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Broccoli Sprouts, Cabbage, Ginkgo Biloba and Garlic: A Grocery List for Cancer Prevention

American Association For Cancer Research (AACR) : 05 July, 2006  (Technical Article)
In the high-tech 21st century, the most rudimentary natural products continue to reveal exciting anti-cancer properties to scientists, offering people relatively simple ways to help protect themselves from the disease.
In the high-tech 21st century, the most rudimentary natural products continue to reveal exciting anti-cancer properties to scientists, offering people relatively simple ways to help protect themselves from the disease.

Five studies presented today during the American Association for Cancer Research's 4th annual Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting in Baltimore, Md., add to the arsenal of research that shows adding certain vegetables and herbs to the diet can prevent or, in some cases, halt the growth of cancer.

Moreover, it is not just a matter of mechanical prevention, such as adding fiber to the diet to maintain digestive health. This research deals with the chemical interactions between compounds found in foods and the body's cells and DNA, and it shows that the addition of these foods to the diet can reap benefits at any stage of life.

Broccoli Sprouts Relieve Gastritis in H. pylori Patients; May Help Prevent Gastric Cancer (Abstract #3442)

Broccoli sprouts may not be a culinary favorite for some, but their chemical properties are becoming increasingly popular among those interested in preventing cancer.

In the latest series of studies, a team from Japan has found that a diet rich in broccoli sprouts significantly reduced Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection among a group of 20 individuals. H. pylori is known to cause gastritis and is believed to be a major factor in peptic ulcer and stomach cancer.

'Even though we were unable to eradicate H. pylori, to be able to suppress it and relieve the accompanying gastritis by means as simple as eating more broccoli sprouts is good news for the many people who are infected,' said Akinori Yanaka from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, lead investigator of the study.

Scientists are focusing on the anti-cancer properties of a chemical derived from broccoli sprouts called sulforaphane. Among other things, this chemical has the ability to help cells defend against oxidants, the highly reactive and toxic molecules that damage DNA and kill cells, leading potentially to cancer.

Previously, researchers working with H. pylori discovered that sulforaphane acts against the bacterium in vitro, alleviating gastritis in H. pylori-infected mice through its antioxidant activity.

None of these findings had been tested in people, however, until the Yanaka-led team added broccoli sprouts (the plant at its youngest and most sulforaphane-rich, just two or three days old) to the diet of 20 individuals infected with H. pylori. Another group of 20 infected with the bacterium received alfalfa spouts instead of broccoli sprouts. Each received 100 grams of fresh sprouts daily for two months.

'We wanted to test alfalfa spouts together with broccoli sprouts,' Yanaka explained, 'because the chemical constituents of the two plants are almost identical.'

However, the way in which they differ is significant. Broccoli sprouts contain 250 milligrams of sulforaphane glucosinolate per 100 grams per serving, whereas alfalfa sprouts contain neither sulforaphane nor sulforaphane glucosinolate.

Glucosinolates occur in cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cabbage, and are broken down enzymatically into sulforaphane and a variety of other, biologically active compounds when damage occurs to the plant, that is, by cutting or chewing it.

The presence of H. pylori was assessed by performing urea breath tests and evaluating H. pylori-specific stool antigen. The degree of gastritis was evaluated by measuring the level of pepsinogen in the blood. Pepsinogen is also an indicator of gastric atrophy. These tests were performed just before adding broccoli and alfalfa sprouts to the diet, and at one and two months after starting the dietary regimen. Following two months' consumption of 100 grams of broccoli sprouts per day, patients showed significantly less H. pylori and markedly decreased pepsinogen. Alfalfa sprouts had no effect, and the broccoli failed to eliminate H. pylori completely. Two months after eliminating broccoli sprouts from the diet, H. pylori and pepsinogen returned to pre-test levels in the subjects.

'The data suggest strongly that a diet rich in sulforaphane glucosinolate may help protect against gastric cancer, presumably by activating gastric mucosal anti-oxidant enzymes that can protect the cells from H. pylori-induced DNA damage,' Yanaka concluded.
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