Current Energy Drink Market
Millions of people attempt to temporarily reduce fatigue with energy drinks or other stimulants. However, that approach does not restore vigor and is actually more likely to sap vigor in the long term. These temporary “fixes” are inadequate solutions, because they do not address the underlying cause of low vigor: biochemical and physiological imbalances.
The “functional energy drink” market is forecasted to surpass $20 billion in annual global sales in 2018. Unfortunately, the entire energy drink market is characterized by an overly simplistic one-dimensional approach to restoring energy levels that is all about “stimulation” with caffeine and sugar.
If we look at what truly drives feelings of fatigue in most people, we see a multi-dimensional combination of low mood, lack of focus, and high stress that leads millions of us to experience what we label as “fatigue” on a daily basis.
When you add up the currently available “solutions” for improving energy, mood, and focus, with those that reduce stress and tension, you have an annual market that exceeds $100 billion in the United States alone. Clearly people don’t feel the way they want to feel – and they’re looking for something that helps them feel their best. Given everything that we know about the causes of fatigue, it makes sense to alleviate fatigue (and boost feelings of energy) with a multi-dimensional approach of simultaneously improving mood, sharpening focus, and increasing stress resilience.
The Importance of Nrf2 Synergy for Mental and Physical Energy
Biochemical and genetic research studies are showing us how many of the ancient herbal remedies mentioned in my earlier blog are known to work by activating a cellular “switch” inside of every cell in our bodies. This switch is a DNA transcription factor called “Nrf2” which induces the natural production of internal cellular anti-stress proteins and increases our production of internal antioxidant enzymes.
You might think of the Nrf2 pathway as an internal “thermostat” for cellular stress. Whenever a cell is under stress – whether from oxidative stress, or inflammatory stress, or any type of other stress that our modern world might throw at us, the Nrf2 pathway senses the stress and induces numerous protective responses. Some of these responses help to reduce oxidative stress (antioxidant enzymes), while others help to clean up damage (housekeeping proteins) and prepare our cells for exposure to future stressors (heat shock proteins).
This natural induction of Nrf2 is very much a “master regulator” of the body’s antioxidant and protective response - and the same mechanism at the heart of numerous new biotechnology and pharmaceutical research projects. In many ways, the natural induction of Nrf2 is the future of maintaining proper internal balance and holistically protecting our body from environmental stress.
The Nrf2 pathway is important for protecting every single cell in our body, but nerve cells, especially brain neurons; as well as mitochondria (our internal cellular energy generators) are particularly susceptible to damage from oxidative stress. A recent study funded by the Department of Defense (DARPA – Advanced Research Projects) showed that inducing Nrf2 protects brain cells from oxidative stress induced by high altitude hypoxia (Lisk et al. Free Radic Biol Med. 2013 Oct;63:264-73). Another recent study showed that Nrf2 induction may be particularly important for protecting the brain during degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease (Hybertson et al. Mol Aspects Med. 2011 Aug;32(4-6):234-46). Numerous studies have indicated that mitochondrial dysfunction contributes to neuron degeneration via oxidative stress – and that specific flavonoids such as quercetin, proanthocyanidins, and EGCG can protect neuron growth against mitochondrial-linked pathologies (Dajas et al. Central Nerv. Syst. Agents in Med. Chem., 2013, 13, 30-35). Based on these and numerous other studies, it seems clear that optimal mental energy and performance is supported through variety of mechanisms that hinge on optimal activity of the Nrf2 pathway.