Strawberries and NRF2I love the drama and intrigue that accompanies one of the hugest sporting events in the world, the Olympics. For me, the fascination it is not just seeing the triumph of athletes winninggold medals. But I enjoy following the stories of each Olympian. Take for instance the story of Oscar Pistorius the South African athlete, also known as the “blade runner”. You may have heard of him, he is a double amputee that runs on prosthetic blades. Pistorius had initially failed to qualify for the individual 400m race in the London Olympics by missing the cut off set by his country’s Olympic committee by less than a quarter of a second. This despite having twice broken the barrier within the past year. South Africa’s Olympic committee however relaxed the standard and is allowing him to run in both the individual as well as the relay events. Oscar is definitely a hero and example of not giving up on one’s dreams.
What has this to do with strawberries you may be asking? Keep reading. you’ll see.

No matter if you’re a weekend warrior or an Olympian, we all want to perform at our very best. Sometimes a quarter of a second means reaching a goal of qualifying for the big Olympic stage but most times it it non-consequential. The question remains though, how does one perform most effectively as an athlete?

I came across the following brief mention of NRF2 in a book called “Fitness for Geeks” by Bruce W. Perry. He explains how NRF2 is a powerful anti-inflammatory, and way more powerful than consuming using polyphenols, often marketed for their antioxidant properties. He quotes Dr. Blumburg, Director of Antioxidant Research Laboratory at Tufts Research Center on Aging as saying “It turns out, however, that polyphenols are “lousy antioxidants” very good in vitro as antioxidants, but we don’t absorb them in high enough quantities to deal with the higher concentrations of free radicals in the blood and tissue.” “To mop up all of the reactive oxygen species, another name for free radicals, you need a big mop. The concentration of SOD, glutathione, and nitric acid and Catalase are thousands of times higher” than the flavanoids.”

It has been well documented that NRF2 effectiveness decreases the older one gets. As NRF2 Activation or synergy declines the body is less effective in dealing with malfunction, disease and aging. Sportsmen find their recovery is slower that it could be if their NRF2 pathway was well tuned.

The NRF2 pathway works more like a dimmer switch on a light rather than using the on off switch, meaning it slowly becomes less effective rather that stops working in an instant. If an athlete can keep NRF2 synergy at its peak, they will see the benefits of less inflammation and fibrosis.

Other foods known to have a varying effect on NRF2  include Turmeric, broccoli, Green Tea, and strawberries, in fact just this week there is some new research out from some scientists at the University of Warwick. They have been examining the beneficial effects of strawberries on our cardiovascular health, particularly around how they prevent the growth and development of heart related illnesses and diabetes.

They were able to show that extracts from strawberries positively activate Nrf2.

To Quote Professor Thornalley:

“We’ve discovered the science behind how strawberries work to increase our in-built defences to keep cells, organs and blood vessels healthy and which can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular problems such as heart disease and diabetes. So don’t feel guilty about serving up strawberries and cream … although I’d suggest more strawberries and less or even no cream!”

What is yet unknown is what the best varieties of strawberries are, how they should be consumed and what quantities of  strawberries should be eaten for optimum health benefit.


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