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Broccoli Could Reverse Diabetes Damage

August 6, 2008

New research suggests that eating broccoli could reverse the damage caused by diabetes to heart blood vessels.

A research team from the University of Warwick believes the key is a compound found in the vegetable, called sulforaphane.

Sulforaphane encourages production of enzymes which protect the blood vessels, and a reduction in high levels of molecules which cause significant cell damage.

Brassica vegetables such as broccoli have previously been linked to a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes are up to five times more likely to develop in people with diabetes; both are linked to damaged blood vessels.

The Warwick team tested the effects of sulforaphane on blood vessel cells damaged by high glucose levels (hyperglycemia), which are associated with diabetes.

They recorded a 73% reduction of molecules in the body called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS).

Hyperglycemia can cause levels of ROS to increase three-fold and such high levels can damage human cells.

Sulforaphane activated a protein in the body called nrf2, which protects cells and tissues from damage by activating protective antioxidant and detoxifying enzymes, researchers found.

“Our study suggests that compounds such as sulforaphane from broccoli may help counter processes linked to the development of vascular disease in diabetes,” said lead researcher Professor Paul Thornalley.

“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.”

Dr. Iain Frame, director of research at the charity Diabetes UK, stressed that research carried out on cells in the lab was a long way from the real life situation.

“It is encouraging to see that Professor Thornalley and his team have identified a potentially important substance that may protect and repair blood vessels from the damaging effects of diabetes,” he said.

He said the research might add some scientific weight to the argument that eating broccoli is good for you.

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