Study Finds a Really Good Reason to Eat This Veggie

If you pump gas, are around cigarette smoke or live in a city with air pollution, there are pollutants getting into your body. But scientists recently demonstrated how consuming compounds found in broccoli sprouts can effectively usher such toxins out of your body.

Consuming broccoli sprouts was associated with excreting more harmful toxins that enter the body through air pollution. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)
Consuming broccoli sprouts was associated with excreting more harmful toxins that enter the body through air pollution. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

“Air pollution is a complex and pervasive public health problem,” Dr. John Groopman with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and one of the study’s co-authors said. “To address this problem comprehensively, in addition to the engineering solutions to reduce regional pollution emissions, we need to translate our basic science into strategies to protect individuals from these exposures. This study supports the development of food-based strategies as part of this overall prevention effort.”

The researchers conducted a clinical trial with nearly 300 Chinese participants living in a heavily polluted city that would expose them to harmful compounds such as the carcinogen benzene and the irritant acrolein. The idea is that if more of these compounds were excreted out of the body, rather than stored, that it could lower one’s risk for developing a disease, like cancer.

Some of the participants were given a broccoli sprout drink for three months, while the others drank water with pineapple and lime juice. According to Johns Hopkins’ news release, broccoli sprouts contain glucoraphanin, which when chewed or swallowed in the form of a beverage is turned into sulforaphane, which increases enzymes that allow the body to get rid of these pollutants.

The group who drank broccoli sprouts, which were freeze-dried into a powder and dissolved in liquid, excreted 61 percent more beneze on the first day of starting the regimen and continued to do so throughout the trial. Acrolein was excreted at a 23 percent increase by this group.

“This study points to a frugal, simple and safe means that can be taken by individuals to possibly reduce some of the long-term health risks associated with air pollution,” Dr. Thomas Kensler, one of the study’s co-authors, said. “This while government leaders and policy makers define and implement more effective regulatory policies to improve air quality.”

Kensler told NPR they thought might see an initial spike in these compounds being excreted due to the increased enzyme production, but then it would level off. Instead the “effect was just as vigorous at the beginning as at the end, which suggests that over one’s lifetime, you could enhance this preventative activity in the body [with food],” he said.

While there’s more research to be done in this field, NPR pointed out that for now the scientists think the compounds in broccoli sprouts is only removing toxins that people are recently exposed to; they’re unsure about its effect of removing chemicals already stored in cells.

These findings were published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

Front page image via Shutterstock.