Dr. Hank Liers, PhD natural nrf2 activators healing potential

When I first learned about Nrf2 activators in early 2012, I became quite enthusiastic about new knowledge that natural substances called polyphenolic compounds had the ability to activate this transcription factor. Once released in the cell Nrf2 can migrate to the nucleus and cause the body to endogenously produce high levels of key protective/antioxidant enzymes.

Also, I actively began the development of a product called Ultimate Protector that contains many concentrates and extracts from fruits, vegetables, and herbs. This product functions as 1) an excellent source of many Nrf2 activators, 2) a source of powerful antioxidants exhibiting an extremely high ORAC5.0 value per serving, and 3) a source of non-GMO Vitamin C.

More recently (July 2019) I have updated the product to Ultimate Protector+ that contains some exciting new ingredients that are now available on the market including SFB® (Standardized Fruit Blend) that contains among others mangosteen, goji berry, pomegranate, and apple extracts (click on the ingredient name to see detailed blog articles concerning these). In addition, I have added significant amounts of ingredients that are well known as potent Nrf2 activators and antioxidants including Green Tea extract and VinCare® whole grape extract.


Ultimate Protector+

New Ultimate Protector+


It is interesting to note that over 16 years ago I formulated a wonderful antioxidant formula called PRO-C™. PRO-C™ contains Buffered Vitamin C (in the form of powdered calcium, magnesium, and zinc ascorbates), high-potency Grape Extract (from grape pulp, skins, and seeds), Green Tea Extract, reduced Glutathione, N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC), R-Lipoic Acid, coenzyme forms of Vitamin B2 and Vitamin B6, and Selenium.

PRO-C™ has been one of the most effective products at supporting health I have ever formulated. Our current knowledge shows that PRO-C™ contains four effective Nrf2 activators, selenium needed for glutathione peroxidase functioning, Vitamin B2 and Vitamin B6 that support the effectiveness of glutathione, and antioxidants including Vitamin C and glutathione. I recently wrote a blog article titled PRO-C™ SUPER ANTIOXIDANT FORMULA that provides details concerning this formula.

My current personal list of supplements that I (and my wife) take every day includes both Ultimate Protector™ and PRO-C™. We feel gifted to have these products available to us!!

In this article, I will provide greater insight into the natural sources of Nrf2 activators and how they perform in the body.


Activation of Nrf2 results in the induction of many cytoprotective proteins. We have seen articles that claim over 200 different enzymes can be produced in the body by Nrf2 activators, but have also seen reference that over 4,000 enzymes may be produced!  Examples of some of the key enzymes are shown below:

  • NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase 1 – a prototypical Nrf2 target gene that catalyzes the reduction and detoxification of highly reactive quinones that can cause redox cycling and oxidative stress.
  • Superoxide dismutases (SOD) – enzymes that catalyze the dismutation of superoxide (O2) into oxygen and hydrogen peroxide. Thus, they are an important antioxidant defense in nearly all cells exposed to oxygen where superoxide is one of the main reactive oxygen species. SOD is known to provide powerful antinflammatory activity.
  • Glutamate-cysteine ligase which is the rate-limiting step in the synthesis of glutathione (GSH), a very powerful endogenous antioxidant. Glutamate-cysteine ligaseis a characteristic Nrf2 target gene, which establish Nrf2 as a regulator of glutathione, one of the most important antioxidants in the body.
  • Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) is an enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of heme into the antioxidant biliverdin, the anti-inflammatory agent carbon monoxide, and iron. HO-1 is a Nrf2 target gene that has been shown to protect from a variety of pathologies, including sepsis, hypertension, atherosclerosis, acute lung injury, kidney injury, and pain.
  • The glutathione S-transferase (GST) family includes cytosolic, mitochondrial, and microsomal enzymes that catalyze the conjugation of GSH with endogenous and xenobiotic electrophiles. After detoxification by GSH conjugation catalyzed by GSTs, the body can eliminate potentially harmful and toxic compounds. GSTs are induced by Nrf2 activation and represent an important route of detoxification.
  • The UDP-glucuronosyltransferas (UGT) family catalyze the conjugation of a glucuronic acid moiety to a variety of endogenous and exogenous substances, making them more water soluble and readily excreted. Important substrates for glucuronidation include bilirubin, and acetaminophen. Nrf2 has been shown to induce UGT1A1 and UGT1A6.
  • Multidrug resistance-associated proteins  (Mrps) are important membrane transporters that efflux various compounds from various organs and into bile or plasma, with subsequent excretion in the feces or urine, respectively. Mrps have been shown to be upregulated by Nrf2 and alteration in their expression can dramatically alter the pharmacokinetics and toxicity of compounds.


The March 2011 Epub Biochemical Basis for Functional Ingredient Design from Fruits reports: “Functional food ingredients (nutraceuticals) in fruits range from small molecular components, such as the secondary plant products, to macromolecular entities, e.g., pectin and cellulose, that provide several health benefits.  In fruits, the most visible functional ingredients are the color components anthocyanins and carotenoids.

“In addition, several other secondary plant products, including terpenes, show health beneficial activities.  A common feature of several functional ingredients is their antioxidant function. For example, reactive oxygen species (ROS) can be oxidized and stabilized by flavonoid components, and the flavonoid radical can undergo electron rearrangement stabilizing the flavonoid radical.  Compounds that possess an orthodihydroxy or quinone structure can interact with cellular proteins in the Keap1/Nrf2/ARE pathway to activate the transcription of antioxidant enzymes.

“Carotenoids and flavonoids can also exert their action by modulating the signal transduction and gene expression within the cell. Recent results suggest that these activities are primarily responsible for the health benefits associated with the consumption of fruits and vegetables.”

One of the interesting aspects of the extensive research that has been conducted is the fact that many of the polyphenols that have been shown to activate Nrf2 have been used in natural healing formulas for many years. For example, an article in a November 2010 production titled Nutraceutical antioxidants as novel neuroprotective agent expands on the classes of “antioxidant” compounds that are neuroprotective and operate either via direct antioxidant action or via the keap1-Nrf2 pathway:

“A variety of antioxidant compounds derived from natural products (nutraceuticals) have demonstrated neuroprotective activity in either in vitro or in vivo models of neuronal cell death or neurodegeneration, respectively. These natural antioxidants fall into several distinct groups based on their chemical structures: (1) flavonoid polyphenols like epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG) from green tea and quercetin from apples; (2) non-flavonoid polyphenols such as curcumin from tumeric and resveratrol from grapes; (3) phenolic acids or phenolic diterpenes such as rosmarinic acid or carnosic acid, respectively, both from rosemary; and (4) organosulfur compounds including the isothiocyanate, L-sulforaphane, from broccoli and the thiosulfonate allicin, from garlic.

“All of these compounds are generally considered to be antioxidants.  They may be classified this way either because they directly scavenge free radicals or they indirectly increase endogenous cellular antioxidant defenses, for example, via activation of the nuclear factor erythroid-derived 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) transcription factor pathway. Alternative mechanisms of action have also been suggested for the neuroprotective effects of these compounds such as modulation of signal transduction cascades or effects on gene expression. Here, we review the literature pertaining to these various classes of nutraceutical antioxidants and discuss their potential therapeutic value in neurodegenerative diseases.”


One of the ways dietary flavonoids work to confer their multiple health effects is via the keap1-Nrf2 pathway.  That is substances which are both themselves antioxidants and activators of the keap1-Nrf2 pathway produce significant results through keap1-Nrf2 and activating the body’s own antioxidant and defensive systems.

Flavonoids are a large family of polyphenolic compounds synthesized by plants. Many of the common dietary flavonoids are shown in Table 1 below along with their common food sources.

Table 1: Common Dietary Flavonoids

Flavonoid Subclass Dietary Flavonoids Some Common Food Sources
Anthocyanidins  Cyanidin, Delphinidin, Malvidin, Pelargonidin, Peonidin, Petunidin Red, blue, and purple berries; red and purple grapes; red wine
Flavonols  Monomers (Catechins) Catechin, Epicatechin, Epigallocatechin, Epicatechin gallate, Epigallocatecin gallate Dimers and Polymers: Theaflavins, Thearubigins, Proanthocyanidins Catechins: Teas (particularly green and white), chocolate, grapes, berries, apples Theaflavins, Thearubigins: Teas (particularly black and oolong) Proanthocyanidins: Chocolate, apples, berries, red grapes, red wine.
Flavanones Hesperetin, Naringenin, Eriodictyol Citrus fruits and juices, e.g., oranges, grapefruits, lemons.
Flavonols Quercetin, Kaempferol, Myricetin, Isorhamnetin Widely distributed: yellow onions, scallions, kale, broccoli, apples, berries, teas.
Flavones Apigenin, Luteolin Parsley, thyme, celery, hot peppers.
Isoflavones Daidzein, Genistein, Glycitein Soybeans, soy foods, legumes.

In addition to flavonoids many other plant based substances appear to produce health benefits through hormetic effects mediated by Nrf2.  The December 2011 publication Nutritional antioxidants and adaptive cell responses: an update reports: “Many plant antioxidants, intaken through the daily diet or plant-derived dietary supplements, have been shown able to prevent free radical-related diseases by counteracting cell oxidative stress. However, it is now considered that the in vivo beneficial effects of these phytochemicals are unlikely to be explained just by their antioxidant capability.

“Several plant antioxidants exhibit hormetic properties, by acting as ‘low-dose stressors’ that may prepare cells to resist more severe stress. In fact, low doses of these phytochemicals activate cell signaling pathways (being the most prominent examples the modulation of the Nrf2/Keap1 pathway, the NF-κB pathway and the Sirtuin-FOXO pathway) but high doses are cytotoxic.

“Herein we review the adaptive responses induced by the most known plant hormetic antioxidants, which are sulforaphane, resveratrol, curcumin, flavonoids, green tea catechins and diallylsulphides [in garlic], as well as the molecular mechanisms involved in such responses. Furthermore, this review outlines that the hormetic properties of these bioactive plant antioxidants might be successfully employed for realizing health-promoting dietary interventions especially in the field of neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.”


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1) An interesting fact is that Nrf2 is ubiquitously expressed with the highest concentrations (in descending order) in the kidney, muscle, lung, heart, liver, and brain. 

2) Another important fact is that the well-known nutrition supplement lipoic acid is a potent activator of Nrf2 and thus increases Gluthatione levels, which may explain its protective effect against diabetic co-morbidities. Additionally, the nutritional supplements tocotrienols (active forms of Vitamin E) and N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC) are also effective Nrf2 activators!

3) We have observed that the natural plant substances with the highest ORAC5.0 values appear to be among the most effective Nrf2 activators. For example, see the table below. In particular, note that Curcumin (98%), Grape Seed Extract, Green Tea Extract, and Reservatrol which are commonly used for their excellent Nrf2 activator effects are the most powerful in-vitro antioxidants . Please note that Ultimate Protector is over 50% more powerful as an antioxidant than the best single plant ingredient.


Ingredient Peroxyl Radical Hydroxyl Radical Peroxy-nitrite Radical Super-
oxide Radical
Singlet O2 Radical Total ORAC5.0
Curcumin 98% 5,750 8,920 906 597 66,290 82,500
Bilberry 25% 7,000 25,000 1,000 16,000 5,000 54,000
Cocoa 10,000 28,000 1,000 11,000 2,000 52,000
Grape Seed Extract 17,000 47,000 1,000 25,000 4,000 94,000
Green Tea Extract 11,000 41,000 2,000 56,000 3,000 113,000
Coffee Berry Extract 5,000 29,000 1,000 1,000 2,000 38,000
Mangosteen 4,000 8,000 1,000 18,000 4,000 35,000
Pine Bark 7,000 23,000 1,000 17,000 2,000 50,000
Resveratrol 12,000 50,000 1,000 8,000 22,000 93,000
Results are expressed in micro mole TE/g
4) Here is a list of the ingredients in ULTIMATE PROTECTOR+: USP-grade non-GMO Vitamin C, SFB® standardized fruit blend (~50% polyphenols, high-ORAC powder: 9,000 µmole TE/g) from Grape, Cranberry, Pomegranate, Blueberry, Apple, Mangosteen, Bilberry, Chokeberry, and Goji Berry), Curcumin (standardized extract with 95% curcuminoids), Trans-Resveratrol (98% from Giant Knotweed), Green Tea Extract (93% polyphenols, 50% EGCG), VinCare® Whole Grape Extract (>80% polyphenols, ORAC>19,000 µmole TE/g), Calcium Malate, Magnesium Malate, and Bioperine® (a patented black pepper extract that enhances absorption of all ingredients and is a known Nrf2 activator).


Below are two abstracts that discuss how modulation of the Nrf2/ARE pathway by food polyphenols can provide neuroprotection through the activation of the heme-oxygenase enzyme.

Modulation of Nrf2/ARE pathway by food polyphenols: a nutritional neuroprotective strategy for cognitive and neurodegenerative disorders. (Oct. 2011)


In recent years, there has been a growing interest, supported by a large number of experimental and epidemiological studies, for the beneficial effects of some phenolic substances, contained in commonly used spices and herbs, in preventing various age-related pathologic conditions, ranging from cancer to neurodegenerative diseases. Although the exact mechanisms by which polyphenols promote these effects remain to be elucidated, several reports have shown their ability to stimulate a general xenobiotic response in the target cells, activating multiple defense genes.

Data from our and other laboratories have previously demonstrated that curcumin, the yellow pigment of curry, strongly induces heme-oxygenase-1 (HO-1) expression and activity in different brain cells via the activation of heterodimers of NF-E2-related factors 2 (Nrf2)/antioxidant responsive element (ARE) pathway. Many studies clearly demonstrate that activation of Nrf2 target genes, and particularly HO-1, in astrocytes and neurons is strongly protective against inflammation, oxidative damage, and cell death. In the central nervous system, the HO system has been reported to be very active, and its modulation seems to play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders.

Recent and unpublished data from our group revealed that low concentrations of epigallocatechin-3-gallate, the major green tea catechin, induces HO-1 by ARE/Nrf2 pathway in hippocampal neurons, and by this induction, it is able to protect neurons against different models of oxidative damages. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that other phenolics, such as caffeic acid phenethyl ester and ethyl ferulate, are also able to protect neurons via HO-1 induction. These studies identify a novel class of compounds that could be used for therapeutic purposes as preventive agents against cognitive decline.

The major green tea polyphenol, (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate, induces heme oxygenase in rat neurons and acts as an effective neuroprotective agent against oxidative stress. (Aug. 2009)


Oxidative stress induced by hyperglycemia is a key factor in the pathogenesis of diabetic complications, such as neuropathy. Recently, green tea catechins have received much attention, as they can facilitate a number of antioxidative mechanisms and improve glycemic control. The aim of this study was to investigate the cytoprotective effects of (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) against oxidative stress damage in a cell line of rat neurons. The role of heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1) induction by EGCG and the transcriptional mechanisms involved were also evaluated.

Immortalized rat neurons (H 19-7) were exposed to various concentrations of EGCG (10-200 microM). After treatments (6 or 24 hours), cells were harvested for the determination of heme oxygenase activity, mRNA levels, and protein expression. Nuclear levels of Nrf2, a transcriptional factor involved in HO-1 activation, were also measured. Neurons were pretreated for 12 hours with EGCG 50 microM or EGCG 50 microM + zinc protoporphyrin IX 10 microM and then exposed for 2 hours to 50 mmicro/mL glucose-oxidase before cell viability was determined.

In cultured neurons, elevated expression of HO-1 mRNA and protein were detected after 6 hours of incubation with 25-100 microM EGCG, and its induction relates with the activation of Nrf2. Interestingly, pre-incubation (12 hours) with EGCG 50 microM resulted in an enhanced cellular resistance to glucose oxidase-mediated oxidative damage; this cytoprotective effect was considerably attenuated by zinc protoporphyrin IX, an inhibitor of heme oxygenase activity.

In this study, we demonstrated that EGCG, the major green tea catechin, induced HO-1 expression in cultured neurons, possibly by activation of the transcription factor Nrf2, and by this mechanism was able to protect against oxidative stress-induced cell death.


The following review article abstract shows how natural products containing Nrf2 activator/antioxidant ingredients might be used to support health and anti-aging.

Nrf2/ARE Signaling Pathway: Key Mediator in Oxidative Stress and Potential Therapeutic Target in ALS (July 2012)


Abstract: Nrf2 (nuclear erythroid 2-related factor 2) is a basic region leucine-zipper transcription factor which binds to the antioxidant response element (ARE) and thereby regulates the expression of a large battery of genes involved in the cellular antioxidant and anti-inflammatory defence as well as mitochondrial protection. As oxidative stress, inflammation and mitochondrial dysfunctions have been identified as important pathomechanisms in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), this signaling cascade has gained interest both with respect to ALS pathogenesis and therapy. Nrf2 and Keap1 expressions are reduced in motor neurons in postmortem ALS tissue.

Nrf2-activating compounds have shown therapeutic efficacy in the ALS mouse model and other neurodegenerative disease models. Alterations in Nrf2 and Keap1 expression and dysregulation of the Nrf2/ARE signalling program could contribute to the chronic motor neuron degeneration in ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases. Therefore, Nrf2 emerges as a key neuroprotective molecule in neurodegenerative diseases.

Our recent studies strongly support that the Nrf2/ARE signalling pathway is an important mediator of neuroprotection and therefore represents a promising target for development of novel therapies against ALS, Parkinson’s disease (PD), Huntington’s disease (HD), and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Simultaneous blockage of disease-specific broad toxic signaling cascades in motor neurons and glia may ultimately lead to more efficient neuroprotection in ALS. Stimulation of defense mechanisms that modulate neuroprotective genes which affect both neuronal and glial functions is a novel therapeutic approach and holds great promise. A key molecule to affect a variety of defense mechanisms is the transcription factor Nrf2 which activates the Nrf2/ARE signaling program. Nrf2 acts as master regulator of the cellular antioxidant response by stimulation of over 250 phase II genes that should be referred to as “prolife genes” since they save cells from death.

Nrf2 activation can at once regulate the expression of multiple cytoprotective enzymes that are capable of simultaneous inhibition of major pathogenic pathways described in ALS such as oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Decreased Nrf2 expression was found in motor neurons in ALS postmortem brain and spinal cord. We have established the proof-of-concept that the Nrf2/ARE program is a viable target with excellent therapeutic potential for ALS. While there are still multiple gaps of knowledge on the path from Nrf2 dissociation to nuclear localization and its action as transcription factor, activation of the Nrf2 signaling cascade represents a novel and unique attempt to find a cure for ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases by fortifying the intrinsic defense mechanisms of neurons.


In this article I have shown how foods such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, and their extracts can stimulate extremely powerful protective enzymes in the body that work to keep us healthy. I strongly suggest that our readers eat an organic diet that emphasizes these foods and highly recommend the use of nutritional supplements such as Ultimate Protector+ and PRO-C™ that can further support the activation of the Nrf2 pathways in the body!






Natural Phytochemical Nrf2 Activators for Chemoprevention

Dr. Hank Liers here considers mechanisms involved in the activation of transcription factor Nrf2. Nrf2 is encoded by the NFE2L2 gene. Nrf2 can induce expression of genes encoding for antioxidant enzymes. Thus, it contributes to regulation of oxidative stress. Dr. Liers’ interest regards use of natural phytochemical Nrf2 activators for improving health. Also, see his post, “New Directions for Preventing Free-Radical Damage”(06.27.19).


Dr. Hank Liers, PhD nrf2 activatorsDespite progress in the early detection and treatment of cancer, overall mortality rates for most cancers of epithelial origin have not declined during the past three decades. Consequently, in recent years attention has been directed to cancer prevention.

Carcinogenesis can be viewed as a multistep process in which the genes controlling proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis are transformed and altered under selective environmental pressures.

Tumor development involves three distinct, yet closely linked, phases: initiation, promotion, and progression. The initiation phase is a rapid and irreversible event that occurs when a normal cell is exposed to a carcinogenic event. Frequently, unrepairable or misrepaired DNA damage happens in the initiation phase.

Promotion and progression processes are relatively longer processes than the initiation stage, and are considered reversible. Using various animal cancer models, scientists found that all three cancer development stages can be intervened by treatment with natural (or synthetic) chemicals.

Epidemiological and population studies also establish a close relationship between incidence of cancer and consumption of certain types of food.

The term “chemoprevention” was first coined in 1976 by Michael Sporn, when he referred to prevention of malignancy development by vitamin A and its synthetic analogs. Since then, chemoprevention has been adopted as one of the major tactics to modulate the process of carcinogenesis. Many research studies have proven this strategy is effective in reducing the incidence of cancer in well-defined high-risk groups.

Chemoprevention is by definition the use of natural (or pharmacologic) agents to inhibit the development of invasive cancer. The chemicals with a cancer preventive activity are referred to as chemopreventive agents. A chemopreventive agent can inhibit carcinogenesis either by blocking the DNA damage at initiation stage or by arresting or reversing the processes at promotion and progression stages. Most of the chemical substances used in cancer chemoprevention studies are natural phytochemicals found in food.

On the basis of the inhibition stages, chemopreventive agents have been classified into two categories, namely blocking agents and suppressing agents. Blocking agents act by preventing carcinogens from reaching the target sites, from undergoing metabolic activation, or from subsequently interacting with crucial cellular macromolecules such as DNA, RNA, and proteins at initiation stages.

Suppressing agents, on the other hand, inhibit the malignant transformation of initiated cells at either the promotion or the progression stage. Some agents may work on all three stages of carcinogenesis, and are hence classified into both categories.


Many different animal models and cancer cell lines have been used to evaluate the chemopreventive values of phytochemicals, and have led to the discovery of new classes of chemopreventive agents. These agents include isothiocyanates (such as sulforaphane) from cruciferous vegetables, polyphenols from green and black tea, curcuminoids (from turmeric root), stilbenes such as resveratrol (from giant knotweed plant), flavonoids such as quercetin, and anthocyanidins (from many fruits and soybeans).

Progress also has been made in understanding the mode of action of newly identified chemopreventive agents. Exposure to the chemopreventive agents produces certain level of reactive oxygen species (ROS) or electrophiles, and causes mild oxidative/electrophilic stresses in cells.

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Such mild oxidative stresses are sufficient to initiate the signaling pathways that, in turn, can activate a variety of cellular events, such as induction of phase II detoxification enzymes and antioxidant enzymes, expression of tumor-suppressor genes, and inhibition of cell proliferation and angiogenesis.

In order to survive under a variety of environmental or intracellular stresses, our cells have developed highly efficient protective mechanisms to protect themselves from oxidative or electrophilic challenges. Proteins that comprise phase II detoxification and antioxidant enzymes provide an enzymatic line of defense against reactive oxygen species. These enzymes include superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, glutathione peroxidase, glutathione S-transferase (GST), and glutamate cysteine ligase.

Induction of phase II and antioxidant enzymes are regulated at the DNA/gene level by antioxidant responsive element (ARE). ARE-mediated gene expression plays a central role in the cellular defense against cellular oxidative damage.

Experimental evidence supports the view that induction of ARE-mediated cytoprotective enzymes is a critical and sufficient mechanism to enable protection against carcinogenesis provoked by environmental and endogenous insults.

One of the key ARE-binding transcription factors is Nrf2. Induction of cytoprotective enzymes in response to ROS, electrophiles, and chemopreventive agents is a cellular event that is highly dependent on Nrf2 protein.


By activating Nrf2 signaling, chemopreventive agents can increase cellular detoxification and antioxidant enzymes, thereby enhancing removal of reactive carcinogens and blocking carcinogenesis. This hypothesis has been tested in many studies.

For example, a study with sulforaphane (an isothiocyanate present abundantly in cruciferous vegetables) has shown that oral administration of this phytochemical could effectively block benzo[a]pyrene-induced forestomach tumors in mice. This protective effect was abrogated in mice that could not produce Nrf2, supporting a critical role of phase II detoxification and antioxidant enzymes in the prevention of carcinogenesis by chemopreventive agents.

Nrf2 is normally bound in the cytoplasm of cells to a protein called KEAP1. However, when an appropriate phytochemical agent attaches to a kinase receptor on the cell wall a phosphate group is released that causes the Nrf2 to be released. The Nrf2 then migrates into the cell nucleus and causes an antioxidant enzyme, such as SOD, to be released. This endogenously produced enzyme then can protect against ROS, electrophiles, and chemopreventive agents.

In practice, it has been found that a combination of multiple polyphenols works significantly better than single ingredients at activating Nrf2. In fact, in one experiment it was found that a combination of five ingredients all known to be Nrf2 activators was 18 times more effective than any single ingredient. Furthermore, it was found that this combination of five ingredients  increased levels of SOD by 30% and catalase by 56% after 120 days.


In view of the above information and the fact that new and more effective ingredients are available, we have updated our exceptional formula designed to maximize activation of Nrf2 in the body. This new product is ULTIMATE PROTECTOR+. It is among the most advanced, natural Nrf2 activator formula on the market today.

We include a broad range of Nrf2 activators in ULTIMATE PROTECTOR+. These activators source from a wide variety of freeze-dried and concentrated fruits, vegetables, and herbs. These include USP-grade non-GMO Vitamin C , SFB® standardized fruit blend (~50% polyphenols, high-ORAC powder: 9,000 µmole TE/g) from Grape, Cranberry, Pomegranate, Blueberry, Apple, Mangosteen, Bilberry, Chokeberry, and Goji Berry), Curcumin(standardized extract with 95% curcuminoids), Trans-Resveratrol(98% from Giant Knotweed), Green Tea Extract(90% polyphenols, 50% EGCG),  and VinCare® Whole Grape Extract (>80% polyphenols, ORAC>19,000 µmole TE/g). In addition the product contains Calcium Malate and Magnesium Malate, that support ATP and enzyme product and Bioperine® (a patented black pepper extract that significantly enhances absorption of all ingredients and is a known Nrf2 activator).

Phytochemicals provided by the array of freeze-dried and concentrated fruits, vegetables, and herbs in the formula include: Polyphenols, Phenolic acids, Proanthocyanidins (OPCs), Anthocyandins, Catechins, Glucosinolates, Zeaxanthin, Lutein, Lycopene, Beta Carotene, Chlorogenic acid, Ellagic acid, Quercetin, Quinic acid, Trans-Resveratrol, Ferulic acid, Punicalagins, Phloridzin, Polysaccharides, Xanthones and more.

In addition to these Nrf2 activators (above), ULTIMATE PROTECTOR+ contains an extremely broad array of plant based antioxidants from the same sources described above, as well as from non-GMO USP grade Vitamin C. All ingredients in this product have been used in chemoprevention protocols, as well as in protocols aimed at preventing free-radical damage in the body.

Ultimate Protector is now available on the HPDI website!


Ultimate Protector+Ultimate Protector+ is new and improved



“Resveratrol induces glutathione synthesis by activation of Nrf2 and protects against cigarette smoke-mediated oxidative stress in human lung epithelial cells.”  Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol 294: L478–L488, 2008.

“Nrf2 as a master redox switch in turning on the cellular signaling involved in the induction of cytoprotective genes by some chemopreventive phytochemicals.” Planta Med. 2008 Oct; 74(13): 1526–39. Epub 2008 Oct 20.

“Nrf2: a potential molecular target for cancer chemoprevention by natural compounds.” Antioxid Redox Signal. 2006 Jan–Feb; 8(1–2):99–106.

“Cancer chemoprevention by phytochemicals: potential molecular targets, biomarkers and animal models.” Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2007 Sep; 28(9): 1409–21.

“Natural dietary anti-cancer chemopreventive compounds: redox-mediated differential signaling mechanisms in cytoprotection of normal cells versus cytotoxicity in tumor cells.” Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2007 Apr; 28(4): 459–72.

“Anticarcinogenesis by dietary phytochemicals: cytoprotection by Nrf2 in normal cells and cytotoxicity by modulation of transcription factors NF-kappa B and AP-1 in abnormal cancer cells.” Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Apr; 46(4): 1257–70. Epub 2007 Sep 15.

“Signal transduction events elicited by cancer prevention compounds.” Mutat Res. 2001 Sep 1; 480–481: 231–41.

“Targeting specific cell signaling transduction pathways by dietary and medicinal phytochemicals in cancer chemoprevention.” Toxicology. 2010 Dec 5; 278(2): 229–41. Epub 2009 Oct 20.

“NF-kappa B and Nrf2 as potential chemopreventive targets of some anti-inflammatory and antioxidative phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory and antioxidative activities.” Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008; 17 Suppl 1:269–72.

“Regulation of NF-E2-Related Factor 2 Signaling for Cancer Chemoprevention: Antioxidant Coupled with Antiinflammatory.” Antioxid Redox Signal. 2010 Dec 1; 13(11): 1679–98. Epub 2010 Aug 17.

“Molecular targets of dietary phenethyl isothiocyanate and sulforaphane for cancer chemoprevention.” AAPS J. 2010 Mar; 12(1): 87–97. Epub 2009 Dec 15.

“Dietary chemopreventive compounds and ARE/EpRE signaling.” Free Radic Biol Med. 2004 Jun 15; 36(12): 1505–16.

 “Multiple molecular targets in cancer chemoprevention by curcumin.” AAPS J. 2006 Jul 7; 8(3): E443–9.


Ultimate Protector™

The Amazing Healing Potential of Natural Nrf2 Activators – by Dr. Hank Liers

Preventing Free-Radical Damage Using Ultimate Protector™ – by Dr. Hank Liers

New Directions for Preventing Free-Radical Damage  – by Dr. Hank Liers



Ultimate Protector and the Role of Foundational Supplements for Health – by Fred Liers, PhD


New Directions For Preventing Free Radical Damage

Dr. Hank Liers, PhD free radical damage

As you may know, free radical damage is associated with virtually every major health condition. For many years we have recommended taking antioxidants to protect against free radicals and for preventing free radical damage to the body.

Antioxidants we recommend include Vitamin C, Vitamin E, plant polyphenols (e.g., grape seed extract), green tea extract, rutin and other bioflavonoids, and amino acids and peptides (e.g., n-acetyl-l-cysteine and glutathione) to deal with free radicals. Using this approach, individuals often achieve excellent results.

In the last ten years, a new approach has become a major topic of scientific interest and research. This approach utilizes substances that induce strong activation of the body’s own enzyme systems. Some natural substances under study include turmeric (curcumin), sulforaphane (found in broccoli sprouts), transresveratrol (found in red wine and giant knotweed), and green tea extracts.

Nrf2 Activators Produce Antioxidant Enzymes Combating Free Radicals

Researchers specifically are studying how enzyme-activating substances activate a transcription factor known as Nrf2 that causes the body to produce higher levels of enzymes including superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, heme oxygenase, and glutathione peroxidase.

A human clinical trial of a nutritional supplement containing turmeric, milk thistle extract, green tea extract, bacopa, and ashwaganda showed this combination of phytochemicals can reduce lipid peroxides in the body by significant amounts after only one month. Further research on this same supplement has shown these enzyme inducers affect the function of up to 4,000 genes in the body related to internal protection systems.

Currently there are several supplements on the market that are classified as Nrf2 activators. My own approach to this includes a combination approach using very powerful antioxidants (for example, those with extremely high ORAC5.0 values such as whole grape extract) in combination with Nrf2 activators derived from plant extracts (such as transresveratrol and curcumoids).

My updated product (Ultimate Protector+) using this approach will be available in July 2019 so be on the look out for it!

Ultimate Protector+


Ultimate Protector+ is a next-generation cell protection formula providing high levels of non-GMO Vitamin C, calcium and magnesium malate (supports ATP and enzyme production), a full spectrum of exceptionally high potency antioxidants (in accordance with ORAC5.0 testing – currently being updated), many of the most powerful natural Nrf2 protective enzyme activators, and Bioperine® to facilitate absorption of all ingredients – all in a single product! This potent combination of characteristics distinguishes our formula so that no other single product available today offers such complete protection. This is the best formula available for countering free radical damage. 100% non-GMO. 180 veggie caps per bottle.

ULTIMATE PROTECTOR+ contains USP-grade non-GMO Ascorbic Acid, SFB® standardized fruit blend (~50% polyphenols, high-ORAC powder: 9,000 µmole TE/g) from Grape, Cranberry, Pomegranate, Blueberry, Apple, Mangosteen, Bilberry, Chokeberry, and Goji Berry), Curcumin (standardized extract with 95% curcuminoids), Trans-Resveratrol (98% from Giant Knotweed), Green Tea Extract (>90% polyphenols, 50% EGCG), VinCare® Whole Grape Extract (>80% polyphenols, ORAC>19,000 µmole TE/g), Calcium Malate, Magnesium Malate, and Bioperine® (a patented black pepper extract that enhances absorption of all ingredients and is a known Nrf2 activator).


ULTIMATE PROTECTOR+provides completecoverage for free-radical protection by satisfying three distinct needs in single cell protection formula:

Mode 1) A non-GMO Vitamin C product. Ultimate Protector+contains a Vitamin C formula without genetically modified sources of corn, potatoes, or beets. 100% Non-GMO Vitamin C!
Mode 2) A single, powerful antioxidant formula. Ultimate Protector+provides a powerful antioxidant formula offering a broad range of extremely high-ORAC plant source antioxidants. These antioxidants should protect against the full range of free radicals found in the human body including: superoxide anion (O2·-), peroxyl radicals (ROO·), hydroxyl radicals (HO·), singlet oxygen (1O2), and peroxynitrite (ONOO-).
Mode 3) A full spectrum of Nrf2 activators. Ultimate Protector+is a supplement providing a broad range of the most powerful natural Nrf2 transcription factor activators that allow the body to make its own antioxidant enzymes (e.g., superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, heme oxygenase, and glutathione peroxidase). Scientific research has shown that these are found in a wide range of fruits, vegetable, and herbs and that products which provide a wide range of Nrf2 activators give significantly higher levels of the endogenously produced antioxidant enzymes.





Dr. Hank Liers, PhD biography about us HPDI integratedhealth formulator founder CEO scientist physicist wild bilberry and wild blueberryUltimate Protector+ contains cranberry extract, as well as components from 12 different fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Each of these ingredients contain substances that may be considered to be polyphenols, antioxidants, and Nrf2 activators. In this article I will explore the ingredient cranberry, which is a component of SFB® – Standardized Fruit Blend from Ethical Naturals, Inc.

Ultimate Protector+ Includes Cranberry

Ultimate Protector+ Includes Cranberry Extract

SFB® – Standardized Fruit Blend

SFB® is a proprietary formula that combines extracts from Grape, Cranberry, Pomegranate, Blueberry, Apple, Mangosteen, Bilberry, Chokeberry, and Goji Berry. It is high in fruit polyphenols, flavonoids, anthocyanins, catechins, proanthocyanins, ellagic acid, xanthines, chlorogenic acid, pterostilbenes, resveratrol, phloridzin, quercetin, zeaxanthin, carotenoids, polysaccharides, quinic acid, and more. With its diverse blend, SFB® offers over 40-50% polyphenols as well as >9,000 ORAC units in a single gram.

Polyphenols, anthocyanins and other plant elements are powerful ingredients associated with a variety of areas of human health, including healthy aging, healthy glucose metabolism, cardiovascular health, and inflammation management.


Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) are native to the boggy regions of temperate and subalpine North America and Europe. Although Native Americans used them extensively, they were first cultivated in the U.S. in the early 19th century. Cranberries grow on viney plants belonging to the heath family Ericaceae that also includes blueberries, bilberries, huckleberries, and bearberries (Arctostaphylos uva ursi). Cranberries contain tannins, fiber, anthocyanins (and other flavonoids), and Vitamin C. Their tannins prevent bacteria from attaching to cells. Consequently, cranberries have been used against infections, including urinary tract infections. In addition, cranberries may be helpful in protecting against heart disease and stroke.

Cranberry extract is an especially good source of antioxidant polyphenols. In animal studies, the polyphenols in cranberries have been found to decrease levels of total cholesterol and so-called “bad” cholesterol. Cranberries may also inhibit the growth of tumors in human breast tissue and lower the risk of both stomach ulcers and gum disease. 

Here is a list of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in found in cranberry extract.

Type of Phytonutrient             Specific Molecules
Phenolic Acids                             hydroxybenzoic acids including vanillic acids;
—Phenolic Acids (cont.)             hydroxycinnamic acids inculding caffeic,
—Phenolic Acids (cont.)             coumaric, cinnamic, and ferulic acid
Proanthocyanidins                     epicatechins
Anthocyanins                              cyanidins, malvidins, and peonidins
Flavonoids                                   quercetin, myricetin, kaempferol
Triterpenoids                              ursolic acid


    • Cranberries hold significantly high amounts of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals called oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPC’s). Scientific studies have shown that consumption of the berries have potential health benefits against cancer, aging and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and bacterial infections.
    • Antioxidant compounds in cranberry extract including OPC’s, anthocyanidin flavonoids, cyanidin, peonidin and quercetin may prevent cardiovascular disease by counteracting against cholesterol plaque formation in the heart and blood vessels. Further, these compounds help the human body lower LDL cholesterol levels and increase HDL-good cholesterol levels in the blood.
    • Scientific studies show that cranberry juice consumption offers protection against gram-negative bacterial infections such as E.coli in the urinary system by inhibiting bacterial-attachment to the bladder and urethra.
    • It is known that cranberries turns urine acidic. This, together with the inhibition of bacterial adhesion helps prevent the formation of alkaline (calcium ammonium phosphate) stones in the urinary tract by working against proteus bacterial-infections.
    • In addition, the berries prevent plaque formation on the tooth enamel by interfering with the ability of the gram-negative bacterium, Streptococcus mutans, to stick to the surface. In this way cranberries helps prevent the development of cavities.
    • The berries are also good source of many vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin A, ß-carotene, lutein, zea-xanthin, and folate and minerals like potassium, and manganese.
  • Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) demonstrates cranberry at an ORAC score of 9584 µmol TE units per 100 g, one of the highest in the category of edible berries.

For more information on cranberries visit: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=145


Below, I provide relevant scientific studies on the antioxidant effects and potential health benefits of cranberries.



Cranberry fruit has been reported to have high antioxidant effectiveness that is potentially linked to its richness in diversified polyphenolic content. The aim of the present study was to determine the role of cranberry polyphenolic fractions in oxidative stress (OxS), inflammation and mitochondrial functions using intestinal Caco-2/15 cells. The combination of HPLC and UltraPerformance LC®-tandem quadrupole (UPLC-TQD) techniques allowed us to characterize the profile of low, medium and high molecular mass polyphenolic compounds in cranberry extracts. The medium molecular mass fraction was enriched with flavonoids and procyanidin dimers whereas procyanidin oligomers (DP > 4) were the dominant class of polyphenols in the high molecular mass fraction. Pre-incubation of Caco-2/15 cells with these cranberry extracts prevented iron/ascorbate-mediated lipid peroxidation and counteracted lipopolysaccharide-mediated inflammation as evidenced by the decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-α and interleukin-6), cyclo-oxygenase-2 and prostaglandin E2. Cranberry polyphenols (CP) fractions limited both nuclear factor κB activation and Nrf2 down-regulation. Consistently, cranberry procyanidins alleviated OxS-dependent mitochondrial dysfunctions as shown by the rise in ATP production and the up-regulation of Bcl-2, as well as the decline of protein expression of cytochrome c and apoptotic-inducing factor. These mitochondrial effects were associated with a significant stimulation of peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor γ co-activator-1-α, a central inducing factor of mitochondrial biogenesis and transcriptional co-activator of numerous downstream mediators. Finally, cranberry procyanidins forestalled the effect of iron/ascorbate on the protein expression of mitochondrial transcription factors (mtTFA, mtTFB1, mtTFB2). Our findings provide evidence for the capacity of CP to reduce intestinal OxS and inflammation while improving mitochondrial dysfunction.



Oxidative stress and reactive oxygen species (ROS)-mediated cell damage are implicated in various chronic pathologies. Emerging studies show that polyphenols may act by increasing endogenous antioxidant defense potential. Cranberry has one of the highest polyphenol content among commonly consumed fruits. In this study, the hepato-protective activity of a cranberry juice (CJ) and cranberry extract (CE) powders against oxidative stress was screened using HepG2 cells, looking at ROS production, intracellular non-enzymatic and enzymatic antioxidant defenses by reduced glutathione concentration (GSH), glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and glutathione reductase (GR) activity and lipid peroxidation biomarker malondialdehyde (MDA). Involvement of major protein kinase signaling pathways was also evaluated. Both powders in basal conditions did not affect cell viability but decreased ROS production and increased GPx activity, conditions that may place the cells in favorable conditions against oxidative stress. Powder pre-treatment of HepG2 cells for 20 h significantly reduced cell damage induced by 400 μM tert-butylhydroperoxide (t-BOOH) for 2 h. Both powders (5–50 μg/ml) reduced t-BOOH-induced increase of MDA by 20% (CJ) and 25% (CE), and significantly reduced over-activated GPx and GR. CE, with a significantly higher amount of polyphenols than CJ, prevented a reduction in GSH and significantly reduced ROS production. CJ reversed the t-BOOH-induced increase in phospho-c-Jun N-terminal kinase. This study demonstrates that cranberry polyphenols may help protect liver cells against oxidative insult by modulating GSH concentration, ROS and MDA generation, antioxidant enzyme activity and cell signaling pathways.


From: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464613000364


It is known that cranberry inhibits the growth of Helicobacter pylori (HP). In human stomach, HP basically induces chronic inflammation by stimulating stomach cells to secrete interleukin (IL)-8 and other inflammatory cytokines, and causes stomach cancer, etc. The aim of this study was to investigate the inhibiting effects of cranberry on HP growth and IL-8 secretion from stomach cells induced by HP, using clinically separated HP strains. HP growth in liquid culture and on-plate culture was evaluated by titration after 2-day incubation and by agar dilution technique, respectively. For IL-8 experiments, MKN-45, a stomach cancer cell line, was incubated with HP for 24 h and IL-8 in the medium was assayed by ELISA. Cranberry suppressed growth of the bacteria only in six of the 27 strains. Meanwhile, it suppressed IL-8 secretion in all the strains. The results may suggest a possible role of cranberry in prevention of stomach cancer by reducing gastric inflammation.


From: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24353827


Increased oxidative stress in obese diabetes may have causal effects on diabetic complications, including dyslipidemia. Lipopolysccharides (LPS) along with an atherogenic diet have been found to increase oxidative stress and insulin resistance. Cranberry has been recognized as having beneficial effects on diseases related to oxidative stress. Therefore, we employed obese diabetic animals treated with an atherogenic diet and LPS, with the aim of examining the effects of cranberry powder (CP) on diabetic related metabolic conditions, including lipid profiles, serum insulin and glucose, and biomarkers of oxidative stress. Forty C57BL/KsJ-db/db mice were divided into the following five groups: normal diet + saline, atherogenic diet + saline, atherogenic diet + LPS, atherogenic diet + 5% CP + LPS, and atherogenic diet + 10% CP + LPS. Consumption of an atherogenic diet resulted in elevation of serum total cholesterol and atherogenic index (AI) and reduction of high density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol. However, with 10% CP, the increase in mean HDL-cholesterol level was close to that of the group with a normal diet, whereas AI was maintained at a higher level than that of the group with a normal diet. LPS induced elevated serum insulin level was lowered by greater than 60% with CP (P < 0.05), and mean serum glucose level was reduced by approximately 19% with 5% CP (P > 0.05). Mean activity of liver cytosolic glutathione peroxidase was significantly increased by LPS injection, however it was reduced back to the value without LPS when the diet was fortified with 10% CP (P < 0.05). In groups with CP, a reduction in mean levels of serum protein carbonyl tended to occur in a dose dependent manner. Particularly with 10% CP, a reduction of approximately 89% was observed (P > 0.05). Overall results suggest that fortification of the atherogenic diet with CP may have potential health benefits for obese diabetes with high oxidative stress, by modulation of physical conditions, including some biomarkers of oxidative stress.


Cranberry extract is full of polyphenols, anthocyanins, antioxidants, and Nrf2 activators that help to make Ultimate Protector+ such an outstanding nutritional supplement.



Dr. Hank Liers, PhDUltimate Protector+ contains blueberry and bilberry extracts, as well as components from 12 different fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Each of these ingredients contain substances that may be considered to be polyphenols, antioxidants, and Nrf2 activators. In this article, I will explore the ingredients blueberry and bilberry, which are components of SFB® – Standardized Fruit Blend from Ethical Naturals, Inc.

Ultimate Protector+ Includes Blueberry and Bilberry

Ultimate Protector+ Includes Bilberry and Blueberry

SFB® – Standardized Fruit Blend

SFB® is a proprietary formula that combines extracts from Grape, Cranberry, Pomegranate, Blueberry, Apple, Mangosteen, Bilberry, Chokeberry, and Goji Berry. High in fruit polyphenols, anthocyanins, proanthocyanins, catechins, ellagic acid, chlorogenic acid, resveratrol, and quinic acid. With its diverse blend, SFB® offers over 40–50% polyphenols as well as >9,000 ORAC units in a single gram.

Polyphenols, anthocyanins, and other plant components are powerful ingredients associated with a variety of areas of human health, including healthy aging, healthy glucose metabolism, cardiovascular health, and inflammation management.


Bilberry is any of several Eurasian  species of low-growing shrubs in the genus Vaccinium, bearing edible, nearly black berries. The species most often referred to is Vaccinium myrtillus L., but there are several other closely related species. Bilberries are distinct from blueberries but closely related. Whereas the bilberry is native to Europe, the blueberry is native to North America.

The bilberry fruit is smaller than that of the blueberry, but with a fuller taste. Bilberries are darker in color, and usually appear near black with a slight shade of purple. While blueberry fruit pulp is light green in color, bilberry is red or purple, heavily staining the fingers, lips, and tongue of consumers eating the raw fruit. The color comes from diverse anthocyanins.

So-called wild (lowbush) blueberries, smaller than cultivated highbush ones, are prized for their intense color. “Wild” has been adopted as a marketing term for harvests of managed native stands of lowbush blueberries. The bushes are not planted or genetically manipulated, but they are pruned or burned every two years, and pests are “managed.” The content of polyphenols and anthocyanins in lowbush (wild) blueberries (V. angustifolium) exceeds values found in highbush cultivars.

wild bilberry and wild blueberry

Wild bilberry and wild blueberry provide Nrf2 activators.

The key compounds in bilberry fruit are called anthocyanins and anthocyanosides. These compounds help build strong blood vessels and improve circulation to all areas of the body. They also prevent blood platelets from clumping together (helping to reduce the risk of blood clots), and they have antioxidant properties (preventing or reducing damage to cells from free radicals). Anthocyanins boost the production of rhodopsin, a pigment that improves night vision and helps the eye adapt to light changes.

Bilberry fruit is also rich in tannins, a substance that acts as an astringent. The tannins have anti-inflammatory properties and may help control diarrhea.

Bilberries have been shown to have the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) rating of more than 20 fresh fruits and berries. The antioxidant properties of bilberries were shown to be even stronger than those of cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, plums, or cultivated blueberries.

The antioxidant powers and health benefits of bilberries and blueberries can be attributed to a number of remarkable compounds contained in them, including the following:

  • Anthocyanins
    • malvidins
    • delphinidins
    • pelargonidins
    • cyanidins
    • peonidins
  • Hydroxycinnamic acids
    • caffeic acids
    • ferulic acids
    • coumaric acids
  • Hydroxybenzoic acids
    • gallic acids
    • procatchuic acids
  • Flavonols
    • kaempferol
    • quercetin
    • myricetin
  • Other phenol-related phytonutrients
    • pterostilbene
    • resveratrol
  • Other nutrients
    • lutein
    • zeaxanthin
    • Vitamin K
    • Vitamin C
    • manganese

Scientific Studies on the Antioxidant Effects of Bilberry and Blueberry

Databases of scientific studies (like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) PubMed database) contain thousands of up-to-date studies and abstracts about various Vaccinium species, including wild bilberry and wild blueberry (V. myrtillis and V. angustfolium, respectively).

We provide a few relevant scientific studies on the antioxidant effects of wild bilberry and wild blueberry.

In vitro anticancer activity of fruit extracts from Vaccinium species.

From: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8693031


Fruit extracts of four Vaccinium species (lowbush blueberry, bilberry, cranberry, and lingonberry) were screened for anticarcinogenic compounds by a combination of fractionation and in vitro testing of their ability to induce the Phase II xenobiotic detoxification enzyme quinone reductase (QR) and to inhibit the induction of ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), the rate-limiting enzyme in polyamine synthesis, by the tumor promoter phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (TPA). The crude extracts, anthocyanin and proanthocyanidin fractions were not highly active in QR induction whereas the ethyl acetate extracts were active QR inducers. The concentrations required to double QR activity (designated CDqr) for the ethyl acetate extracts of lowbush blueberry, cranberry, lingonberry, and bilberry were 4.2, 3.7, 1.3, and 1.0 microgram tannic acid equivalents (TAE), respectively, Further fractionation of the bilberry ethyl acetate extract revealed that the majority of inducer potency was contained in a hexane/chloroform subfraction (CDqr = 0.07 microgram TAE). In contrast to their effects on QR, crude extracts of lowbush blueberry, cranberry, and lingonberry were active inhibitors of ODC activity. The concentrations of these crude extracts needed to inhibit ODC activity by 50% (designated IC50) were 8.0, 7.0, and 9.0 micrograms TAE, respectively. The greatest activity in these extracts appeared to be contained in the polymeric proanthocyanidin fractions of the lowbush blueberry, cranberry, and lingonberry fruits (IC50 = 3.0, 6.0, and 5.0 micrograms TAE, respectively). The anthocyanidin and ethyl acetate extracts of the four Vaccinium species were either inactive or relatively weak inhibitors of ODC activity. Thus, components of the hexane/chloroform fraction of bilberry and of the proanthocyanidin fraction of lowbush blueberry, cranberry, and lingonberry exhibit potential anticarcinogenic activity as evaluated by in vitro screening tests.

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) anthocyanins modulate heme oxygenase-1 and glutathione S-transferase-pi expression in ARPE-19 cells.

From: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17460300


PURPOSE: To determine whether anthocyanin-enriched bilberry extracts modulate pre- or posttranslational levels of oxidative stress defense enzymes heme-oxygenase (HO)-1 and glutathione S-transferase-pi (GST-pi) in cultured human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells.

METHODS: Confluent ARPE-19 cells were preincubated with anthocyanin and nonanthocyanin phenolic fractions of a 25% enriched extract of bilberry (10(-6)-1.0 mg/mL) and, after phenolic removal, cells were oxidatively challenged with H(2)O(2). The concentration of intracellular glutathione was measured by HPLC and free radical production determined by the dichlorofluorescin diacetate assay. HO-1 and GST-pi protein and mRNA levels were determined by Western blot and RT-PCR, respectively.

RESULTS: Preincubation with bilberry extract ameliorated the intracellular increase of H(2)O(2)-induced free radicals in RPE, though H(2)O(2) cytotoxicity was not affected. By 4 hours, the extract had upregulated HO-1 and GST-pi protein by 2.8- and 2.5-fold, respectively, and mRNA by 5.5- and 7.1-fold, respectively, in a dose-dependent manner. Anthocyanin and nonanthocyanin phenolic fractions contributed similarly to mRNA upregulation.

CONCLUSIONS: Anthocyanins and other phenolics from bilberry upregulate the oxidative stress defense enzymes HO-1 and GST-pi in RPE, suggesting that they stimulate signal transduction pathways influencing genes controlled by the antioxidant response element.

Berry anthocyanins suppress the expression and secretion of proinflammatory mediators in macrophages by inhibiting nuclear translocation of NF-κB independent of NRF2-mediated mechanism.

From: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24565673


The objectives of this study were to compare the anti-inflammatory effects of anthocyanins from blueberry (BBA), blackberry (BKA), and blackcurrant (BCA) and to determine the relationship between their antioxidant capacity and anti-inflammatory effect in macrophages. Major anthocyanins in BBA, BKA and BCA were malvidin-3-glucoside (16%), cyanidin-3-glucoside (98%) and delphinidin-3-rutinoside (44%), respectively. BKA showed higher total antioxidant capacity than BBA and BCA. RAW 264.7 macrophages were incubated with 0-20 μg/ml of BBA, BKA and BCA, and subsequently activated by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to measure proinflammatory cytokine production. Interleukin 1β (IL-1β) messenger RNA (mRNA) levels were significantly decreased by all berry anthocyanins at 10 μg/ml or higher. Tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) mRNA levels and secretion were also significantly decreased in LPS-treated macrophages. The levels of the repression were comparable for all berry anthocyanins. LPS-induced nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) p65 translocation to the nucleus was markedly attenuated by all of the berry anthocyanins. In bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMMs) from nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 wild-type (Nrf2(+/+)) mice, BBA, BKA and BCA significantly decreased cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels with a concomitant decrease in IL-1β mRNA levels upon LPS stimulation. However, in the BMM from Nrf2(-/-) mice, the anthocyanin fractions were able to significantly decrease IL-1β mRNA despite the fact that ROS levels were not significantly affected. In conclusion, BBA, BKA and BCA exert their anti-inflammatory effects in macrophages, at least in part, by inhibiting nuclear translocation of NF-κB independent of the NRF2-mediated pathways.

Purified Anthocyanins from Bilberry and Black Currant Attenuate Hepatic Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Steatohepatitis in Mice with Methionine and Choline Deficiency

From: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf504926n


The berries of bilberry and black currant are rich source of anthocyanins, which are thought to have favorable effects on non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). This study was designed to examine whether purified anthocyanins from bilberry and black currant are able to limit the disorders related to NASH induced by a methionine-choline-deficient (MCD) diet in mice. The results showed that treatment with anthocyanins not only alleviated inflammation, oxidative stress, steatosis and even fibrosis, but also improved the depletion of mitochondrial content and damage of mitochondrial biogenesis and electron transfer chain developed concomitantly in the liver of mice fed the MCD diet. Furthermore, anthocyanins treatment promoted activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma coactivator-1α (PGC-1α). These data provide evidence that anthocyanins possess significant protective effects against NASH and mitochondrial defects in response to a MCD diet, with mechanism maybe through affecting the AMPK/PGC-1α signaling pathways.

Effect of blueberry on hepatic and immunological functions in mice.

From: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20382588


Background: Conventional drugs used in the treatment and prevention of liver diseases often have side effects, therefore research into natural substances are of significance. This study examined the effects of blueberry on liver protection and cellular immune functions.

METHODS: To determine the effects of blueberry on liver protective function, male mice were orally administered blueberry (0.6 g/10 g) or normal saline for 21 days. Hepatic RNA was extracted by Trizol reagent, and the expression of Nrf2, HO-1, and Nqo1 was determined by real-time RT-PCR. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) and malondialdehyde (MDA) in liver homogenate were determined, and liver index was measured. To assess the effects of blueberry on cellular immune function, male mice received blueberry (0.4, 0.6, or 0.8 g/10 g) for 35 days, and the percentages of CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+ T lymphocyte subgroups in peripheral blood were detected by flow cytometry, the index of the thymus and spleen was measured, and lymphocyte proliferation in the spleen was determined by MTT assay.

RESULTS: Blueberry treatment significantly increased the expression of Nrf2, HO-1, and Nqo1, the important antioxidant components in the liver. Hepatic SOD in the blueberry group was higher and MDA was lower than that in the control group (P<0.05). Blueberry also increased the index of the spleen and enhanced the proliferation of lymphocytes of the spleen (P<0.05). The percentages of the CD3+ and CD4+ T lymphocyte subsets and the CD4+/CD8+ ratio were also increased by blueberry (P<0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: Blueberry induces expression of Nrf2, HO-1, and Nqo1, which can protect hepatocytes from oxidative stress. In addition, blueberry can modulate T-cell function in mice.

Anthocyanins: Janus Nutraceuticals Displaying Chemotherapeutic and Neuroprotective Properties

From: http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-007-4575-9_21


Anthocyanins are natural polyphenolic compounds widely distributed as pigments in many fruits and vegetables. In addition to displaying antioxidant properties, these nutraceuticals exhibit anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, and pro-apoptotic activities suggesting their potential as novel chemotherapeutic agents. Through cell cycle down-regulation, and context-specific pro-oxidant activity, anthocyanins induce cytotoxicity in cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. Specifically, via regulation of the Bcl-2 protein family and induction of caspase-dependent or caspase-independent apoptotic pathways, anthocyanins inhibit the growth of cancers by inducing cell death. Moreover, by modulating the activities of specific kinases and proteases, including (but not limited to) cyclin-dependent kinases, mitogen-activated protein kinases, matrix metalloproteases, and urokinase-type plasminogen activators, anthocyanins induce apoptosis, inhibit motility, and suppress invasion of cancer cells. In marked contrast to their effects in cancer cells, we have found that anthocyanins display significant anti-apoptotic activity in neurons. Antioxidant properties of these nutraceuticals, particularly at the level of the mitochondria, appear to underlie their neuroprotective effects. The opposing effects of anthocyanins on cancer cells and neurons suggest that these nutraceuticals are promising candidates for development as either chemotherapeutic agents or novel neuroprotective compounds for the treatment of cancers or neurodegenerative diseases, respectively.

Recent Research on Polyphenolics in Vision and Eye Health

From: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf903038r#end-1


A long-standing yet controversial bioactivity attributed to polyphenols is their beneficial effects in vision. Although anecdotal case reports and in vitro research studies provide evidence for the visual benefits of anthocyanin-rich berries, rigorous clinical evidence of their benefits is still lacking. Recent in vitro studies demonstrate that anthocyanins and other flavonoids interact directly with rhodopsin and modulate visual pigment function. Additional in vitro studies show flavonoids protect a variety of retinal cell types from oxidative stress-induced cell death, a neuroprotective property of significance because the retina has the highest metabolic rate of any tissue and is particularly vulnerable to oxidative injury. However, more information is needed on the bioactivity of in vivo conjugates and the accumulation of flavonoids in ocular tissues. The direct and indirect costs of age-related vision impairment provide a powerful incentive to explore the potential for improved vision health through the intake of dietary polyphenolics.

Bilberry Extracts Induce Gene Expression Through the Electrophile Response Element

From: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15327914nc5401_11#.VLK6LVqBO24


A number of genes important for detoxification and antioxidant defense induced by mild stress generated by, for example, physical activity/exercise, caloric restriction, or alcohol may provide health benefits by causing the organism to mount such a defense response. More recently, induction of these defenses has also been attributed to phytochemicals or secondary metabolites from dietary plants. Many polyphenols, which constitute a large fraction of these phytochemicals, increase cellular levels of antioxidants, such as glutathione and other components of the detoxification systems, via the transactivation of genes containing electrophile response elements (EpREs) within their promoters. One such gene, γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase, has previously been shown to be positively regulated by quercetin, a flavonoid found in high concentrations in onions, apples, and bilberries through EpRE transactivation. As a further step, we have investigated whether bilberries and quercetin have the ability to induce transcription of Fos-related antigen 1 (Fra-1), which contains two EpREs in its promoter. Fra-1 is a member of the activator protein 1 (AP-1) family of transcription factors and, due to the lack of transactivation domain Fra-1, can suppress activation of AP-1. We present results demonstrating that extracts from bilberries, and the flavonoid quercetin, abundant in bilberries, induce the fra-1 promoter and the cellular content of Fra-1 mRNA. We further provide evidence that this induction is mediated through EpREs.

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

From: http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/life-science/nutrition-research/learning-center/plant-profiler/vaccinium-myrtillus.html

Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
Airelle, anthocyanins, Bickbeere (German), bilberry leaf, black whortle, Blaubeere (Dutch), blaubessen, bleaberry, blueberry, blueberry leaf, bogberry, bog bilberry, burren myrtle, cranberry, dwarf bilberry, dyeberry, Ericaceae (family), European blueberry, Heidelbeere (Dutch), Heidelbeereblatter, heidelberry, huckleberry, hurtleberry, lingonberry, lowbush blueberry, Mirtillo nero (Italian), Myrtilli folium, Myrtilli fructus, Myrtilus niger Gilib., Optiberry, resveratrol, sambubiosides, trackleberry, Vaccinium angulosum Dulac, Vaccinium montanum Salibs., Vaccinium myrtillus anthocyanoside extract, VMA extract, VME, whortleberry, wineberry
Mechanism of Action


  • Constituents: Bilberry contains several compounds that have demonstrated biological activity. The main chemicals contained in bilberry extract have been shown to be: anthocyanins30,31, flavonoids, hydroquinone, oleanolic acid, neomyrtillin, sodium, tannins, and ursolic acid17,20,32,33,34. Bilberry also contains resveratrol.28,29 The anthocyanosides, tannins, and flavonoids have been of particular scientific interest. Flavonoids have been shown in vitro to possess a number of biological properties, including inhibition of prostacyclin synthesis, reduction of capillary permeability and fragility, free radical scavenging, inhibition of a wide range of enzymes, impairment of coagulation and platelet aggregation, and anticarcinogenicity.33,5
  • Mechanism of action: Anthocyanins and other phenolics from bilberry upregulate the oxidative stress defense enzymes heme-oxygenase-1 and glutathione S-transferase-pin cultured human retinal pigment epithelial cells, suggesting that they stimulate signal transduction pathways, influencing genes controlled by the antioxidant response element.30
  • Antibacterial effects: In an in vitro study using Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus aureus Oxford, Enterococcus faecalisBacillus subtilis, and Escherichia coli, an aqueous extract of bilberry leaves had a MIC of 12.7-17.8mg/mL and an aqueous extract of bilberry fruit had a MIC of 15.4-30.7mg/mL.24
  • Anticarcinogenic effects: In an in vitro study, anthocyanin-rich extracts from bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) inhibited the growth of a colon cancer cell line.6
  • Bomser et al. screened fruit extracts of bilberry for potential anticarcinogenic compounds by a combination of fractionation and in vitro testing of their ability to induce the Phase 2 xenobiotic detoxification enzyme quinone reductase (QR) and to inhibit the induction of ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), the rate-limiting enzyme in polyamine synthesis, by the tumor promoter phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (TPA).5 The crude extracts, anthocyanin, and proanthocyanidin fractions were not found to be highly active in Phase 2 xenobiotic detoxification enzyme quinone reductase (QR) induction, whereas the ethyl acetate extracts were active QR inducers. The concentrations required to double QR activity (designated CDqr) for the ethyl acetate extracts of bilberry were 1.0mcg tannic acid equivalents (TAE). Further fractionation of the bilberry ethyl acetate extract revealed that the majority of inducer potency was contained in a hexane/chloroform subfraction (CDqr = 0.07mcg TAE). The anthocyanidin and ethyl acetate extracts of bilberry were either inactive or relatively weak inhibitors of ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) activity. The authors concluded that components of the hexane/chloroform fraction of bilberry exhibit potential anticarcinogenic activity, as evaluated by in vitro screening tests.
  • Antihyperglycemic effects: In normal and depancreatized dogs, oral administration of bilberry leaves reduced hyperglycemia, even when the glucose was injected intravenously concurrently.15,16
  • Antioxidant effects: Bilberry contains anthocyanosides that are flavonoid derivatives of anthocyanins (the blue, red, or violet pigments found in many berry varieties), which are closely related in structure and activity to flavonoids17 and possess free radical scavenging/antioxidant properties. Antioxidant properties have been attributed to bilberry based on in vitro studies.1,2,34
  • Antiplatelet activity: In a clinical study of 30 subjects with normal platelet aggregation, 480mg of Myrtocyan® (Vaccinium myrtillus anthocyanins) daily, 3g of ascorbic acid daily, or both treatments all reduced platelet aggregation after 30 and 60 days.11 Bilberry anthocyanins reduced platelet aggregation more than ascorbic acid alone, but bilberry anthocyanins and ascorbic acid together were the most effective. Also, in in vitro studies, anthocyanins extracted from bilberry have inhibited platelet aggregation.13,14,10,12
  • Flavonoids have been shown in vitro to inhibit prostacyclin synthesis. In one animal model, Vaccinium myrtillus anthocyanosides were studied for their effects on prostacyclin-like activity in rat arterial issue.7
  • Antiproliferative effects: According to one laboratory study, anthocyanins were the predominant phenolic compounds in bilberry extracts.31 Compared to other plants with anthocyanins, such as black currant or lingonberry, cell growth inhibition was greater for bilberry than other plants studied. The pro-apoptosis marker, Bax, was increased 1.3-fold in bilberry-treated cells, whereas the pro-survival marker, Bcl-2, was detected only in control cells. The results demonstrated that bilberry and other berry extracts containing anthocyanins inhibited cancer cell proliferation, mainly via the p21WAF1 pathway.
  • Antiulcer effects: In an animal study, large doses of cyanidin chloride from bilberry significantly increased gastric mucosal release of prostaglandin E2.19 In animal models of gastric ulcers, cyanidin chloride showed antiulcer activity.26,8
  • Astringent effects: Bilberry contains tannins that have been used medicinally as astringents and to treat diarrhea.
  • Connective tissue stabilizing effects: An in vitro study has suggested that anthocyanosides appear to stabilize connective tissue by enhancing collagen synthesis, inhibiting collagen degradation, and enhancing collagen cross linking.35 In contrast, Boniface et al. found a significant decrease in connective tissue synthesis (collagen and glycoproteins) in gingival tissue samples of 12 adult diabetics treated with 600mg of anthocyanosides daily for two months.36
  • Hepatoprotective activity: In an animal study, anthocyans exerted a protective effect on liver cells.27
  • Hyperglycemic effects: In an oral glucose tolerance test in healthy rats, an alcoholic extract of Vaccinium myrtillus leaves increased serum glucose levels compared to controls.25
  • Hypotensive effects: Bilberry has been theorized to potentially drop blood pressure, based on pre-clinical evidence of vascular smooth muscle-relaxing properties.21,22,23
  • Anthocyanoside extracts have been shown to have smooth muscle-relaxing activity, which may account for their purported effects in one series of women with dysmenorrhea.18 Bioflavonoids and extracts of anthocyanosides (such as those present in bilberry) have been shown to relax vascular smooth muscles in experimental models, possibly via stimulation of prostaglandins.21,22,23
  • Intracellular signaling effects: Anthocyanosides have been shown to inhibit cAMP phosphodiesterase, which is involved in intracellular signal transduction pathways.8
  • Ocular effects: Anthocyanosides have been shown to exert direct effects on the retina, including the alteration of local enzymatic reactions and enhancement of the recovery of rhodopsin.9 The multi-ingredient product Mirtogenol (Pycnogenol® – French maritime pine bark extract and Mirtoselect® – standardized bilberry extract) has been reported to lower intraocular pressure and improve ocular blood flow.37
  • Smooth muscle relaxant effects: Anthocyanoside extracts have been shown to have smooth muscle-relaxing activity, which may account for their purported effects in one series of women with dysmenorrhea.18 Bioflavonoids and extracts of anthocyanosides (such as those present in bilberry) have been shown to relax vascular smooth muscles in experimental models, possibly via stimulation of prostaglandins.21,22,23
  • Vasoprotective effects: Flavonoids have been shown in vitro to reduce capillary permeability and fragility. Anthocyanosides have been studied for their potential protective effect in disorders due to abnormal capillary fragility.33


  • There are limited data regarding the pharmacodynamics and kinetics of Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry) anthocyanosides (VMA). In one animal study, bilberry anthocyanosides were rapidly distributed after intra-peritoneal injection and intravenous administration.38 In another animal study, bilberry anthocyanosides were found to be eliminated via the bile and urine with a modest level of liver extraction.32
  • Bioavailability in animals is low. Following oral doses in rats, plasma levels of VMA reached a peak at 15 minutes and declined rapidly within two hours, and the absolute bioavailability was 1.2% of the administered dose.38 The gastrointestinal absorption of VMA was 5% of the administered dose. Another study found a differential affinity of VMA for certain tissues (especially skin and kidney).20 This suggests that different tissues may have more persistent local concentrations.

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  12. Bottecchia D. Preliminary report on the inhibitory effect of vaccinium myrtillus anthocyanosides on platelet aggregation and clot retraction. Fitoterapia 1987;48:3-8.
  13. Zaragoza, F., Iglesias, I., and Benedi, J. [Comparative study of the anti-aggregation effects of anthocyanosides and other agents]. Arch Farmacol Toxicol 1985;11(3):183-188. 4096552
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  18. Colombo D and Vescovini R. Controlled clinical trial of anthocyanosides from Vaccinium myrtillus in primary dysmenorrhea. G Ital Obstet Ginecol 1985;7:1033-1038.
  19. Mertz-Nielsen, A., Munck, L. K., Bukhave, K., and Rask-Madsen, J. A natural flavonoid, IdB 1027, increases gastric luminal release of prostaglandin E2 in healthy subjects. Ital J Gastroenterol  1990;22(5):288-290. 2134327
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  30. Milbury, P. E., Graf, B., Curran-Celentano, J. M., and Blumberg, J. B. Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) anthocyanins modulate heme oxygenase-1 and glutathione S-transferase-pi expression in ARPE-19 cells. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2007;48(5):2343-2349. 17460300
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Wild bilberries and wild blueberries are important fruits full of polyphenols, anthocyanins, antioxidants, and Nrf2 activators that help to make Ultimate Protector+ such an outstanding nutritional supplement.