Many of us hate broccoli along with all vegetables. But, there is something different about this one along with its cruciferous kind, which includes cabbage, bok choy, and brussel sprouts. That is, it has been recently discovered that these vegetables contain a compound, sulforaphane (SFN) that has not one but two mechanisms in preventing cancer.
Historically it was believed that genetic abnormalities and mutations were the primary underlying cause for diseases. Now epigenetics has become a field of study that is recognized as having greater than or equal importance in discovering disease susceptibility. Epigenetics studies how diet, toxins and other forces can change the expression of genes without altering the DNA sequence.
Sulforaphane was found to have the ability to fight cancer despite a person’s DNA sequence. Studies have shown that it involves a mechanism called histone deacetylases or HDAC’s. This is a family of enzymes that interfere with the genes that suppress tumors. There are also HDAC inhibitors, which include the compound SFN, and these can undo this interference by restoring the essential balance in preventing cancer.
New studies by researchers in Linus Pauling institute at Oregon State University have discovered another epigenetic mechanism, DNA methylation (DNMT), which plays a similar role. These two mechanisms work together in maintaining proper cell function. As they are both influenced by sulforaphane, this compound can help to fix disruptions in these mechanisms. SFN is able to adjust the process of HDAC and DNMT so that they are in balance.
The effect of sulforaphane on DNA methylation was explored in a study published in the journal Clinical Epigenetics. It examined the methylation of the gene, cyclinD2, in prostate cancer cells. The results of the study gave insight into how SFN regulates gene expression. It demonstrated that it is an agent in preventing prostate cancer. The positive effect of SFN is not limited to prostate cancer but researchers say that the mechanisms are relevant in other types of cancers such as colon and breast cancer.
“It’s increasingly clear that sulforaphane is a real multi-tasker”, said Emily Ho, an associate professor at OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, “the more we find out about it, the more benefits it appears to have.” She believes that broccoli may be one of the strongest anti-cancer fighters known today.
Another study conducted at John’s Hopkins school of medicine found another health benefit of sulforaphane. It is able to kill helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that causes stomach ulcers and potentially deadly stomach cancers. It was even found to be able to kill types of helicobacter that is resistant to common antibiotics.
It is certainly confirmed that broccoli is a super vegetable in having this cancer-preventing compound!
1. Science Daily 2012, Eat your broccoli: Another mechanism discovered by which sulforaphane prevents cancer, Science Daily: News & Articles in Science, Health, Environment & Technology, viewed 17 March 2012, <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120228140555.htm>.
2. Hsu, A, Wong, C, Yu, Z, Ho, E 2011, ‘Promoter de-methylation of cyclin D2 by sulforaphane in prostate cancer cells’, Clinical Epigenetics, vol. 3, no. 1, viewed 17 March 2012, <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257546/>.
3. Science Daily 2007, Eat your broccoli: Study Finds Anti-Cancer Properties in Cruciferous Veggies, Science Daily: News & Articles in Science, Health, Environment & Technology, viewed 17 March 2012, <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070517100315.htm>.
4. Picklesimer, P 2010, Discovery may help scientists boost broccoli’s cancer-fighting power, EurekAlert!, viewed date 17 March 2012, <http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-10/uoic-dmh102110.php>.