Our bodies are well equipped with a portfolio of endogenous systems that if activated help us exercise and perform to our maximum while protecting against the damaging effects of the exercise. Almost all these systems are under the control of a molecule in our bodies’ cells called nrf2. Nrf2 is a transcription factor that once activated moves from the cytoplasm of the cell into the nucleus and binds to the DNA in the nucleus. Once bound to the DNA nrf2 switches on a specific set of genes that leads to the synthesis of over 200 proteins, including many involved in antioxidant processes. The importance of nrf2 in regulating antioxidant status, and exercise performance and recovery, has been well demonstrated in animal models, in which animals with impaired or no nrf2 activity show reduced antioxidant activity and exercise performance.
The key question then is how can nrf2 be activated to ensure that our bodies can perform optimally during sports and exercise, while minimising cell damage to ensure fast recovery. The answers to this question have come from animal studies, and we are now beginning to discover that these answers are also applicable to humans. The good news is that nrf2 can be activated by what we eat, especially compounds we get from fruits and vegetables. In particular the anthocyanins from blackcurrants have been shown to be especially effective at activating nrf2 in animals.
Many human clinical trials have shown that New Zealand blackcurrants improve the body’s antioxidant status, sports performance and recovery. The studies in animals showing that nrf2 is an important mediator of these outcomes suggests that this may be the mechanism by which New Zealand blackcurrants are working in humans. Currently the New Zealand Blackcurrant Co-operative and its research partner the New Zealand Institute of Plant and Food Research are determining the role of nrf2 in sports performance and recovery in humans. So rather than directly protecting the body from oxidative stress generated during exercise, blackcurrant anthocyanins are activating the body’s own antioxidant defence systems for a healthier you, including improving sports performance and recovery.
In the meantime New Zealand rugby representative Jack Goodhue is a good example of a sports person using New Zealand blackcurrants to maximise his sports performance and recovery during the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. Click here https://youtu.be/ZKlrMfecFTQ to watch and hear New Zealand blackcurrant research scientist Dr Roger Hurst explaining to Jack and other sports and exercise enthusiasts, how New Zealand blackcurrants can benefit their sports and exercise performance and recovery.
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