A New Reason to Love Broccoli
Life + Money

A New Reason to Love Broccoli


You may have hated broccoli your entire life – as President George H.W. Bush famously did when he claimed he never, ever wanted to see another spring of the cruciferous green veggie on his plate while he was chief executive of the United States.

Now it’s time for all of us to finally let the broccoli hate go.

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New research shows that drinking a daily “broccoli sprout cocktail” – appetizing as this sounds – helps people fight off the cancer-causing chemicals found in air pollution. The study was published online in the journal Cancer Prevention Research

“Daily consumption of a half cup of broccoli sprout beverage produced rapid, significant and sustained higher levels of excretion of benzene, a known human carcinogen, and acrolein, a lung irritant,” writes Barbara Benham of Johns Hopkins University. Professors from Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health authored the study.

The research indicates “a frugal, simple, and safe means” for individuals to cut risks “associated with air pollution,” says co-author Thomas Kensler, professor of toxicological science at the Bloomberg School.  

Air pollution is a growing problem globally and responsible for as many as 7 million deaths a year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. In China, the problem is widespread.    

Here are more (juicy) details from the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, from Johns Hopkins:  

Diets rich in cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, have been found to reduce risk of chronic degenerative diseases, including cancer. Broccoli sprouts are a source of glucoraphanin, a compound that generates sulforaphane when someone chews the plant or swallows the beverage. Sulforaphane acts to increase enzymes that enhance the body’s capacity to expel these types of the pollutants.

The trial included 291 residents of a rural farming community in Jiangsu Province, about 50 miles north of Shanghai, one of China’s more heavily industrialized regions. Controls drank sterilized water, pineapple, and lime juice while the half-cup daily drink for the treatment group also contained dissolved freeze-dried powder made from broccoli sprouts... 

Among participants receiving the broccoli sprout beverage, excretion of benzene increased 61 percent beginning the first day and continuing throughout the 12-week trial. Acrolein excretion rapidly and durably increased 23 percent.

Researchers say more trials are needed – those are being planned now. In the meantime, let’s fire up that juicer and start looking at broccoli with new appreciation, as much as it might kill us to do it.

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