Of these active constituents in broccoli and related vegetables sulforaphane, indole-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|
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- 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.
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