Friday, 4 April 2014

Broccoli and its goodness

Broccoli is so good for you for a number of different reasons; firstly, it contains a number of different essential vitamins and minerals, with it containing about twice the recommended daily intake of vitamin C per cup. Other minerals and vitamins found in it are found at decent, but not spectacular levels. Secondly, it contains a number of indoles and isothiocyanates which are substances that have demonstrated some most remarkable properties in the lab and is perhaps why studies in humans have found that people that consume broccoli regularly live longer than those that don’t. Part of this is the fact they’re less likely to develop certain cancers, diabetes, dementia and heart disease. (Tarozzi, 2013; Bahadoran, 2013; Rogan, 2006; Bahadoran, 2013)

Of these active constituents in broccoli and related vegetables sulforaphaneindole-3-carbinol and diindolylmethane seem most important for the beneficial effects of broccoli on these different disease states. 

Sulforaphane works by increasing the body’s ability to eliminate carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) that we come into contact every day (examples of such carcinogens are benzene from fuel stations and tobacco smoke if you either smoke or hang around smokers). It also has antioxidant (which prevents damage to DNA mediated by these chemical species called, "free radicals" which occur spontaneously in the body; DNA damage in turn leads to mutations that lead to cancer) and anti-inflammatory effects. Sulforaphane also has the ability to inhibit the division of cancerous cells by activating the pathways that are inherently under-active in most cancer cells as these are the pathways that basically perform regular, "checks" on the cell to make sure that nothing has gone wrong in the cell that could lead to cancer if not taken care of, early on. Sulforaphane also has the ability to induce the death of cancer cells and prevent them from forming new blood vessels to feed the growth of the cancer. (Lenzi, 2014). 

On the dementia front sulforaphane's been found to protect brain cells from further damage and hence may slow down the progression of dementia. (Tarozzi, 2013). It has also been found to have positive effects on type II diabetes mellitus. (Bahadoran, 2013).
Figure 1: Sulforaphane's 2D structure. 

Indole-3-carbinol (ICN) and diindolylmethane (IDM) have been found to produce powerful preventative effects on cancer too and may also kill off cancer cells and prevent their dissemination (spread) through the body. (Banerjee, 2011). IDM is extensively converted, in the stomach, into ICN and hence very little actually reaches the bloodstream as unchanged IDM. (Banerjee, 2011; Weng, 2008).

Figure 2: Diindolylmethane

Figure 3: Indole-3-carbinol

Reference list:

  • Bahadoran, Z., Mirmiran, P., & Azizi, F. (2013). Potential efficacy of broccoli sprouts as a unique supplement for management of type 2 diabetes and its complications. Journal of Medicinal Food, 16(5), 375–382. doi:10.1089/jmf.2012.2559. PMID: 23631497.
  • Banerjee, S., Kong, D., Wang, Z., Bao, B., Hillman, G. G., & Sarkar, F. H. (2011). Attenuation of multi-targeted proliferation-linked signaling by 3,3’-diindolylmethane (DIM): from bench to clinic. Mutation Research, 728(1-2), 47–66. doi:10.1016/j.mrrev.2011.06.001. PMID: 21703360.
  • Clarke, J. D., Dashwood, R. H., & Ho, E. (2008). Multi-targeted prevention of cancer by sulforaphane. Cancer Letters, 269(2), 291–304. doi:10.1016/j.canlet.2008.04.018. PMID: 18504070. PMC: 2579766.
  • Lenzi, M., Fimognari, C., & Hrelia, P. (2014). Sulforaphane as a promising molecule for fighting cancer. Cancer Treatment and Research, 159, 207–223. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-38007-5_12. PMID: 24114482.
  • Rogan, E. G. (2006). The natural chemopreventive compound indole-3-carbinol: state of the science. In Vivo (Athens, Greece), 20(2), 221–228. Retrieved from
  • Tarozzi, A., Angeloni, C., Malaguti, M., Morroni, F., Hrelia, S., & Hrelia, P. (2013). Sulforaphane as a potential protective phytochemical against neurodegenerative diseases. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2013, 415078. doi:10.1155/2013/415078. PMID: 23983898. PMC: 3745957.
  • Weng, J. R., Tsai, C. H., Kulp, S. K., & Chen, C. S. (2008). Indole-3-carbinol as a chemopreventive and anti-cancer agent. Cancer Letters, 262(2), 153–163. doi:10.1016/j.canlet.2008.01.033. PMID: 18314259. PMC: 2814317.

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