Life Extension Magazine 2011
Neutralize a Lethal Enzyme
By Judith Sherman
It may surprise you that of the ten leading causes of death in this country—including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes—seven are linked to a single enzyme in your body.1
It's called 5-lipoxygenase or 5-LOX and in excess can create a cascade of dangerous inflammatory conditions throughout your body.
Ironically, the same systemic inflammation triggered by 5-LOX once defended early humans against exposure to infectious disease.
With these diseases now largely eradicated, the pro-inflammatory action of 5-LOX is not only unnecessary, but lethal to aging humans.2-5
Long known to researchers for its role in arthritis, pharmaceutical companies are trying to develop safe drugs to defuse 5-LOX, but the few "5-LOX inhibitors" currently available are proving no safer than other anti-inflammatory drugs.6,7
The good news is that a superior form of a natural 5-LOX inhibitor has recently been developed. This highly purified extract of boswellia has been shown to effectively inhibit excess 5-LOX at the molecular level.
This article describes recent data on the anti-inflammatory mechanisms of boswellia extract and its multimodal protective effects against age-related problems such as cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative disorders.
Readers will be encouraged to discover a new extract that absorbs into the blood 52% better than previously available boswellia.
Excess 5-LOX Cripples and Kills Millions of Americans
In response to poor dietary choices, our bodies suffer an overload of arachidonic acid.
To remove arachidonic acid, the body increases production of enzymes like 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX). Elevated 5-LOX and end products formed from degradation of arachidonic acid result in a constellation of age-related disorders.
The graphic below (Figure 1) is re-printed from the February 2007 issue of Life Extension Magazine®. It clearly shows common foods in the Western diet that cause excess arachidonic acid to accumulate and the deadly cascade caused by elevated 5-LOX.
5-LOX stimulates the manufacture in the body of pro-inflammatory molecules called leukotrienes.8 Hundreds of published studies connect leukotrienes to cardiovascular disease,9 cancer,10-16 arthritis,17-19 and breathing disorders such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).8 They have also been implicated in Alzheimer's,20-25 inflammatory bowel diseases,26-28 and osteoporosis.29,30
Following healthier dietary patterns reduces 5-LOX levels, yet typical foods consumed by Americans today make it challenging to optimally suppress 5-LOX and its deadly metabolites. Fortunately, an Indian plant extract has demonstrated profound inhibiting effects against the 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX) enzyme.
Clinical Validation for a Traditional Treatment
For millennia, traditional cultures prized the fragrant leaves of the boswellia tree both as aromatics and medicinals capable of reducing fever, rheumatism, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Modern researchers first validated boswellia's medical relevance with the discovery of boswellic acids. One in particular, AKBA (3-acetyl-11-keto-betaboswellic acid), was shown to bind directly to the 5-LOX enzyme in our bodies, preventing it from facilitating production of pro-inflammatory leukotrienes.39,40
Subsequent animal experiments confirmed that boswellia extracts exert a powerful anti-inflammatory effect, particularly in alleviating joint swelling in arthritis.41
Early trials in humans yielded similarly compelling results that paralleled traditional uses. Boswellia extracts proved to be an effective treatment in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and asthma.39,42 Detailed safety and toxicological testing of boswellia extracts demonstrated their broad safety spectrum with both internal and external use.43
A Superior Form of Boswellia
The limitation in using boswellia extracts as 5-LOX inhibitors is that they are difficult to absorb into the bloodstream (scientists call this "bioavailability").44
Recently, a novel boswellia extract was developed in which the plant's bioactive components were suspended in non-volatile oil also derived from boswellia.
Researchers found this extract to be 52% more bioavailable compared to standard boswellia extracts.44
It offered superior protection from damage to joint cartilage induced by pro-inflammatory molecules and provided 15% better inhibition of certain pro-inflammatory molecules, including TNF-alpha and MMP3, compared with standard boswellia extracts.44
Clinical studies of patients with osteoarthritis are already confirming the important improvements in effectiveness offered by the new formulation.45 This makes sense based on a wealth of data showing life-enhancing benefits that boswellia extracts can afford through their blockade of dangerous 5-LOX and other mediators of inflammation.
For more than 20 years, we have known of the major role played by inflammation in the development of atherosclerosis, which is the occlusion and hardening of the arteries.
In 1991, it was discovered that end products of 5-LOX were involved in the formation of atherosclerosis.52,53
Within a decade, the hunt was on for 5-LOX inhibitors that could prevent or even reverse cardiovascular aging.54 Boswellia extracts emerged as the most prominent natural sources of 5-LOX-inhibiting, anti-atherosclerotic compounds.55
In vascular tissue, boswellia extracts exert multiple complementary effects. They possess powerful free radical–quenching effects.56 Boswellia extracts lower total cholesterol by up to 48% and boost artery-cleansing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) by as much as 30%.57
It is boswellia extracts' inhibition of 5-LOX and other inflammatory factors, however, which is generating intense interest among heart specialists. In human capillary lining (endothelial) cells, the extracts significantly prevented expression of specific molecules central to forming atherosclerotic lesions.43,58 Boswellia exerted this effect by favorably modulating 113 genes, all of which were involved in producing blood vessel inflammation.58,59
Extracts rich in AKBA, a key bioactive agent in boswellia, caused a 50% reduction in the size of atherosclerotic lesions.60 They also significantly reduced activity of several different coagulation (clotting) factors in the blood.56
Neuroprotection and Brain Health
Constituents of a resin from a boswellia species have been shown to be potent stimulators of a brain receptor system called TRPV3 that lowers anxiety and exerts antidepressant-like effects.61
A major component of Boswellia carterri (called Incensole acetate) inhibits inflammatory mediators in brain tissue, an effect that offers significant hope in treatment of brain injury.62 That's because a dangerous inflammatory response follows brain injury within hours, contributing to a substantial portion of the long-lasting neurological deficit.
Incensole acetate specifically inhibits degeneration of brain cells in the hippocampus, the region responsible for memory processing.62 Animal models confirm this effect. Laboratory rats treated with a drug to impair memory, along with boswellia extract, performed significantly better on tests involving spatial orientation and learning than did animals treated with the drug alone.63 A similar result was shown in healthy animals not treated with a memory-destroying drug. Extracts of Boswellia papyrifera—one of five species of boswellia used in the making of frankincense—increase spatial memory retention, enabling the animals to quickly find their way out of a maze.64