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The Cutting Edge

A Reason to Love Broccoli

WHAT'S THAT YOU SAY? You don’t like broccoli? A new study by researchers at UCLA suggests you might want to rethink your gustatory predilections. According to their findings, published in the journal Clinical Immunology, a naturally occurring compound found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables may help protect against respiratory inflammation that causes conditions like asthma, allergic rhinitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The research shows that sulforaphane, a chemical in broccoli, triggers an increase of antioxidant enzymes in the human airway that offers protection against the onslaught of free radicals that we breathe in every day in polluted air, pollen, diesel exhaust and tobacco smoke. A supercharged form of oxygen, free radicals can cause oxidative tissue damage, which leads to inflammation and respiratory conditions like asthma.

“We found a two- to three-fold increase in antioxidant enzymes in the nasalairway cells of study participants who had eaten a preparation of broccoli sprouts,” says Marc Riedl, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical immunology and allergy at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “This strategy may offer protection against inflammatory processes and could lead to potential treatments for a variety of respiratory conditions.”

In the study, which was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the maximum broccoli-sprout dosage of 200 grams generated a 101- percent increase of an antioxidant enzyme called GSTP1 and a 199-percent increase of another key enzyme called NQO1.

“A major advantage of sulforaphane is that it appears to increase a broad array of antioxidant enzymes, which may help the compound’s effectiveness in blocking the harmful effects of air pollution,” Dr. Riedl says.

According to the authors, no serious side effects occurred in study participants receiving broccoli sprouts, demonstrating that this nutritional intake may be an effective, safe antioxidant strategy to help reduce the inflammatory impact of free radicals.

Dr. Riedl notes that more research needs to be done to examine the benefits of sulforaphane for specific respiratory conditions. It is too early to recommend a particular dosage.

In the meantime, Dr. Riedl recommends including broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables as part of a healthy diet.

Illustration: Courtesy of Scott Menchin
 





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