Research shows that broccoli helps our body repair damaged DNA. It also reduces inflammation and helps osteoarthritis sufferers.
Among those who might question the wisdom of nature: Broccoli continues to astound.
Needless to say, nature provides certain foods that supply superior nutrients not found in many other foods. In the case of broccoli, its special nutrients synergize to provide not just nutritional, but medical benefits.
What’s so special about broccoli?
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) is a member of the Cruiferae family. This is often also termed cruciferous and this family includes cabbage and cauliflower.
The cruciferous family contains a number of essential nutrients found in only a few other foods. Besides glucoraphanin, these include indoles, glucosinolates, dithiolthiones, sulfoxides, isothiocyanates, sulforaphane and indole-carbinol.
In a number of laboratory studies, broccoli has been shown to be anti-carcinogenic as well as helpful for heart and cardiovascular disease.
Broccoli is also a significant source of tocopherols, magnesium, selenium, thiamin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid.
Broccoli reduces inflammation
Modern research cuts us to the chase. Researchers from Italy have recently determined that broccoli will cut inflammation within hours. And eating broccoli for just ten days will cut the body’s inflammation in more than half.
Other studies find it prevents and repairs DNA damage and may even curb osteoarthritis. And a more recent study shows that DNA damage is reduced just 24 hours after eating broccoli.
In this 2014 study, researchers from Italy’s University of Milan fed 250 grams (one portion) of steamed broccoli to a group of ten young smokers. Then they tested the subjects three hours after the meal, six hours after the meal and 24 hours after.
They found that the broccoli significantly increased their blood levels of vitamin C, beta-carotene and folate immediately. And within six hours, their glutathione S-transferase levels significantly increased.
Glutathione S-transferase is an enzyme produced in the liver that clears toxins out of the blood and tissues.
Then 24 hours after eating the broccoli, the researchers found that DNA damage due to free radicals was significantly reduced – by some 18% – in many of the subjects.
In a related study, some of the same researchers from the University of Milan gave 250 grams of broccoli to a group of young smokers for ten days.
Before and after the study the researchers collected blood from the subjects and conducted an extensive analysis of the blood. They measured the subjects’ various immune cell status, including C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) levels, interleukin 6 (IL-6) and adiponectin. They also analyzed levels of folate and lutein in the blood.
After the 10-day broccoli-enriched diet the subjects were re-tested and the researchers found that their CRP levels went down by 48%. This is a significant drop in CRP levels, indicating the smokers’ inflammatory levels went down by over a half.
The researchers also found that circulating levels of lutein and folate went up as well. The drop in CRP levels was found independent of lutein and folate levels, and the researchers found that lycopene increases also accompanied a drop in IL6 levels – indicating a relationship between lycopene and inflammation factors – as other studies have confirmed.
Broccoli repairs and prevents DNA damage
This study confirms an earlier study done at the same university in 2010. In this study the researchers tested 27 young smokers who were otherwise healthy, and gave them either 250 grams of steamed broccoli per day or a control diet. In this study the researchers tested mRNA and DNA enzyme levels – which relate directly to the repair of DNA. They also measured DNA strand breaks within the blood.
In this study, the researchers found that those eating the broccoli had 41% drop in strand breaks of DNA, and other changes in enzyme levels associated with DNA protection.
It also helps osteoarthritis patients
Researchers from the UK’s University of East Anglia are conducting a study of 20 patients with osteoarthritis by serving them 100 grams of broccoli for two weeks. The researchers believe, based upon mice studies, that broccoli – and perhaps a super-strain of broccoli being tested with more glucoraphanin levels – will help reduce inflammation associated with osteoarthritis.
Forget the super-strain. Broccoli sprouts have been shown to have significantly more of these anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer nutrients than conventional broccoli.
One way or another, broccoli is still one of the best vegetables to include with dinner.
Riso P, Del Bo’ C, Vendrame S, Brusamolino A, Martini D, Bonacina G, Porrini M. Modulation of plasma antioxidant levels, glutathione S-transferase activity and DNA damage and broccoli in smokers: a pilot study. J Sci Food Agric. 2014 Feb;94(3):522-8. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.6283.
Riso P, Vendrame S, Del Bo’ C, Martini D, Martinetti A, Seregni E, Visioli F, Parolini M, Porrini M. Effect of 10-day broccoli consumption on inflammatory status of young healthy smokers. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Sep 2.
Riso P, Martini D, Møller P, Loft S, Bonacina G, Moro M, Porrini M. DNA damage and repair activity after broccoli intake in young healthy smokers. Mutagenesis. 2010 Nov;25(6):595-602. doi: 10.1093/mutage/geq045.
Roberts M. Broccoli slows arthritis, researchers think. 2013 Aug. 27. BBC News online. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-23847632. Acc. 2013 Sep 4.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.