October 1, 2008

Eat Your Broccoli!

Add protecting blood vessels in diabetes patients to the long list of broccoli’s health benefits. A compound in broccoli ...
A new study has shown that a compound found in broccoli may have the ability to reduce the damage to blood vessels which is common in diabetes patients. The risk for heart attack and stroke is five times higher in diabetes patients, due to the damaging effects of excess glucose circulating in the blood (hyperglycemia). It has long been known that eating brassica vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage) can lower these risks but until now it was unclear exactly why.

...[M]olecules that are typically found in high levels in diabetics and can wreak havoc on heart cells, were reduced by 73%.

In the study, researchers isolated a particular compound found in broccoli called sulforaphane to determine whether it may be the one responsible for these heart healthy effects. They applied the compound to cultured human blood vessel cells that were exposed to high levels of glucose (to reproduce hyperglycemic conditions) and noted the results.

The researchers found that Reactive Oxygen Species, molecules that are typically found in high levels in diabetics and can wreak havoc on heart cells, were reduced by 73%. They also found that sulforaphane increased the activity of another compound, nrf2, which itself is known to activate enzymes that work as antioxidants to reduce the damage to blood vessel cells caused by hyperglycemia. Sulforaphane increased the action of nrf2 by twofold.

The study's results are encouraging for diabetes patients who are at higher risk for heart disease, and may ultimately point to a simple preventative measure — adding broccoli and other brassica vegetables to the diet. Head researcher Paul Thornalley said that, "In future, it will be important to test if eating a diet rich in Brassica vegetables has health benefits for diabetic patients. We expect that it will."

The study was run at the University of Warwick's Medical School and published in the August 4, 2008 issue of Diabetes.
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