Broccoli sprouts fight ulcer bacteria

The April issue of the journal Cancer Prevention Research published the results of a trial conducted by scientists at Tokyo University of Science, the University of Tsukuba in Japan, and Johns Hopkins University which determined that the isothiocyanate sulforaphane, a compound that occurs in high amounts in broccoli and its sprouts, helps suppress infection by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), the bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers and many cases of stomach cancer. The trial is the first to demonstrate an effect for broccoli against H. pylori in humans.

Akinori Yanaka and colleagues discovered that H. pylori-infected mice given broccoli sprouts experienced a nearly hundredfold reduction in stomach levels of the bacteria as well as 50 percent less inflammation. The researchers then divided 48 Japanese men and women infected with H. pylori to receive 70 grams of 3 day old broccoli sprouts or an equivalent amount of alfalfa sprouts for 2 months. Helicobacter pylori infection levels were assessed via standard breath, serum and stool tests upon enrollment, at 4 weeks, and at the conclusion of the treatment period. While all measures of infection were the same at 8 weeks among participants who consumed alfalfa sprouts, they were significantly reduced among those who received broccoli sprouts. These levels returned to their original concentrations 2 months after treatment discontinuation.

In earlier research conducted at Johns Hopkins, it was found that sulforaphane triggers the production of enzymes by body’s cells that protect against oxygen radicals and inflammation. “Broccoli sprouts have a much higher concentration of sulforaphane than mature heads,” noted coauthor Jed Fahey, ScD, who is a faculty research associate in the Department of Pharmacology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “We know that a dose of a couple ounces a day of broccoli sprouts is enough to elevate the body’s protective enzymes. That is the mechanism by which we think a lot of the chemoprotective effects are occurring.”

“What we don’t know is whether it’s going to prevent people from getting stomach cancer,” he added. “But the fact that the levels of infection and inflammation were reduced suggests the likelihood of getting gastritis and ulcers and cancer is probably reduced.”

“The highlight of the study is that we identified a food that, if eaten regularly, might potentially have an effect on the cause of a lot of gastric problems and perhaps even ultimately help prevent stomach cancer,” he concluded.

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