Tag Archives: transcription factor

Posted by in wellness

Top 3 Foods that Turn the Good Genes ON!

by Sean Croxton

NOTE: If you haven’t read yesterday’s blog, this one won’t make much sense to you. Check it out HERE!

“Finding substances that can turn ON the highly protective transcription factor NRF2 holds the key to preventing a host of diseases.”

A few months ago, I stood in an aisle at Borders and stumbled across that line in the book Forever Young by Dr. Nicholas Perricone.

After reading it, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I took out my iPhone and started taking pictures of the passage and texted them to my friends and critics. I posted the quote to Facebook. I thought:

“FINALLY, somebody gets it!”

I had just spent the previous months taking a bit of a beating for my Protandim endorsement. However, regardless of the hate mail and “unsubscribes” from my YouTube channel and email list, I knew I was helping people.

I also learned a lesson I would never forget, that it’s better to educate your people on how something works BEFORE selling it to them. On top of that, I may want to NOT follow a series of anti-genetic modification videos with a bunch of hype over a supplement that alters gene expression. Kinda easy to confuse the two.


Being the Just Eat Real Food guy, the endorsement of a supplement appears antithetical to the overall message of sticking to Nature, no matter how natural the product may be. We should be able to get everything we need from food, right?

Absolutely. But to hit the switch and turn ON your disease-protective NRF2 transcription factor (as this supplement is scientifically-proven again and again to do), you’re going to have to consume a very specific set of foods on a regular basis.

The Big 3 NRF2 switch-flippers we will be exploring today are teas, cinnamon, and turmeric. You can probably find all three in your kitchen cabinet. Personally, I’m not a tea guy. But cinnamon and turmeric never go missing from my ever-growing spice collection.

Here’s why YOU should add them to your diet.

Teas (black, green, & white)
It is no secret that teas provide anticancer and antioxidant benefits. Much of tea’s health-promoting value can be attributed to the polyphenol EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate).

EGCG inhibits the activation of the disease- and age-accelerating transcription factor NF-kB, thus putting the brakes on the production of inflammatory cytokines (bad guys).

When NFkB is left ON, it turns OFF the cell’s ability to self-destruct when it encounters an error, such as DNA damage. Our bodies are always making cancerous cells, even right now as you read this. Programmed cell death, otherwise known as apoptosis, allows our cells to recognize cancer-causing errors and literally self-destruct instead of replicating. This, of course, is a vital function for cancer prevention.

You want to keep your apoptosis turned ON!

While shutting down NFkB, EGCG turns ON protective NRF2, which sends a message to our genes to upregulate the production of over a dozen anti-inflammatory proteins as well as antioxidant enzymes that fight free radical damage on a scale head and shoulders above direct dietary antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E.

If you have ORAC tunnel vision, that last sentence may have bothered you a bit. This is where the disconnect occurs and the knee-jerk squabbling begins. No, I’m not saying that antioxidants from food are not beneficial. Not even!

Dr. Perricone brilliantly summarizes the difference between indirect antioxidant enzymes and direct dietary antioxidants by stating the following:

“When this natural cell-protective mechanism (the activation of NRF2) is achieved with phytonutrients, the response is far superior to the protective action of antioxidants alone, because such antioxidants as vitamin C and CoQ10 are consumed when neutralizing free radicals.”

What the doc is saying is that dietary antioxidants are great, but they neutralize disease-promoting free radicals at a rate of one-to-one. One antioxidant molecule kills one free radical. And then it’s done. The problem lies in the fact that cells produce on average about 300 sextillion free radicals every day. That’s the number 3 with 23 zeros behind it!

You’d have to eat 375 oranges a day to neutralize that many free radicals!

By activating NRF2 via phytonutrients and Michael acceptor pharmacophores (MAPs) like EGCG, the genes are instructed to produce antioxidant enzymes that can destroy free radicals at a rate of up to one million per second! And they are not used up. They keep fighting the good fight by protecting your cells and extinguishing inflammation.

One of these antioxidant enzymes is glutathione, the chief cellular antioxidant and protector. You can’t eat glutathione. Stomach acid will kill it in a hurry. Instead, you have to coax your cells and genes to produce more of it via foods you consume and the way they influence your gene expression. That is the essence of nutrigenomics.

We’ll discuss glutathione in detail tomorrow.

Nothing beats a little apple pie with cinnamon. Yum!

You may think that this tasty dish will send your blood sugar through the roof. However, studies show that just a dash of cinnamon will keep blood sugar levels stable by way of improving insulin sensitivity.

And it doesn’t stop there. Cinnamon reduces fever similar to aspirin or Tylenol, without the negative side effects. (Perricone, 40). It is also antimicrobial, fights infections, and supports the immune system.

It’s awesome! Why aren’t you using more of it?

The key flavor compound in cinnamon is cinnamic aldehyde, which is also classified as a MAP.

You know what that means!

As we discussed in yesterday’s Hittin’ Switches blog, MAPs trick NRF2 into action by producing minimal amounts of oxidative stress. Sensing danger, NRF2 sends the message for the genes to turn ON the antioxidant/anti-inflammatory hoses to put the free radical fire out.

Now you have an excuse to make cinnamon rolls on an 80/20 Day!

Gluten-free, of course. :)

Turmeric (curcumin)
This blog is getting LONG! My bad.

According to Dr. Perricone, “the single most promising food-derived compound to combat cancer, based on the current body of scientific evidence, is the curcuminoids found in turmeric.”

The curcuminoids are what give turmeric its yellow pigment. Their anti-cancer properties come from their mild oxidizing effect and activation of NRF2. They also turn OFF the aforementioned NF-kB.

Turmeric is very common in Indian cuisine, which is why curry is typically yellow. If you’ve ever wondered why Indian people age so well with such beautiful skin, it’s the curcuminoids. The deactivation of NF-kB and AP-1 (mentioned yesterday) keeps wrinkles from being born in the deep layers of the skin. Furthermore, the activation of NRF2 gives the skin a radiant appearance with decreased poor size, and reduction in fine lines and wrinkles. (Perricone, 44)

Probably why I’ve never had more guys ask me what I’ve been doing with my skin since I’ve been on this supplement! One YouTube commenter asked me recently if I had Botox done. Ha!

I like to sometimes sprinkle turmeric on my eggs and always use it when cooking chicken. Tastes so good!


Darn! I’m running out of time. Blogging hours are from 1-3pm. Gotta stick to my schedule. I intended to discuss cocoa, but you guys know the deal already. It activates the good guys and turns OFF the bad guys. Be sure to consume the 70% – 85% cocoa. Go with the non-Dutch kind since Dutching reduces the amount of flavonols in cocoa. (Perricone, 59) If you’d like me to blog about cocoa, leave a comment below. I’ll see what I can do.

NRF2 Insurance
I’m not looking to turn this blog into a sales pitch. All I’ll say is that most people take a multivitamin as a form of nutrient insurance; just to be sure they get most of what they need.

This supplement is my NRF2-activation insurance. Consisting of turmeric, ashwaganda, green tea extract, bacopa, and milk thistle, it is scientifically proven by 15 peer-reviewed studies (look em up on Pubmed) to hit the switch on NRF2 and upregulate the production of disease-fighting enzymes. We’ll discuss glutathione, likely the most important enzyme, tomorrow!

I’m out! Keep hittin’ switches!


Posted by in wellness

Nutrigenomics: Hittin’ Switches!

by Sean Croxton

“I’m hittin’ switches all day…”

That first line from one of my favorite gangsta rap songs perfectly captures the spirit of today’s blog.

Nutrigenomics is a topic that sparked my interest almost two years ago when I began skeptically investigating a certain supplement and its claims. Eventually, it led me to such classic books as Deep Nutrition, The Primal Blueprint, Genetic Nutritioneering, and now Forever Young by Dr. Nicholas Perricone.

Nutrigenomics is exactly as it sounds. It is the combination of nutrition and genomics. In other words, it is the study of how nutrients and other substances influence the expression of our genes.

For some, genetics unfortunately hold us hostage. Many of us erroneously assume that our genes are all-powerful, leaving our health at the mercy of our genetic blueprints. For example, my father and his mother both died of pancreatic cancer. Two generations of such a ruthless disease should have me quaking in my Nikes.

But what should I do? Should I just count down the days, months, or years until I get the formal diagnosis?

Hell no.

I hit switches.

Music, please!!

The switches I hit turn my good protective genes ON and my bad genes that cause cancer and other diseases OFF.

You can do it too! And we can all do it through the foods we eat and/or the supplements we take.

The public, media, and medical professionals always tend to lag about twenty years behind the scientific research. One thing that we haven’t quite caught on to is the fact that the benefits of foods go well beyond ORAC values, antioxidant profiles, and macronutrient ratios. Nutrients like catechins, polyphenols, and stilbenes actually affect gene expression.

Today, we’ll focus on what are known as transcription factors. Transcription factors are not really genes. Rather, they are protein messengers in our cells that are activated by different stimuli (i.e. food). When activated, they migrate to the cell’s nucleus, where they attach to receptor sites on the genes and flip the ON switch for specific genetic activities and expressions.

Transcription factors are not always nice guys. NF-kB and AP-1 accelerate the processes of disease and aging. When NF-kB is activated, it skedaddles over to the nucleus and tells the genes to crank up the production of what are called inflammatory cytokines. Not good. This is why NF-kB has been linked to a multitude of diseases, including AIDS, allergy, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and atherosclerosis.

And those are just the A’s. (I stole that from Bill Maher.)

AP-1 (activator protein 1) activation tells your genes to make more collagen-digesting proteins, causing microscars in the deep layer of the skin that give rise to wrinkles.

Anyone want wrinkles?

Better question. Anyone want to hit the switch on NF-kB and the many diseases linked to it?

I didn’t think so. Keep those two turned OFF.

The hero of this story is nuclear factor (erythroid-derived )-like 2. It’s a mouthful!

Fortunately it has a nickname, NRF2.

Just like the bad guys, when activated, NRF2 moves to the nucleus of the cell and attaches to genes. But instead of turning on inflammation, it tells your genes to turn ON the production of more than a dozen protective anti-inflammatory enzymes as well as antioxidant enzymes like glutathione, the chief cellular antioxidant (more on this later in the week).

Now that’s a switch you want to hit! Turning on NRF2 is like hitting the three-wheel motion. (I wonder how many readers know what that means. See pic in the upper right.)

So which foods turn the good guys ON and the bad guys OFF. Well, I’ll be blogging all about the Big Three (tea, turmeric, and cocoa) tomorrow. For now, let’s discuss just how these foods and drinks hit the right switches.

As I mentioned earlier, we tend to focus on ORAC scores and such, but we completely tune out other important substances like Michael acceptor pharmacophores.

Say what!

We’ll just call them MAPs. A pharmacophore is like a key that unlocks a door. In this case, the MAPs on the food molecules mentioned (as well as many others) have a set of structural features that are recognized by a receptor thus hitting the switch on the appropriate transcription factor and sending either the good or bad guys into action.

What is quite interesting is the fact that these beneficial food molecules are actually electron deficient and pro-oxidative! They cause oxidative stress.

If you go back to seventh grade science class, you know that molecules that are deficient in electrons will do whatever they can to steal electrons from another molecule in order to fill its outer shell. This causes damage to molecule being stolen from, including damage to the DNA (may cause cancer), enzymes, and cell membrane. I did a pretty decent job explaining this in my Antioxidant Myth blog from last year.

You would think that these foods would be harmful to your health. However, they are quite sneaky. The mild oxidative stress they cause actually tricks NRF2 into waking up and going to work. NRF2 rushes over to the nucleus, binds to the gene receptor, and turns ON the production of the protective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant enzymes.

At the same time, these foods turn OFF the bad guys.

Trickery at its finest.

Stay tuned! This week is all about how to take the power away from your bad genes and show them who’s boss through the foods you eat and the switches you hit. Why stay 20 years behind the research? Do it NOW.

Tune in tomorrow! We’re gonna set up shop, never close, and get riches. And never stop eating well and hittin’ switches!

If you don’t get it, watch the video.

Westside!!! :)

Host, The Thyroid Sessions