(NaturalNews) Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) are a type of bacteria believed to cause the majority of peptic ulcers. Even more importantly, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there's substantial evidence that strongly links the germs to stomach cancer. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies H. pylori as a carcinogen that afflicts several billion people across the globe.
Around 20 percent of people 40 and younger are infected with H. pylori and about half of those over age 60 have it, NIH statistics reveal -- so the bacteria obviously doesn't cause serious illness in everyone who has it. But what makes the difference? A new study raises the possibility that what you eat could play a protective role by reducing H. pylori colonization in the body.
In a new study just published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, Johns Hopkins researcher Jed W. Fahey, M.S., Sc.D., and an international team of scientists conclude that eating a daily dose of broccoli sprouts reduced the level of HpSA (a highly specific measure of the presence of H. pylori) by 40 percent.
The scientists conducted their study in Japan, where there is high incidence of chronic H. pylori infection. The research team gave 25 H. pylori-infected research subjects two and a half ounces (70 grams) of broccoli sprouts daily for two months. At the start of the study and after four and eight weeks of treatment, the researchers used breath tests to assess colonization by H. pylori bacteria as well as blood tests to check for the severity of inflammation in the stomach lining. They also looked for antigens in stool samples to help measure the extent of the infections.
The scientists say it is natural compound, sulforaphane, found in broccoli that apparently lowers the level of H. pylori. When a control group of 25 infected people were given alfalfa sprouts which, although rich in phytochemicals, don't contain sulforaphane, their H. pylori status didn't change. Dr. Fahey and colleagues at Johns Hopkins first reported in 2002 that sulforaphane compounds are potent weapons against H. pylori.
Sulforaphane appears to fight the infection by triggering cells in the body, including in the gastrointestinal tract, to make enzymes that offer protection against free radicals, DNA-damaging chemicals, and inflammation. "We know that a dose of a couple ounces a day of broccoli sprouts is enough to elevate the body's protective enzymes," Dr. Fahey explained. "That is the mechanism by which we think a lot of the chemoprotective effects are occurring."
Sulforaphane does not eradicate the bacterium because after stopping consumption of broccoli sprouts, H. pylori levels in the research participants were found to rise again after eight weeks. However, the compound clearly had a dramatic impact on H. pylori when broccoli sprouts were consumed daily.
"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," said Dr. Fahey, an author of the paper who is a nutritional biochemist in the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Cancer Chemoprotection Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in the statement to the media.
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.