal cellular defense systems, including antioxidant enzymes, detoxification proteins, and housekeeping proteins.
Several cardiovascular diseases are associated with suboptimal cellular defenses, (and thus with elevated cellular stress), including atherosclerosis (blockage of blood vessels), hypertension (elevated blood pressure), and heart failure (loss of contraction ability). Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease characterized by dysfunction of the blood vessel lining (endothelial tissue), leading to cholesterol blockages, narrowing of the blood vessels, and poor blood flow.
The good news is that Nrf2, a key protein that activates the body’s ultra-powerful antioxidant enzymes, has been shown by science to protect and benefit the cardiovascular system in several key ways.
The Science Behind Nrf2’s Cardio Benefits
In a study from the Department of Medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver (Free Radic Biol Med. 2009 Feb 1;46(3):430-40), researchers found a significant and synergistic increase in HO-1 (3-9 times) and glutathione (2-4 times) in isolated human and mouse cells with “Product 5x” compared to any of the individual ingredients.
Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University published a study in Circulation, the scientific journal of the American Heart Association (Circulation. 2009 Nov 17;120(20):1951-60), showing how “Product 5x” induces Nrf2 and protects heart muscle cells in rats with hypertension (high blood pressure). The study looked at the damaging effects of high blood pressure, finding that Nrf2 activation increased HO-1 levels to reduce heart muscle damage, protect blood vessels, and improve heart function (despite continued hypertension).
Biomedical engineers from The Ohio State University (Free Radic Biol Med. 2011 Mar 15;50(6):700-9) have shown that Nrf2 activation in isolated blood vessels via “Product 5x” is effective in elevating protective enzymes including SOD (3-fold), HO-1 (7-fold), and catalase (12-fold) – leading to improved blood vessel health. Phytonutrient activation of the Nrf2 pathway (with “Product 5x”) was able to keep blood vessels open by reducing overgrowth of the interior linings of specific blood vessels used in coronary bypass grafts (human saphenous veins). Prior to this study, only daily aspirin and anti-cholesterol drugs (statins) have been shown to keep these types of grafts open and unclogged.
Study 4 & 5
Exercise scientists at Colorado State University have shown in two different studies that Nrf2 activation (via “Product 5x”) protects isolated human coronary artery cells (Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2012;2012:132931) and isolated rodent heart muscle cells (Free Radic Biol Med. 2013 Mar;56:102-11). In these studies, there was a significant increase in Nrf2 protein as well as protective antioxidant enzymes, including HO-1 (+778%), SOD (125%), and GPx (120%) – leading to a significantly lower rate of heart cell damage and death.
Nrf2 is important to maintaining the health and function of the endothelial tissue, and thus of the entire cardiovascular system. For example, Nrf2 activation is known to directly protect blood vessel linings from cellular stress, and also to improve production of nitric oxide (which increases blood flow) and boost cellular energy levels (through mitochondrial support) – leading to an overall improvement of cardiovascular efficiency and function. In addition, Nrf2 activation leads to increased production of specific anti-atherogenic (heart protecting) enzymes such as heme-oxygenase-1 (HO-1), superoxide dismutase (SOD), and glutathione peroxidase (GPx), which can protect blood vessels from inflammation, reduce high blood pressure, and improve the efficiency of heart muscle contraction.
It is interesting to note that individuals with insufficient Nrf2 levels or inefficient Nrf2 activation are likely to be at higher risk for not just cardiovascular problems, but also problems related to cellular damage throughout the entire body, especially those tissues with the highest energy needs (the heart, muscle, and brain).