By: Austin Perlmutter, MD, Medical Student, Miller School of Medicine
Since childhood we’ve been told to eat our broccoli, a request usually based on the claim that “it’s good for you.” Though we now have substantial research to back up this statement, new data from Johns Hopkins scientists may be one of the best reasons to keep this vegetable on the top of our shopping lists.
Recently, broccoli has been the subject of many papers on cancer prevention. Containing a unique chemical called sulforaphane, broccoli helps fight off malignant cells in the body. But now, researchers have taken this property one step further. This fascinating data measures the ability of broccoli to detoxify the body of cancer-inducing chemicals before they get a chance to cause problems.
In this new study, published in the journal Cancer Prevention, scientists selected participants living in an area of China with substantial air pollution. They first assessed the amount of pollutant found in the participant’s urine, and then assigned some participants to consume a beverage made of broccoli sprouts. Afterward, the scientists found that people who drank the broccoli beverage were able to get rid of substantially higher levels of the environmental pollutants than those who did not.
Outdoor air pollution is thought to cause almost 4 million early deaths a year, and virtually everyone has been exposed to some degree of this contamination. With this in mind, the ability to rid our bodies of these chemicals is very significant. Beyond the fact that these toxins can induce lung cancer, they may also lead to heart disease, stroke, and chronic lung disease, all of which may cause an untimely demise.
Of course, limiting our outdoor breathing exposure in areas with high concentrations of air pollutants decreases our body’s total chemical load. However, this isn’t always a feasible option, and many of us face unavoidable exposure each day. For this reason, a practical and healthful way to detox becomes all the more important.
For anyone still unconvinced, remember that broccoli has a number of other outstanding health properties, including high concentrations of essential vitamins, fiber, as well as possible positive effects on everything from cardiovascular risk to arthritis. With all this powerful goodness inside, it’s one vegetable not to miss.