Compound found in broccoli is a powerful disease fighter

More than 300 scientific studies point to an antioxidant found in broccoli sprouts, sulforaphane glucosinolate (SGS), as a factor in preventing multiple diseases, including several types of cancer, high blood pressure, macular degeneration and stomach ulcers. Now a new study shows the naturally occurring antioxidant SGS may help reduce cholesterol levels in a matter of days.

A pilot study, from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and The Japan Institute for the Control of Aging, revealed that individuals who ate 3 1/2 ounces of broccoli sprouts daily for just one week reduced their overall cholesterol level and increased their levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol. The consumption of broccoli sprouts, containing SGS, also reduced the amount of oxidative stress or cell destruction caused by free radicals .

"This study is significant because it underscores the powerful preventive role that we think sulforaphane plays in assisting the body to help fend off a variety of diseases," said Dr. Jed Fahey, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "There are human studies underway across the globe that are examining the diverse disease fighting potential of this compound."

Dr. Fahey discussed several groundbreaking studies on SGS during his presentation at the Natural Foods Expo in Anaheim, California on March 19th.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, led by Paul Talalay, M.D., were the first to discover in 1992 that broccoli is a rich source of sulforaphane and its precursor glucosinolate (SGS). They soon realized that broccoli sprouts -- 3-day-old broccoli plants -- provide 20 times the concentration of SGS found in adult broccoli. Since then, more than 300 scientific studies have been published in this field.

"The body of knowledge about the protective effects of SGS is growing at a tremendous rate," added Fahey. "Within the past year alone, there have been breakthroughs regarding the impact of SGS on cardiovascular disease, eye health, and the prevention or spread of cancer."

At the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Bernhard Juurlink showed that feeding broccoli sprouts to rats prevented high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, May 4, 2004) . Work published this month in the PNAS by Dr. Talalay and Michael Sporn of Dartmouth, further supports the view that cellular inflammation can be controlled by these types of inducers .

In the March 2005 issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Junji Yodoi of the University of Kyoto showed that sulforaphane was able to boost the level of a key enzyme that protects retinal cells against various types of cellular and tissue damage . This follows work published last year by Drs. Paul Talalay and Xiangqun Gao from Johns Hopkins, showing that pretreatment with sulforaphane was able to protect retinal cells against chemical and photo-oxidative damage .

Also this month, work published in Cancer Research by Shivendra Singh at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Center further supports the view that not only can sulforaphane effectively detoxify carcinogens before they initiate tumor formation, but it can also suppress proliferation of existing cancer cells by causing them to self-destroy .

Abundant and overwhelming epidemiological evidence shows that those who eat large amounts of fruits and vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, have reduced incidences of cancer. Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates that are converted into isothiocyanates, such as sulforaphane, in the body when eaten. Sulforaphane glucosinolate (SGS) is found in high concentrations in broccoli and in very high concentrations in certain selected types of broccoli sprouts.

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