#1054 Fight pollution with broccoli sprouts? This just might work

Purple sprouting broccoli at sunset

Purple sprouting broccoli at sunset; photo by poppet with a camera, via Flickr Creative Commons

The world’s big cities are making people sick. Our bodies were not meant to absorb all those pollutants that make the air toxic. A lot of innovators are working on solutions, but this one has to be the lowest cost, most readily available of all.

The magic ingredient? Broccoli sprouts. Granted, a 12-week trial with 291 participants (62 men and 229 women) is a small project. It will have to be confirmed by other studies. Still, the findings of the researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are promising.

Study participants drank a mixture of sterilized water, pineapple and lime juice. Those in the control group drank the same mixture, but theirs was enhanced with a powder made from freeze-dried broccoli sprouts. That gave them a daily dose of glucoraphanin and sulforaphane. When the former is chewed or swallowed, it produces the latter. Animal studies have shown that sulforaphane has cancer-prevention properties.

This time the subjects were humans living in a farming community north of Shanghai. Over the course of the study, participants gave urine and blood samples “to measure the fate of the inhaled air pollutants.” According to the release from the School of Public Health, this is what happened:

The research team found that among participants receiving the broccoli sprout beverage, the rate of excretion of the carcinogen benzene increased 61% beginning the first day and continuing throughout the 12-week period. In addition, the rate of excretion of the irritant acrolein, rapidly and durably increased 23% during the 12-week trial. Secondary analyses by the investigators indicated that the sulforaphane may be exerting its protective actions by activating a signaling molecule, NRF2, that elevates the capacity of cells to adapt to and survive a broad range of environmental toxins. This strategy may also be effective for some contaminants in water and food.

Broccoli is no substitute for clean air, but China’s extreme pollution will not be gone soon. Air quality is a serious health issue in many other parts of the world as well, and toxins are literally everywhere. We need to put pressure on business and government to end the practices that kill people and planet.

In the meantime, eat your broccoli. It just might save your life.

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About the author

Cathryn Wellner

Writer, storyteller, foodie, enviro, animal lover, photo enthusiast, traveler - opinionated but open. I wake up eager to start the day.

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