Broccoli, Nerf, and Activating Antioxidants

The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the US National Toxicology Program have identified more than 100 environmental substances that cause cancer, like cigarette smoke and air pollutants. Avoiding these carcinogens can be difficult so it’s important to take steps to reduce the risks that exposure carries.

A review published in last month’s issue of Topics in Current Chemistry looks at how a phytochemical found in broccoli helps protect us from these environmental carcinogens. The authors of the review are among the world’s leading experts in cancer, phytochemistry, and toxicology.

In a series of clinical trials conducted in China, they found that sulforaphane may protect us from airborne and foodborne toxins by switching on a cellular pathway that regulates cells’ abilities to protect themselves from environmental carcinogens.

Sulforaphane is the end product of a reaction between two chemicals produced in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables that protect the plant from insect attack.  When an insect (or a human) bites into the plant, the two chemicals come together to form sulforaphane.  It is what gives broccoli its somewhat pungent flavor. Continue reading