ASEA, Redox Signaling & Performance
About a year and half ago, my friend Timothy Harrington started bugging me, doing his best to convince me to try this new product he was involved with called ASEA.
“Sorry buddy. Never heard of it. Not interested.” I politely replied, rejecting the offer.
“Just take a look. Studies on athletes have shown that it can significantly increase aerobic capacity in endurance athletes and decrease recovery time between workouts. I think this could really benefit you.”
Whatever. I’ve heard it many times before, and I’ll hear it again, I’m sure. Just another new product hitting the market making claims it simply can’t support. Anyone who knows me knows that I am incredibly particular about my nutrition – an intense pickiness that extends beyond my whole food plant-based diet to the supplements I choose to incorporate into my daily routine. In fact, I do my best to keep my dietary supplements down to a bare minimum – only taking into my body that which is absolutely required to ensure my system gets what it needs; what I might have overlooked due to dietary restrictions; or what I may need to enhance recovery due to heavy training. And the supplements I do use are generally organic and plant-based as opposed to chemical in composition — things like EFA Oil, plant-based protein powders, Chlorophyll, spirulina, and L-Glutamine. But that’s pretty much it, other than the plant-based recovery elixir I have been developing with Ascended Health. So I can’t say I was exactly open to trying a new product I not only had never heard of, but whose only active ingredient was also something I had never heard of – redox signaling molecules.
I’m not a doctor. But I was pre-med for two years at Stanford, where I studied human biology and organic chemistry. And so to a limited degree, I know a few things. But redox signaling molecules? What the heck is that? I chalked it up to creative marketing, cryptically dressing up what clearly was nothing more than the latest snake oil with some half-baked scientific labeling mumbo-jumbo. Tim’s a nice guy, but I wasn’t buying. Thanks but no thanks.
But Tim persisted. Just try it, he urged, following up by sending me a litany of research materials and scientific studies performed by disinterested third parties on the science behind redox signaling and reactive molecules. I read them all, then did my own research. Its very complex stuff, indeed. But I’ll do my best to explain what I learned in the most simplistic of terms.
Let’s start at the beginning. The human body is made up of somewhere in the range of 100 trillion cells. Within each cell are mitochondria, which are responsible for the creation of energy by way of what is called the Krebs Cycle. This process entails the conversion of glucose to ATP. The byproducts of the Krebs Cycle along the Electron Transport Chain are what are known as redox signaling molecules (“RSM”). Originally, scientists perceived these byproducts as metabolic waste – oxidants and reductants that must be purged from the cell in order to remain healthy. However, current research suggests otherwise. That in fact a proper homeostatic balance of oxidants and reductants is absolutely necessary for maintaining cellular health, including virtually all of the functions of the immune system and tissue regeneration response. In the most simplistic terms, they provide a means by which cells participate in intra- and inter-cellular damage-control communications, activation of antioxidants, cellular protection and defense against toxins and free radicals, and in the healing response. The human body is constantly working to maintain cellular health by balancing these redox signaling molecules to rid the body of harmful components and to clean up the oxidative stress and free radical damage that occurs at the cellular level, while simultaneously ensuring the cell’s ability to maintain proper communication with its environment. When these reactive molecules are in the proper balance, the immune system and healing process function at their optimal level.
Virtually all disease and bodily challenges are caused by what is called oxidative stress – a increasingly salient reality of living in modern times attributable to a wide variety of factors, including sun damage, excessive exercise, electromagnetic radiation, food additives and preservatives, x-ray radiation, prescription drugs, heavy metals, stress, anxiety, air & water pollution, lack of sleep, and toxic industrialized chemicals to name a few. These factors cause our cells to produce an excess of oxidants in comparison to reductants – thus throwing off the cell’s homeostatic balance of RSMs and promoting the proliferation of harmful free radicals. But this imbalance is how the cell detects damage and is signaled to repair itself. The immune system is summoned, prompting repair, or replacement of the cell via mitosis (cell division) of a neighboring healthy cell. Without this excess of oxidants indicating oxidative stress, the cell wouldn’t know to reach out for restorative help. Too many oxidants leads to a proliferation of damaged cells. But too few oxidants impairs the cell’s ability to signal an immune response and to repair damage. Therefore, balance – homeostasis – is key.
However, chronic oxidative stress leads to a proliferation of free radicals that unless neutralized, lead to cell damage that will continue to worsen – damaging the cell walls, vessel walls, proteins, fats and even the DNA nucleus of our cells — until the cell can no longer properly function. The result advances the aging of tissues, leading to poor health and the potentiality for degenerative disease.
It is for this reason that we are constantly inundated with the health benefits of anti-oxidants. The idea is that these molecules combat the proliferation of free radicals in an effort to bring the cell back to healthy homeostasis. But herein lies the rub. First, most antioxidant supplements are molecules far too large to pass through the cell wall, averaging about 200 atoms in diameter. Therefore, most (some scientists estimate about 90%) are denied entry to the place where they are needed most – inside the cell where the free radicals are found. Second, one anti-oxidant molecule is empowered to combat one free radical molecule before becoming essentially inert. It is thus a 1:1 ratio. However, the body generally harbors about 100 sextillion free radicals a day. That’s a heck of a lot! Due to this restrictive 1:1 ratio, scientific studies show that your body can’t possibly ingest enough antioxidants to eliminate the number of free radicals your body makes every day. For example, you would have to eat 32 pounds of strawberries, 31 pounds of raspberries, AND 15 pounds of dark chocolate per day to achieve the antioxidant power that it would take to eliminate the free radicals that are created naturally in the body.
This is where ASEA comes in – as the first and only RSM supplement. As stated above, stable RSMs are central to the body’s healing mechanisms, mediating multiple cellular defense, repair & replacement signaling pathways. ASEA purports to have determined a completely stable, balanced, bio-available and entirely non-toxic formula of RSMs native to the body that can effectively penetrate the cell wall (unlike most anti-oxidant supplements), efficiently combat free radicals, stimulate the body’s production of its own anti-oxidant defenses, and stabilize the proper homeostasis of oxidants to reductants to optimize cellular communication, repair, and replacement, thus enhancing the body’s ability to properly function, recover, and simply work as designed.
Moreover, independent studies show that ASEA when in contact with living cells increased the efficiency of some of our body’s most important native antioxidants inside living cells – such as glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase (SOD) — more than 500%. In other words, ASEA is purported to significantly stimulate the cell’s own production of the master antioxidants inside the cells without causing an inflammatory immune system response. What does this mean? It means that the body becomes empowered to neutralize approximately 70,000,000 free radicals per second — the rate at which native Glutathione Peroxidase is able to process oxidative free radicals. Quite an improvement over the results that can be achieved by a diet rich in anti-oxidants.
But let me be clear on one point that is likely on your mind. ASEA is not a vitamin, mineral, juice, or antioxidant. And yet it is not a drug either, having received the clean certificates of analysis required by the UCI, the organization that coordinates and monitors doping in cycling. There is nothing in ASEA that could possibly be classified as a banned substance. Period. Again, ASEA is entirely non-toxic and native to the body. In fact, it doesn’t force the body to do anything it wouldn’t ordinarily do. It’s not a cure to anything, and is not a replacement for proper nutrition. It merely enhances the body’s innate ability to repair itself. The company describes the product as follows:
“ASEA is the world’s first and only Redox Signaling Molecular Supplement based on over 16 years of scientific research, 23 patents and approximately $17 million in research. ASEA is a proprietary blend of naturally occurring reactive molecules in a salt-water solution derived from a patented redox balanced process. This unique patented electro-chemical process rearranges the salt-water solution constituent components into a beneficial mixture that is critical to proper balanced cellular chemistry in the body…enabling the immune system to function at its optimal level. The ASEA salt-water solution is the same solution found in every cell in the human body.”
The purported benefits of ASEA extend to athletic performance. ASEA studies on athletes demonstrate:
* An increase in athletic endurance, as measured by time to ventilatory threshold and time to VO2max , by more than 10% on average;
* A 10% increase in the athlete’s ability to sustain maximum threshold
* A reduction in heart rate in some cases, evidencing an increase in aerobic capacity;
* A reduction in soreness, inflammation and recovery time; and
* An increase in lactate flushing by 5-10%.
Granted, these are studies conducted by ASEA. So it’s not surprising that the findings were positive. Additional double-blind studies on ASEA’s effects on athletic performance are currently in motion under the authority of highly reputable third party laboratories, so I anxiously await those results.
Fine. All well and good on paper. At least enough to convince me to give it a try. So about a year ago – a short while before ASEA was even officially introduced to the marketplace — I relented and Tim sent me a crate of the stuff. At first taste, I have to say I was not impressed. The stuff tastes like pool water. But I agreed to give it an honest go, my expectations limited at best. 4 ounces twice a day. Bear in mind that my first-hand findings are hardly scientific – purely anecdotal in fact. Not a variable-free double-blind study by any stretch. But I have to say that I did find that my training kicked into high gear. I was recovering rapidly between workouts, despite a very heavy load averaging around 20-25 hours per week, particularly in the lead up to EPIC5. I did not get sick, injured or overly fatigued. I just got stronger. My power on the bike continued to escalate, and I did not experience the weariness I had suffered this same month of training the year prior. To double check, I went through my training logs from the previous season and evaluated where I stood in comparison. To be certain, I understand that there are other factors at play – having only been competing in endurance sports for a few years, it is to be expected that I would continue to improve, particularly as I learned more about how to perfect my nutrition. But the gains exceeded what I anticipated, and this was reflected in my periodic lactate tests, which give me an accurate window into my true physical condition.
And so I continued to use the product. I trained for EPIC5 on ASEA. And have been using it consistently ever since. I realize there will be naysayers and doubters out there. I don’t blame you. I was definitely one of them. But I do believe that I am realizing tangible performance gains as a result of consistent use, most noticeably in my ability to recover between workouts.
Despite my inner conviction of the benefits of the product, I remained reluctant to speak publicly about my experience until I could better understand the science behind ASEA. So I reached out to the company’s higher-ups, and recently flew out to their corporate HQ in Salt Lake City to learn more. Despite the gains I knew I had reaped by using the product, I still had many doubts. But I spent several hours meeting with Dr. Gary Samuelson, the scientific mind behind ASEA. A PhD in Atomic/Medical Physics from the University of Utah with a specialization in the emerging field of redox signaling science, Gary patiently walked me through the biochemistry and the research conducted in the field, with respect to ASEA and the field of research in general. I was impressed, leaving my meeting with Dr. Samuelson even more satisfied that my anecdotal findings are indeed on par with the scientific underpinnings of the product. If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Samuelson’s perspective on redox signaling, you can read his book, The Science of Healing Revealed—New Insights into Redox Signaling.
But there was one more thing I needed to address. The fact that ASEA is structured as a multi-level marketing company – a network marketing business model often associated with sham products, shady business practices, disingenuous sales tactics and improbable promises of wealth to naive sales associates. If there was anything I did not want to be involved with, it was a shady business; and MLM’s don’t exactly have the best reputation. My guard was up. However I spent several hours with the management team, including CEO Verdis Norton and left with a few key insights. First, ASEA is essentially a family run business. Verdis’ team includes his two sons Jon and Tyler, as well as his daughter Nancy – all people I have come to respect and hold in high regard, not just for their business acumen, but as human beings. Second, it is an enterprise in which ethics and morals are not just given lip service, but are the very foundation of their corporate culture. I honestly believe their primary goal is to help people by improving health and empowering the individual. To be certain, ASEA is a business for profit. But I know that there is a much higher purpose at play that motivates the Nortons far beyond the promise of a dollar.
Over the last year, I have been approached by many nutrition and supplement companies seeking my endorsement. Each and every time I have said no. Usually because the products just simply don’t live up to their purported benefits. I can’t in good conscience promote a message of optimal wellness and endorse a product that contains chemicals, preservatives, GMOS’s or synthetic sugars, even if it is technically “vegan” or tied to some evidence of short-term performance benefit. And quite frankly, I didn’t want to feel obligated to promote something – I’d rather choose the foods and nutrition that suit me, and freely share my objective perspective with whoever is interested without the tether of obligation. But with ASEA I believe I have found a product I can stand behind 100%. For these reasons, I feel I can wholeheartedly and proudly endorse this product – my first formal endorsement of a nutritional product as an athlete.
Again, I urge all of you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions. I’m not asking anyone to take my word for it. But if you are inclined, here are a few links you might find interesting:
* ASEA Independent Quality Assurance Declaration
* ASEA Endurance Trial
* Reactive Molecule Verification
* ASEA Safety Report
* Bicycle.net — Product Review
* Road Bike Action Magazine — Product Review
And if you are satisfied with your findings and wish to give ASEA a try, here’s how. Just click HERE and follow the easy steps to order.
I look forward to your thoughts. I will continue to share my thoughts and I hope you will too.