Medical Benefits of Broccoli

The medical benefits of broccoli

Medical Uses and/or Benefits of Broccoli


Protection against some cancers. Naturally occurring chemicals (indoles, isothiocyanates. glucosinolates, dithiolethiones, and phenols) in Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables appear to reduce the risk of some forms of cancer, perhaps by preventing the formation of carcinogens in your body or by blocking cancer-causing substances from reaching or reacting with sensitive body tissues or by inhibiting the transformation of healthy cells to malignant ones.


All cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane, a member of a family of chemicals known as isothiocyanates. In experiments with laboratory rats, sulforaphane appears to increase the body's production of phase-2 enzymes, naturally occurring substances that inactivate and help eliminate carcinogens. At the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, 69 percent of the rats injected with a chemical known to cause mammary cancer developed tumors vs. only 26 percent of the rats given the carcinogenic chemical plus sulforaphane.


To get a protective amount of sulforaphane from broccoli you would have to eat about two pounds a week. But in 1997, Johns Hopkins researchers discovered that broccoli seeds and three-day-old broccoli sprouts contain a compound converted to sulforaphane when the seed and sprout cells are crushed. Five grams of three-day-old sprouts contain as much sulphoraphane as 150 grams of mature broccoli.


Lower risk of some birth defects. Up to two or every 1,000 babies born in the United States each year may have cleft palate or a neural tube (spinal cord) defect due to their mothers' not having gotten adequate amounts of folate during pregnancy. The current RDA for folate is 180 mcg for a woman, 200 mcg for a man, but the FDA now recommends 400 mcg for a woman who is or may become pregnant. Taking a folate supplement before becoming pregnant and continuing through the first two months of pregnancy reduces the risk of cleft palate; taking folate through the entire pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects. Broccoli is a good source of folate. One raw broccoli spear has 107 mcg folate, more than 50 percent of the RDA for an adult.


Lower risk of heart attack. In the spring of 1998, an analysis of data from the records for more than 80,000 women enrolled in the long-running Nurses Health Study at Harvard School of Public Health/Brigham and Woman's Hospital in Boston demonstrated that a diet providing more than 400 mcg folate and 3 mg vitamin B6 a day from either food or supplements, more than twice the current RDA for each, may reduce a woman's risk of heart attack by almost 50 percent. Although men were not included in the analysis, the results are assumed to apply to them as well. NOTE: Fruit, green leafy vegetables, beans, whole grains, meat, fish, poultry, and shellfish are good sources of vitamin B6.


Adverse Effects Associated with Broccoli


Enlarged thyroid gland. Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, contain goitrin, thiocyanate, and isothiocyanate, chemical compounds that inhibit the formation of thyroid hormones and cause the thyroid to enlarge in an attempt to produce more. These chemicals, known collectively as goitrogens, are not hazardous for healthy people who eat moderate amounts of cruciferous vegetables, but they may pose problems for people who have thyroid problems or are taking thyroid medication.

False-positive test for occult blood in the stool. The guiac slide test for hidden blood in feces relies on alphaguaiaconic acid, a chemical that turns blue in the presence of blood. Broccoli contains peroxidase, a natural chemical that also turns alphaguaiaconic acid blue and may produce a positive test in people who do not actually have blood in the stool.

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