In my post The Best Detox last week, I detailed how a phytonutrient in broccoli boosts the detoxifying enzymes in the liver, but helping to clear carcinogens isn't the only way greens protect our DNA. A study of the DNA of broccoli-eaters found that eating broccoli appears to make DNA more resistant to damage, as I explore in my 1-minute video DNA Protection from Broccoli.
That was just one of several extraordinary studies published lately on cruciferous vegetables. Kale and the Immune System compares the immune system-boosting effect of cooked versus raw kale, a follow-up on my Best Cooking Methodvideo. Smoking Versus Kale Juice looks at the Japanese health fad of doing shots of kale juice. Seems kale can boost our good cholesterol, like amla and cocoa. Is there anything kale can't do?
Broccoli Versus Breast Cancer Stem Cells documents the most important study of the lot, though, exploring the role phytonutrients in certain greens play in a new theory of cancer biology, cancer stem cells, which explains why breast cancer can relapse 25 years after you thought it went away.
Sure, cruciferous vegetables produce a compound that appears to target breast cancer cells, but that's in a test tube. How do we even know we absorb broccoli phytonutrients into our bloodstream? And even if we do, how much do we have to eat to arrive at the test tube concentrations featured in the studies where it counts—in breast tissue itself? An innovative group at Johns Hopkins figured it out. They found women scheduled for breast reduction surgery, and an hour before they went into the operating room, had them drink some broccoli sprout juice. Check out my 2-minute video Sulforaphane: From Broccoli to Breast to see what they found.
Breast cancer is the leading cancer killer of young women, but lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of women overall. In my 3-minute Lung Cancer Metastases and Broccoli I talk about some fascinating new research on the effects of broccoli on cancer cell migration, suggesting that broccoli and broccoli sprouts may decrease the metastatic potential of lung cancer.
Worried about the safety of raw sprouts? You’re probably thinking about alfalfa (Don’t Eat Raw Alfalfa Sprouts and Update on Alfalfa Sprouts). Broccoli sprouts appear much safer in terms of the risk of food poisoning (as noted in Broccoli Sprouts).
We know this family of vegetables helps prevent cancer, but once you already have cancer, what dietary changes can one make to improve survival? Raw Broccoli and Bladder Cancer Survival completed my 13-video series on the latest research on cruciferous vegetables.
I previously covered a bit of the prevention side of the story in The Healthiest Vegetables. Wasn’t there some report downplaying the role of fruits and vegetables in cancer prevention, though? Watch my 2-minute take on it in EPIC Study.
Oh, and eat your greens!
-Michael Greger, M.D.
Image credit: Annie Cavanagh. Wellcome Images