Broccoli Sprouts May Cut Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

In past studies, compounds in broccoli sprouts have been shown to reduce the risk of getting breast and colon cancer and to act as an anti-bacterial agent against Helicobacter pylori, an organism associated with causing stomach ulcers. As reported in the May 10, 2004 edition of Time, a new study indicates that eating broccoli sprouts may cut the risk of stroke, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

The study, headed by University of Saskatchewan health scientist, Bernhard Juurlink, was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the US. “This study is the first to show that broccoli sprouts rich in these compounds, through raising the antioxidant and thereby the anti-inflammatory capacities of cells, can correct major dysfunctions such as hypertension and stroke,” said Juurlink.*

Free radicals, unstable chemical byproducts of metabolism, damage cell molecules and lead to cardiovascular disease. Tissues have defenses to prevent the damage caused by free radicals. These defenses can be bolstered by eating foods rich in chemicals called phase 2 protein inducers, one of which is glucoraphanin. Broccoli sprouts contain high levels of glucoraphanin.

“Phase 2 inducers promote the production of phase 2 proteins,” says Juurlink. “These proteins either promote scavenging of oxidants or decrease the chance of these oxidants being formed in the first place. The result is a huge multiplier effect. One phase 2 protein inducer likely has the same effect as thousands of typical anti-oxidant molecules.”*

To observe the affects of glucoraphanin, researchers fed broccoli sprouts to two groups of rats which were prone to high blood pressure and stroke. One group received sprouts high in glucoraphanin; the other group received a variety which was poor in glucoraphanin. After 14 weeks the rats who received sprouts rich in glucoraphanin had lower blood pressure and decreased inflammation of the heart and kidneys.

If humans respond the same way as these laboratory animals, inclusion of broccoli sprouts in one’s diet can have a big effect on one’s health. Because broccoli sprouts are so rich in glucoraphanin, just two to four ounces (70 – 140 grams) is all that is needed each day. Juurlink estimates you would have to eat 20 to 50 times as much broccoli to obtain the same benefits.

* Quotes obtained from University of Saskatchewan Web site at www.usask.ca