Research could lead to heart disease-tackling 'superfoods'
Article date: 11 September 2014
The identification of a protein improves the health of the body's cells could eventually lead to the development of so-called 'superfoods', scientists believe.
Researchers at the University of Warwick have released details of their investigation in the Antioxidants and Redox Signalling journal, which centres around the benefits and role of the protein Nrf2.
They found that when it is exposed to threats to a cell's health, it raises the levels of antioxidant within the body by activating a defence mechanism through carrying out an oscillating movement.
The research team found that it was possible to speed up this behaviour by introducing health-beneficial substances to its environment.
As a result, it's hoped Nrf2 can eventually be the focus behind the creation of new food products that can help the consumer to reduce their risk of developing heart disease or diabetes, using ingredients that can induce a similar reaction in the protein.
Professor Paul Thornalley, who led the study, said: "The way Nrf2 works is very similar to sensors in electronic devices that rely on continual reassessment of their surroundings to provide an appropriate response."
He added that by understanding this behaviour, it is creating new avenues to help experts come up with strategies for the design of health-based food and drugs products.
Meanwhile, the study has been described as the opening of "a fascinating new window" by professor Andreu Palou, who coordinates the EU-funded BIOCLAIMS research initiative. Prof Palou said the news could help the sector tackle a key nutritional challenge of helping food producers to substantiate their products beneficial effects.
The link between antioxidants and the prevention of heart disease has been a subject of interest for scientists for many years, with the consumption of fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes all believed to have beneficial effects to a person's heart.