Nuclear factor erythroid 2 [NF-E2]-related factor 2 also known as Nrf2 is a protein that regulates the expression of antioxidant proteins that protect against oxidative damage triggered by injury and inflammation. It is a useful treatment for diseases that are caused by oxidative stress. Some of these diseases include acetaminophen hepatotoxicity (liver injury caused by an overdose of acetaminophen), ethanol and alcohol-induced liver disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), neurodegeneration, and cancer (Qiang, 2013).
Another benefit of Nrf2 is that it reduces the impact of stress on the body and boosts longevity. Nrf2 is always trying to keep your stress level in your cells at homeostasis (“Boost Your Nrf2 Activation with These Foods”, 2017). “Books Your Nrf2 Activation with These Foods”, 2017 explained Nrf2 as a thermostat, “… just like you set parameters on your thermostat to maintain a certain temperature in your house, the Nrf2 thermostat has set parameters to maintain a certain level of stress within your cells.”
Nrf2 also turns on genes that help you detox. According to Gardner (2018), there are over 200 genes that are related to detoxification that Nrf2 turns on. Some genes that are Nrf2 dependent/Nrf2 turns on are NQ01, Aldo-Keto Reductases (AKRs), Sulfotransferases (SULFs), and Ferritin (Gardner, 2018). Nrf2 also works with a region of DNA called “Antioxidant Response Element” or ARE (Gardner, 2018). Nrf2 and ARE bind together and, “it induces the production of active proteins from these genes. Both of these proteins exhibit potent antioxidant capacity and can rapidly clear oxidative stress” (Gardner, 2018).
Your body makes Nrf2, but there are also foods that you can ingest, that are also high in this protein. Some high Nrf2 foods are blueberries, grapes, avocados, spinach, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, onions, and broccoli (“Boost Your Nrf2 Activation with These Foods”, 2017). Not only are there foods that can boost your Nrf2, but there are also phytonutrients (nutrients from plants) that can boost it as well. According to nrf2.com at https://www.nrf2.com/, some of these include turmeric/curcumin, sulforaphane (found in broccoli sprouts), vitamins, fish oil (DHA), and ashwagandha (withania somnifera). Some others are bacopa, green tea leaf, milk thistle, black pepper, and pine bark (“Boost Your Nrf2 Activation with These Foods”, 2017).
By boosting Nfr2 activation, it will help you to minimize oxidative stress in your cells. Oxidative stress can lead to various problems including diseases such as “Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and several cancers” (Gardner, 2018). Going along with increased risk of oxidative stress, which can turn chronic, if you do not have enough Nfr2, you can become more sensitive to chemical carcinogens and chemical toxins which lead to, “… increased inflammation in the lung and brain, all major markers of oxidative stress” (Gardner, 2018).”
Nfr2 is a powerful antioxidant that is crucial for balanced stress. If you tend to be more stressed or if you are going through a stressful period, this antioxidant might be right for you!
By Dr. Nicole Cain with Claire Bootb
Qiang, Ma. (2013). Role of Nrf2 in Oxidative Stress and Toxicity. Aunnu Rev Pharacol
Toxicol, 53, 401-426. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-011112-140320
Boost Your Nrf2 Activation with These Foods. (2017, March 1). [Blog post]. Retrieved
Gardner, Aaron. (2018, May 2). Activating the Nrf2 Pathway with Nutrition: What You
Need to Know. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.mygenefood.com/activating-nrf2-pathway-nutrition-need-know/