Broccoli and Genes:

Sulfur in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables may hold the key to healing genetic diseases(NaturalNews) Our mothers were right. Broccoli is good for us, but possibly in ways our mothers never knew. Health practitioners and fitness experts around the world have heralded the benefits of broccoli for decades. Scientists have long demonstrated the antioxidant properties of broccoli.

Embedly Powered

Research demonstrates new breeds of broccoli remain packed with health benefits

Research performed by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and published recently in the journal Crop Science has demonstrated that mineral levels in new varieties of broccoli have not declined since 1975, and that the broccoli contains the same levels of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium and other minerals that have made the vegetable a healthy staple of American diets for decades.

 

“This research provides data on the nutritional content of broccoli for breeders to consider as they further improve this important vegetable,” said Edward B. Knipling, administrator of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency. “The research demonstrates how ARS is helping to find answers to agricultural problems that impact Americans every day, from field to table.”

A team of three scientists evaluated the mineral content of 14 broccoli cultivars released over a span of more than 50 years: ARS geneticist and research leader Mark Farnham at the agency’s U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, S.C.; plant physiologist Michael Grusak at the USDA-ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center (CNRC) in Houston, Texas; and Clemson University scientist Anthony Keinath.

The researchers grew the 14 cultivars in two field trials in 2008 and 2009, and harvested florets for testing.

“Our studies show that not much has changed in terms of mineral content in the last 35 years in a crop that has undergone significant improvement from a quality standpoint and that was not widely consumed in the United States before the 1960s,” said Farnham.

Broccoli florets in the study were tested for levels of calcium, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, sodium, phosphorous, sulfur and zinc. Results indicated significant cultivar differences in floret concentrations of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, sodium, phosphorous and zinc, but not of potassium, manganese, molybdenum or sulfur. There was no clear relationship between mineral concentration and release year.

“For broccoli cultivars grown during the past 35 years, when hybrids became the standard cultivar, evidence indicates that mineral concentrations remain unchanged,” said Farnham. “As broccoli breeders continue to improve this crop in the future, data from this study can serve as a very useful guide in helping breeders understand the variation in mineral concentrations they should expect among their breeding stocks and also provide a realistic baseline that should be maintained as other characteristics are manipulated in the future.”

 

Reference

Farnham MW, Keinathb AP, Grusakc MA. Mineral Concentration of Broccoli Florets in Relation to Year of Cultivar Release. Crop Science 2011; 51: 2716-2720.

 

Eating green veggies improves immune defenses

Researchers reporting online in the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, on October 13th have found another good reason to eat your green vegetables, although it may or may not win any arguments with kids at the dinner table.

It turns out that green vegetables — from bok choy to broccoli — are the source of a chemical signal that is important to a fully functioning immune system. They do this by ensuring that immune cells in the gut and the skin known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs) function properly.

“It is still surprising to me,” said Marc Veldhoen of The Babraham Institute in Cambridge. “I would have expected cells at the surface would play some role in the interaction with the outside world, but such a clear cut interaction with the diet was unexpected. After feeding otherwise healthy mice a vegetable-poor diet for two to three weeks, I was amazed to see 70 to 80 percent of these protective cells disappeared.”

Those protective IELs exist as a network beneath the barrier of epithelial cells covering inner and outer body surfaces, where they are important as a first line of defense and in wound repair. Veldhoen’s team now finds that the numbers of IELs depend on levels of a cell-surface protein called the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), which can be regulated by dietary ingredients found primarily in cruciferous vegetables. Mice lacking this receptor lose control over the microbes living on the intestinal surface, both in terms of their numbers and composition.

Earlier studies suggested that breakdown of cruciferous vegetables can yield a compound that can be converted into a molecule that triggers AhRs. The new work finds that mice fed a synthetic diet lacking this key compound experience a significant reduction in AhR activity and lose IELs. With reduced numbers of these key immune cells, animals showed lower levels of antimicrobial proteins, heightened immune activation and greater susceptibility to injury. When the researchers intentionally damaged the intestinal surface in animals that didn’t have normal AhR activity, the mice were not as “quick to repair” that damage.

As an immunologist, Veldhoen says he hopes the findings will generate interest in the medical community, noting that some of the characteristics observed in the mice are consistent with those seen in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

“It’s tempting to extrapolate to humans,” he said. “But there are many other factors that might play a role.”

For the rest of us, he says, “it’s already a good idea to eat your greens.” Still, the results offer a molecular basis for the importance of cruciferous vegetable-derived phyto-nutrients as part of a healthy diet.

 

Reference

Li Y, Innocentin S, Withers DR, Roberts NA, Gallagher AR, Grigorieva EF, Wilhelm C, Veldhoe M. Exogenous Stimuli Maintain Intraepithelial Lymphocytes via Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Activation. Cell 2011 Oct 13. [Epub ahead of print]

 

More Evidence That Spicing Up Broccoli Boosts Its Cancer-Fighting Power

Teaming fresh broccoli with a spicy food that contains the enzyme myrosinase significantly enhances each food’s individual cancer-fighting power and ensures that absorption takes place in the upper part of the digestive system where you’ll get the maximum health benefit, suggests a new University of Illinois study.

“To get this effect, spice up your broccoli with broccoli sprouts, mustard, horseradish, or wasabi. The spicier, the better; that means it’s being effective,” said Elizabeth Jeffery, a U of I professor of nutrition.

In the study, when fresh broccoli sprouts were eaten with broccoli powder, the scientists were able to measure bioactive compounds in the blood 30 minutes later. When these peaked at three hours, they were much higher when the foods were eaten together than when either was eaten alone. Urine samples corroborated the blood results, said Jenna Cramer, lead author of the study.

It’s no secret that many people cook the benefits right out of broccoli instead of steaming it lightly for two to four minutes to protect its healthful properties, she said.

“However, this study shows that even if broccoli is overcooked, you can still boost its benefits by pairing it with another food that contains myrosinase,” she said.

Myrosinase is the enzyme necessary to form sulforaphane, the vegetable’s cancer-preventive component, co-author Margarita Teran-Garcia explained.

Note what happened with the fresh broccoli sprouts and broccoli powder eaten in this experiment. The powder doesn’t contain myrosinase, but it does contain the precursor to the anti-cancer agent sulforaphane. Eaten together, the sprouts were able to lend their myrosinase to the powder. As predicted, both foods produced sulforaphane and provided greater anti-cancer benefit, Jeffery said.

Other foods that will boost broccoli’s benefits if they are paired together include radishes, cabbage, arugula, watercress, and Brussels sprouts.

“Here’s another benefit of protecting and enhancing the myrosinase in your foods,” Jeffery said. “If myrosinase is present, sulforaphane is released in the ilium, the first part of your digestive system. Absorption happens well and quickly there, which is why we saw bioactivity in 30 minutes.”

An earlier Jeffery study showed that microbiota are capable of releasing sulforaphane in the lower gut, but absorption happens more slowly in the colon than in the upper intestine, she said.

Scientists say that as little as three to five servings of broccoli a week provide a cancer-protective benefit.

“But it pays to spice it up for added benefits and find ways to make it appealing so you don’t mind eating it if you’re not a broccoli fan. I add fresh broccoli sprouts to sandwiches and add them as one of my pizza toppings after the pie is out of the oven,” Cramer said.

 

Reference

Cramer JM, Teran-Garcia M, Jeffery EH. Enhancing sulforaphane absorption and excretion in healthy men through the combined consumption of fresh broccoli sprouts and a glucoraphanin-rich powder.  Br J Nutr. 2011 Sep 13:1-6. [Epub ahead of print].