Davis Phinney Foundation (Improving the lives of people with Parkinson’s Disease)

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

From January 24 to February 1 (9 days), I’ll be joining a bunch of nuts in riding the “Tour of Sufferlandria” (the greatest tour of a mythical nation) to raise money for the Davis Phinney Foundation – a fantastic charity that is improving the lives of people with  Parkinson’s Disease in the name of Davis Phinney, a former professional cyclist and one of my boyhood heroes when I was growing up and just learning how to race bicycles.

The Tour of Sufferlandria will have me cycling 9 different “stages” over 9 days (the super-high-intensity “SufferFest” cycling videos that I use for workouts to keep me in shape as the World’s Fittest CEO – I also use Troy Jacobson’s Spinerval videos to train other aspects of fitness) – so I should be sufficiently exhausted by day 7 when I step on stage to speak at the SOLD OUT  Science Seminar in San Antonio, TX on January 30 (and still with 2 stages to ride).


I have a goal of raising $2,500 for the Davis Phinney Foundation – and I’d like to ask for your help in having me not only reach that goal, but in blowing right through it. PLEASE visit my donation page – and I appreciate every single dollar that you’re able to spare to support the fight against Parkinson’s Disease and the mission to improve the lives of people living with Parkinson’s.

As a “Thank You” for your support, I’ll send you an autographed copy of my Deadly Antioxidants book (why your daily vitamins may be causing cancer and shortening your life and how Nrf2 can turn on your body’s own antioxidants for optimal health). Just email me at smtalbott@mac.com after you’ve donated – tell me your mailing address – and I’ll pop an autographed book in the mail to you – easy peasy. The more you can donate, the more books I’ll send.

As an additional “Thank You” for your support, I will paste below the text of a recently completed educational brochure (“Nrf2 and the Brain and Nervous System”) that will be released on January 30 and is ONLY available at the San Antonio Science Seminar. You’ll see from the information below that oxidative stress, and Nrf2 metabolism, is closely involved with many aspects of brain health and neurological function – so you can see why I’m passionate about helping people to understand the benefits of phytonutrient activation of Nrf2 and it’s potential health benefits.

Thanks for reading – and thanks VERY MUCH for your donation to the Davis Phinney Foundation!



Nrf2 and…Brain and Nervous System

Aging is characterized by a progressive decline in the efficiency of cellular function and the increased risk for disease and death – not a happy future! At the very heart of the aging process is the balance between cellular stressors and our ability to maintain biochemical balance and avoid cellular damage in the face of those stressors. The “free radical theory of aging” suggests that reactive oxygen molecules (free radicals) produced during cellular energy metabolism have damaging effects on all cells and across all tissue in the body – causing cumulative damage over time that ultimately results in aging, dysfunction, and death.

Each of our cells has a built-in system of defense to protect from damage by cellular stressors – called the Nrf2 pathway (see sidebar). In the aging (healthy) brain, as well as in the cases of several neurodegenerative diseases, there is a dramatic decline in the body’s ability to mount a robust defense against cellular stressors – which increases the vulnerability of the brain and the entire nervous system to damage. For example, oxidative damage to the DNA and cell membranes has been detected at levels more than 10 times higher in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients and 17 times higher in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients compared to healthy subjects.

Brain neurons and nerve cells in general are high in lipids (fats) that are highly susceptible to attack by free radicals. High levels of damaged fatty acids, as well as damaged proteins, have been identified in aging brains and associated with cognitive deficits. In the brain, such damage to fatty acids and proteins is known to set off an immune/inflammatory response that often leads to further cellular damage when prolonged. Elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines leads to a vicious cycle of further cellular damage that propagates through a chain reaction across tissues.

Natural plant-derived bioactive compounds (phytonutrients) have been shown to exert both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in brain tissue. For example, known Nrf2-activating phytonutrients such as EGCG from green tea, curcumin from turmeric, and quercetin from onions have been shown to reduce amyloid plaque accumulation (Alzheimer’s) and increase regeneration of dopamine fibers (Parkinson’s), suggesting a general neuro-protective benefit of natural Nrf2 activators. Indeed, population studies have shown a dramatic protective effect of diets high in fruits/vegetables and healthy oils (Mediterranean and Okinawan diets) on risk for dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Although the range of brain and nervous system diseases is varied with distinct pathologic features, there is considerable scientific evidence to support oxidative stress as a common pathogenic mechanism in many neurological conditions. Oxidative damage occurs early in virtually all nervous system disorders, including chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), as well as acute brain injury such as stoke and traumatic brain injury (TBI, including concussions), suggesting that oxidative stress plays a prominent role in disease progression. Nrf2 activation is known to be disrupted in many nervous system disorders and brain levels of protective antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione, etc) are typically reduced in neurodegenerative disorders as well as during normal aging. For example, neurons with low Nrf2 activity are more susceptible to oxidative stress, but cellular damage can be reduced through Nrf2 activation. In both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and University of Pittsburgh (J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2007 January; 66(1): 75-85) have described an insufficient and disrupted activation of the Nrf2 pathway in neurons located in the areas of the brain affected by the disease process.

One important study has shown that a specific blend of phytonutrients (“Product 5x”) can significantly increase levels of superoxide dismutase and catalase in human subjects (Free Radic Biol Med. 2006 Jan 15;40(2):341-7). Conducted at the Webb-Waring Institute for Cancer, Aging and Antioxidant Research at the University of Colorado in Denver, the study showed that natural activation of the Nrf2 pathway increased superoxide dismutase by 30% and catalase increased by 54%, while reducing cellular damage by an average of 40% within 30 days. Importantly, the typical age-related increase in cell damage completely disappeared after supplementation with “Product 5x” – so much so that a 78-year old subject had similar (low) levels of cellular damage to that of a 20-year old subject (indicating a dramatic cellular anti-aging effect).

Other studies (Free Radic Biol Med. 2009 Feb 1;46(3):430-40) have shown that the ingredients in “Product 5x” work synergistically. This means that when all “Product 5x” ingredients were used together on cells, their antioxidant effect was more than the sum of the effects from its individual ingredients. Together, the patented blend of “Product 5x” ingredients was found to have a strongly 2-4 fold synergistic effect on increasing glutathione, a powerful antioxidant and scavenger of free radicals, especially in nerve tissue.

In a recent study funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the United States Department of Defense), “Product 5x” was found to induce Nrf2 and protects brain cells subjected to the stress of high altitude. Results showed that Nrf2 activation by the “Product 5x” blend of phytonutrients was effective in supporting a healthy response to “leaky” blood vessels in the lungs and the brain caused by being at high altitude. “Product 5x” was found to induce Nrf2 at a higher degree than the other agents (prescription drugs for treating altitude sickness) and reduce cerebral vascular leak by 62%, suggesting a promising approach to supporting brain health during various forms of cerebral stress.

These and other recent scientific findings have linked Nrf2 activation not only to an elevated antioxidant capacity, but also to increases in other types of protective proteins such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF – a brain protein associated with stimulation of neuron growth and with anti-depressive effects). Interestingly, several established natural Nrf2 activators such as curcumin, sulforaphane, spirulina, and melatonin, have been shown to exert neuroprotective effects in brain and nerve tissue. While the brain-protective benefits of isolated phytonutrient bioactives is extremely interesting, even more interesting is the emerging approach of scientifically examining the synergistic combinations of nutrients to determine improved potency and efficacy for maintaining optimal brain health and preventing neurodegenerative diseases.

Nrf2 Sidebar…

Nrf2 is an internal cellular protein that serves as a “master regulator” of the body’s stress response. You might think of Nrf2 as a “thermostat” within our cells that senses the level of cellular stress and turns on internal protective mechanisms.

Interestingly, while we know that there are numerous Nrf2-inducers in the natural world, we also know that specific combinations of ingredients can maximize gene expression in hundreds of genes associated with superior health of tissues and organs throughout the body. This suggests that our cells possess all the genetic resources required to maintain proper oxidative balance, promote health, and slow the aging process at the genetic level by naturally activating the Nrf2 pathway.

With age, both the level of total Nrf2 protein and the efficiency of its activation decline – leading to reductions in levels of internal protective enzymes and increases in markers of cellular stress. Three important methods have been scientifically proven to increase both Nrf2 protein levels and activity to reduce cellular stress:

  1. Regular exercise
  2. Diet high in brightly-colored fruits/vegetables
  3. Nrf2-activating phytonutrients (plant-derived bioactives)

One specific blend of 5 herbs has been patented for its demonstrated effects in reducing oxidative and inflammatory stress. The 5-ingredient blend (containing extracts of ashwagandha, bacopa, green tea, milk thistle, and turmeric) has been studied in dozens of peer reviewed studies at universities around the country and published in some of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world. These studies show how this specific blend helps to activate Nrf2 and the body’s own protective mechanisms, resulting in an average reduction in cellular stress of as much as 40 percent within thirty days.

More information about Nrf2 activation for improved health can be found in the Deadly Antioxidants book and at www.ShawnTalbott.com

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

  • My question is, does a person with nerve problems specifically arthritis lower back and neck, will the five herb mixture work to slow or end the inflammation in the nerve cells which causes pain? I also would like to know would it also reduce the narrowing around the spinal opening where the nerves extend by improving the bone cells which has calcified ? It seems to be a wonder mixture.

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