Back in 1891, Austrian chemist Josef Herzig first described the chemical makeup of a nutrient that most people today have never heard of. That’s too bad, because this nutrient has the ability to prevent cancer, slow aging, and even stop Alzheimer’s.
Fortunately, new research is bringing this nutrient to the forefront in natural medicine. And your body could feel years younger as a result. Here’s the story.
Josef Herzig was a pioneer in the chemistry of natural products. While you’ve probably never heard of most of his discoveries, the one that you probably have heard of is the flavonoid quercetin. While quercetin has enjoyed its day in the sun, it’s one of Herzig’s other flavonoid discoveries that’s really getting the attention of modern medicine.
While there’s not a lot of information available on Herzig, science is finally catching up to his research on the flavonoid fisetin. But you’re probably not going to see this nutrient turned into a drug – and that’s probably why you haven’t heard of it before now.
You see, fisetin has a tendency to be reactive in many different assays of biological activities. That means that if researchers turn it into a drug, it’s very possible the drugs will have too many side effects to be useful. But that doesn’t mean fisetin as a nutrient is useless. Just the opposite, in fact.
Researchers are finding that the nutrient has amazing anti-aging, anti-Alzheimer’s, and anti-cancer abilities – all without side effects.
The Next Resveratrol?
One of my favorite nutrients is resveratrol. I’ve used, recommended, and written about resveratrol for 25 years. And it’s proven the test of time. This fantastic polyphenol has a sirtuin-activating compound, which laboratory studies show gives it the ability to extend the life of simple organisms like yeast, worms, and flies. This lifespan-enhancing ability also works in humans, but it’s not as readily visible. We have a lot more cells than simple organisms, so it takes more of the nutrient and longer to see results.
New research is showing that fisetin has some of the same anti-aging abilities as resveratrol. Some even suggest it’s better than resveratrol – though I’m not ready to concede that yet. There’s not enough research to make that argument. But I like what I’m seeing, that’s for sure. And there’s one unique thing about fisetin that’s really exciting.
The Anti-Aging Secret of Fisetin
As we age, our body accumulates damaged cells. This damage affects how these cells are able to function. And, the more damage they sustain, the more you see aging occur. There’s a point at which this damage becomes a death spiral. The cells incur damage and, when there’s enough damage, the cells themselves begin to go through an aging process of their own, called cellular senescence. When this happens, the cells begin to release inflammatory factors that tell the immune system to clear those damaged cells. But even that process doesn’t work as well as it should.
When you’re young, your immune system is able to clear the damaged cells without any problems. But as you age, your immune system doesn’t work as well and it doesn’t clear the cells as effectively. That’s where the trouble really starts, as the damaged cells begin to accumulate. This accumulation of damaged cells causes low-level inflammation and they release enzymes that can degrade the tissue. Thus, the aging process starts and accelerates.
This is where fisetin really shines. Research published last year in Nature Medicine found that fisetin can reduce the burden of these damaged cells. What’s more, the team of researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School and the Mayo Clinic found that the effect of this action is dynamic.
When the fisetin removes the senescent cells, it effectively extends lifespan and improves health. What’s more, it can do this even when you start taking it later in life!
The team of researchers, led by Dr. Paul D. Robbins, treated mice toward the end of life with fisetin. They saw a dramatic reduction in the number of damaged cells in their bodies. And it had a direct impact on their health and their lifespan, greatly improving both. Robbins said, “These results suggest that we can extend the period of health, termed healthspan, even toward the end of life.”
Major Discovery for Diabetics
Restoring the body’s ability to remove damaged cells is a huge story. Any time the body moves into a disease state, there are damaged cells. Take both type-1 and type-2 diabetes, for instance. In both illnesses, the body has damaged cells that affect various organs in different ways. That’s why diabetics are apt to have issues with nephropathy or kidney disease, retinopathy, and neuropathies, where they lose touch or heat sensations. These are the result of damaged cells – and other issues.
David Schubert, PhD, professor and head of the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory, and Pam Maher, PhD, a senior staff scientist in the CNL, recently made a huge discovery for diabetics. The researchers reasoned that, like other flavonoids, fisetin might be able to fight a number of disorders seen in diabetic patients. So they set out to test this. And they did so by evaluating the effects of fisetin supplementation in Akita mice. These are mice that exhibit increased blood sugar typical of type-1 diabetes and display pathologies seen in serious human complications of both type-1 and type-2 diabetes.
While the mice that ate a fisetin-enriched diet remained diabetic, the supplement completely reversed their acute kidney enlargement (hypertrophy). It also lowered their urine protein levels, a sure sign of kidney disease. It even reduced their anxiety-related behaviors. Dr. Maher explained: “Most mice put in a large area become exploratory. But anxious mice tend not to move around. Akita mice showed enhanced anxiety behavior, but fisetin feeding restored their locomotion to more normal levels.”
This study took the abilities of fisetin to a new level, as the researchers found that it reduced the blood level of sugars affixed to proteins known as advanced glycation end-products (or AGEs). High blood levels of AGEs, as I’ve told you about before, are associated with many, if not most, diabetic complications. And excessively high AGEs correlate with inflammatory activity thought to promote some cancers.
Fisetin’s Benefits in the Brain
The study also hinted at another area where fisetin has tremendous benefits. In addition to reducing the blood level of sugars affixed to AGEs, it also reduced the brain levels of these sugars. And these decreases came along with an increased activity of the enzyme glyoxalase 1. This enzyme promotes the removal of toxic AGE precursors. So when you reduce the level of sugars attached to AGEs and remove toxic AGE precursors, you’re looking at the potential of significant memory enhancement. But does it really work?
Dr. Maher wanted to know. For more than 10 years, she and her colleagues looked to see if the nutrient had memory-enhancing abilities. They were able to show “that in normal animals, fisetin can improve memory.” But Maher wanted to know if it would help Alzheimer’s.
So she conducted experiments on mice that normally develop Alzheimer’s symptoms less than a year after birth. She gave them a daily dose of fisetin and found that it prevented the progressive memory and learning impairments the mice usually develop. However, the nutrient did not alter the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, which are commonly blamed for Alzheimer’s disease.
This research suggests this nutrient might be able to treat Alzheimer’s symptoms independently of targeting amyloid plaques.
To do the study, the researchers gave fisetin to a subset of these mice when they were only three months old. Then they tested the mice as they aged using water mazes. Within six months, the researchers were seeing clear results. The mice that didn’t take fisetin started to perform poorly in the mazes. Mice that took a daily dose of the compound, however, performed as well as normal mice, at both nine months and a year old. “Even as the disease would have been progressing, the fisetin was able to continue preventing symptoms,” Maher says.
More Benefits From Fisetin
But Dr. Maher didn’t stop there. She and her colleagues continued to study the amazing abilities of fisetin. In addition to slowing down the aging process, fighting diabetes and cancer, and even treating Alzheimer’s, they found that it can prevent many neurodegenerative diseases – not just Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The biggest risk factor for neurodegenerative disorders is age. The older we get, the more likely we are to suffer some type of brain deficiency. So Maher studied fisetin on another strain of mice that age prematurely. By 10 months of age, these mice typically show signs of physical and cognitive decline not seen in normal mice until two years of age.
Maher and her team gave fisetin to one group of mice starting at the age of three months. A second group of the prematurely aging mice ate the same food without fisetin. Then the researchers gave the mice various activity and memory tests throughout the study.
“At 10 months, the differences between these two groups were striking,” says Maher. The mice that didn’t take the fisetin had difficulties with all the cognitive tests. They also had elevated markers of stress and inflammation. But the mice taking the fisetin were not noticeably different in behavior, cognitive ability, or inflammatory markers as they were at three months old. In other words, they didn’t age.
What’s particularly important about this study was that the team didn’t find any evidence of acute toxicity in the fisetin-treated mice, even at very high doses.
In other words, fisetin is a nutrient that you can take in relatively large doses to slow the aging process, including the mental decline that comes with an aging brain. And you can use it to protect your body against diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and many other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s.
This is big news! But there is bad news. There aren’t a lot of studies on humans. Dr. Schubert says we may not see those human studies for some time. He says clinical trials are daunting because it’s difficult to protect patents on natural products. “We will never know if a compound like fisetin works in humans until someone is willing to support a clinical trial.”
I’m not one to wait, of course. Fisetin is perfectly safe. You eat it every time you eat a strawberry, an apple, a cucumber, and many other fruits and veggies. So why wait for studies. Eat up. And feel free to take a fisetin supplement, which you can find online. Take the recommended dosage on the bottle. But don’t hesitate to increase the dose if you have a specific condition. At this point, there’s no known toxicity. You don’t have to go wild in the dose. Increase it slowly and see how your body responds. If you need extremely large doses, work with a doctor to make sure there aren’t any negative effects.
To ingest fisetin levels equivalent to those fed the Akita mice, Maher estimates that humans would have to eat 37 strawberries a day. So supplements are a more effective way to go.