foods

Oxidative stress, inflammation, and toxins. They are a part of life for human beings, and even eating itself can trigger high levels of oxidative stress. These factors are a major contributor to diseases, including cancer, asthma, arthritis, heart disease, smoking-related diseases, and diseases of the brain such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Our group studies activation of the Nrf2 transcription factor by small molecules from edible plants and other sources. Upon activation, Nrf2 increases the expression of proteins with detoxification, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and damage repair functions, collectively called cytoprotective proteins. There is strong scientific evidence that regular and adequate consumption of foods that activate the body’s cytoprotective enzymes can lower oxidative stress, toxins and inflammation levels in the body, in turn preventing or mitigating various chronic diseases. A wide variety of foods contain compounds that activate Nrf2, for example EGCG from green tea, shogaols from ginger, and sulfur compounds from garlic and onions as well as cruciferous vegetables. For more details, here is a link to a review on Nrf2 activation by phytochemicals authored by Dr. Eggler.

Dr. Eggler and friends put together an informal cookbook, choosing ingredients that have been shown to stimulate the body’s production of its own cytoprotective proteins. In addition, several ingredients were chosen based on their ability to prevent oxidative stress from occurring after eating. These “active ingredients” are underlined in each recipe. The intent of this cookbook is to share recipes which are easy to cook, taste great, and can help incorporate these active ingredients into our daily lifestyles. If you’d like a free pdf copy, email aimee.eggler@villanova.edu.

A focus of research in our lab is on understanding on how the Nrf2 pathway is activated by small molecules, and how to design synergistic activators. Our work has been supported by a Research Corporation Cottrell College Science Award and a Young Investigator award from the Elsevier–Phytochemistry Journal/Phytochemistry Society of North America.