Thursday, June 16, 2011

Broccoli and Cancer

broccoli and cancer

Horrors at the thought of eating broccoli every day just because it may help to prevent cancer. With such an abundance of delicious, health-promoting vegetables to choose from, please enjoy a wide variety.

Yes, broccoli does contain a class of potent anti-carcinogens (cancer-combating agents) called isothiocyanates. Of the millions of plant chemicals contained in our common foods, isothiocyanates, the heat-stable sulfur compounds found in mustard oil, are currently among the most studied.

These compounds block many cancer-causing agents in a wide variety of cancers. For example, the SAGA-type contains an extraordinary source of isothiocyanates, while the Winchester variety has only a negligible supply. Odds are slim that the generic broccoli in your neighborhood store is a SAGA-type.

Researchers already knew that a chemical found in broccoli, cauliflower and related vegetables, called isothiocyanate, appeared to stop the growth of cancer by causing apoptosis, or cell death, in cancer cells. 799px-Cauliflower Recent research at Georgetown University found that isothiocyanate sticks to a defective protein found in cancerous cells. The broccoli-born chemical only binds to the protein when it is defective.

It normally helps stop a cell from replicating uncontrollably. But when gene p53 is mutated, the protein comes out defective. Not only that, cells with mutated p53 genes are also more resistant to chemical cancer treatments.

P53 mutations occur in half of all human cancers, including lung, breast and colon.

Eating your broccoli may help reduce cancer risks because the presence of isothiocyanate was observed to increase the death rate of cancer cells with the p53 mutation.

Researchers found that after the cauliflower chemical, isothiocyanate, bound to the defective p53 protein, breast cancer cells died. Fung-Lung Chung and colleagues at Georgetown University published their findings in the American Cancer Society's Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

In addition to nutritional content, consider the quality of the broccoli: ideally it is organic, not overly mature and vibrantly fresh. At home, store broccoli carefully wrapped in plastic to limit exposure to air, and use it soon. There's only one reason that broccoli has superstar status as a cancer-fighter: as the most commonly consumed cabbage family member, it has become the most studied. But all cabbage family members contain isothiocyanates. Members of the dark leafy cabbage family are comparable to broccoli in overall nutritional value.

So don't limit yourself to broccoli—expand your diet to include arugula, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, collards, kale, mizuna, mustard greens, rapini, tatsoi and watercress. From fighting cancer to obesity, this whole vegetable clan is good for just about whatever ails you. So please don't eat broccoli every day, but do enjoy several daily servings of dark leafy greens from the cabbage family.

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