April 6, 2009

Broccoli Sprouts Suppress Cancer-Causing Stomach Bug

Broccoli sprouts effectively control Helicobacter pylori bacteria, known to be a leading cause of stomach ulcers and stomach cancer, researchers found.

Researchers studied 50 people in Japan and found that eating 2.5 ounces of broccoli sprouts each day for two months could suppress the bacteria.

Broccoli contains a phytochemical called sulforaphane, which has an antibiotic affect that has been known for almost two decades, researchers said in the report in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

"Broccoli has recently entered the public awareness as a preventive dietary agent. This study supports the emerging evidence that broccoli sprouts may be able to prevent cancer in humans, not just in lab animals," said Jed Fahey, Sc.D., a faculty research associate in the Department of Pharmacology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Half of participants were given a daily portion of broccoli sprouts, while the other half received alfalfa sprouts, which do not contain sulforaphane.

In those who ate broccoli sprouts, levels of a marker of H. pylori in human stools called HpSA was cut by over 40 percent, according to BBC Health.

There was no HpSA level change in those who ate alfalfa sprouts.

Eight weeks after participants stopped eating the sprouts, researchers noted that HpSA had returned to levels prior to treatment. This implies that broccoli sprouts may be able to suppress the bug, but is not able to eliminate it.

"The fact that the levels of infection and inflammation were reduced suggests the likelihood of getting gastritis and ulcers and cancer is probably reduced," Fahey told the BBC.

Fahey and colleagues also conducted tests on mice infected with H. pylori, giving them broccoli-sprout smoothies for eight weeks. Other mice received plain drinking water.

Researchers noted a reduced amount of H. pylori bacteria in the mice that received the smoothies, while they saw no change in those who drank water.

"This small study shows that eating broccoli sprouts might reduce levels of H. pylori infection," Nell Barrie of Cancer Research UK told BBC Health.

"We know that H. pylori is a major risk factor for stomach cancer but only three in a 100 people with the infection will develop the disease, so there are clearly other factors at work. This means we can't conclude that eating broccoli sprouts makes any real difference to the chance of getting stomach cancer. "


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