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Originally published April 25 2008

Broccoli: A Natural Way to Build Immunity

by Joanne Waldron

(NaturalNews) Broccoli is already known for its health benefits in the nutrition world, particularly for its cancer-fighting abilities. It regularly finds its way to the "top ten" lists of healthy foods compiled by many nutritionists and health experts according to Dr. Jonny Bowden in his must-read book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. This is not surprising, as it boasts a very powerful nutritional profile, containing loads of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, vitamin K, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and more. Now, another study by UCLA researchers finds that broccoli may play a role in rejuvenating the body's immune system which weakens as people age.

The results of the study indicate that a chemical in broccoli known as sulforaphane activates certain antioxidant genes and enzymes in specific immune cells that can battle the damage from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecular fragments that can injure cells and which are associated with the aging process and the development of chronic diseases (i.e. cancer, heart disease). The principal researcher for this study, Dr. Andre Nel (also Chief of Nanomedicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA), said, "Our defense against oxidative stress damage may determine at what rate we age, how it will manifest and how to interfere in those processes. In particular, our study shows that a chemical present in broccoli is capable of stimulating a wide range of antioxidant defense pathways and may be able to interfere with the age-related decline in immune function."

The study conducted by the UCLA researchers involved the direct administration of sulforaphane in broccoli to old mice, and this appeared to actually reverse their diminishing cellular immune function. The researchers obtained similar results when they removed individual immune cells from the old mice, treated them with sulforaphane, and then put the cells back into the animals. Research scientist and first author of the study, Hyon-Jeen Kim, stated, "We found that treating older mice with sulforaphane increased the immune response to the level of younger mice." Dr. Andre Nel said that the next step is to see how the results of this study would translate to humans. He did recommend adding broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables as part of a healthy diet.

Parents looking to build the immune systems of their children naturally, after being barraged with reports of reactions to vaccines which include death, paralysis and autism, are probably already feeding their kids broccoli on a regular basis, but this study is good news. After all, you don't have to worry about your child dropping dead from eating a plate full of broccoli. As an added benefit, broccoli also appeared on a list of foods least contaminated by pesticides in 2003 by The Environmental Working Group. For people in a hurry, it's easy to add broccoli sprouts to salads and sandwiches. BroccoSprouts®, a brand developed by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is known to be very high in the antioxidant sulforaphane. No matter how you prefer to enjoy it, broccoli seems to be a prudent addition to any healthy diet.

About the author

Joanne Waldron is a computer scientist with a passion for writing and sharing health-related news and information with others. She hosts the Naked Wellness: The Gentle Health Revolution forum, which is devoted to achieving radiant health, well-being, and longevity.

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