The Food Group That Might Turn Off Cancer Genes

by Michelle Schoffro Cook

A new study in the journal Current Pharmacology Reports found that cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and broccoli sprouts have the ability to regulate the genes that cause cancer cells to proliferate.

The scientists at the University of Alabama Birmingham state that “The mis-regulation and over-expression of (certain) genes are responsible for the uncontrolled cellular proliferation … of various types of cancer cells. Regulating the cells’ ability to proliferate at the genetic level is an important step in preventing the disease. The study notes, “The answer to chemoprevention has perhaps been available to the general public since the dawn of time. The epigenetic diet is of extreme interest, for research suggests that cruciferous vegetables are not only an important source of nutrients, but perhaps a key to eliminating cancer as life threatening disease.”

Cruciferous vegetables contain medicinal plant compounds known as indole-3-carbinols (I3C) and sulforaphane, both of which have been linked to an anti-cancer ability. Broccoli sprouts are a particularly rich source of these compounds, as well as glucosinolate and glucoraphanin, which can increase the amount of sulforaphane in the body. By some estimates, broccoli sprouts contain fifty times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli.

Sulforaphane is well-established as having the ability to fight cancer and estrogen-dependent cancer like breast cancer in particular. It has been shown in multiple studies to have anti-cancer properties against bladder cancer, prostate cancer, and leukemia.

Another study published in the medical journal Cancer Prevention Research explored the ability of a beverage made with broccoli sprouts to assist with the body’s detoxification of airborne pollutants, including the well-established carcinogen benzene. Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, University of Minnesota, and the Qidong Liver Cancer Institute in China assessed the ability of the broccoli sprout beverage to increase excretion of the air pollutants. They found that over the twelve-week study period the broccoli sprouts significantly increased the excretion of some air pollutants, especially benzene.

Benzene has been linked to cancer and leukemia as well as anemia. It is found in many sources including motor vehicle fuels, solvents, and cigarette smoke. The World Health Organization (WHO) declares benzene a major public health concern. WHO suggests that automobile exhaust accounts for the largest amount of benzene in the general environment. Oil, heat and some consumer products are the primary sources of benzene indoors.

Study doses of broccoli sprouts vary; however 1.7 ounces (approximately 100 grams) or more daily is usually recommended for therapeutic purposes. Broccoli sprouts are available in most health food and grocery stores in the refrigerated produce section. You can also grow your own. Here are my directions for growing your own sprouts. Also, check out my article, “10 Reasons to Eat Sprouts.” Broccoli sprouts can be eaten on their own with your favorite salad dressing, or added to a sandwich or wrap.

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  1. I read that water cress had cancer tumour reduction properties in mice. I though the article might mention it , but it didn't.