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Originally published October 24 2010

Powerful compound in broccoli, cruciferous vegetables proven to prevent cancer

by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) New research out of the University of Illinois (U of I) has proven that sulforaphane, an organosulfur compound found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, is transferred directly from the digestive system into the body through the "good" bacteria that live in the gut. When operating at optimal capacity, the body is able to absorb the most sulforaphane and gain considerable anti-cancer benefits from it.

Sulforaphane is known to have anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and anti-microbial properties, but researchers have wondered exactly how, and how well, the compound is assimilated into the body. According to their inquiry, intestinal microbiota actually consume and break down glucoraphanin, the parent compound of sulforaphane, and deliver it into the bloodstream where it provides a direct anti-cancer effect.

"The presence of sulforaphane in measurable amounts shows that it's being converted in the lower intestine and is available for absorption in the body," explained Elizabeth Jeffery, a U of I professor of human nutrition. "It's also comforting because many people overcook their broccoli, unwittingly destroying the plant enzyme that gives us sulforaphane. Now we know the microbiota in our digestive tract can salvage some of this important cancer-preventive agent even if that happens."

Since broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are rich in sulforaphane, it does not take very much of them to achieve a substantial anti-cancer benefit. Sulforaphane is so potent that even minimal amounts are capable of staving off the disease.

"The amount that you get in three to five servings a week -- that's less than one daily serving of broccoli -- is enough to have an anti-cancer effect," said Jeffery. "With many of the other bioactive foods you hear about, vast amounts are required for a measurable outcome."

But having a healthy digestive system with well-functioning gut microbiota is vital for obtaining the most benefits, which is why Jeffery stresses the importance of eating plenty of prebiotics and probiotics as part of a healthy diet.

"One way (to boost bacteria in the colon and enhance the anti-cancer effects of sulforaphane) might be to feed the desirable bacteria with prebiotics like fiber to encourage their proliferation," she said. "Another way would be to use a probiotic approach -- combining, say, broccoli with a yogurt sauce that contains the hydrolyzing bacteria, and in that way boosting your cancer protection."

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