Broccoli Rewrites Your DNA...In a Good Way
Broccoli, broccoli sprouts, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage—what do these four greens have in common? They’re all reliable sources of a chemical called sulforaphane, which a brand new study has shown to decrease the risk of certain cancers in surprising ways. Here are the study details...
These authors (Tortorella et al., 2015) looked at everything that has ever been written about sulforaphane, and the evidence suggests that this chemical can repair important genes that, if left undamaged, can lead to cancer.
According to the authors, sulforaphane works in part by targeting a specific family of enzymes called HDACs, which play a role in regulating the expression of genes and the replication of DNA.
Sulforaphane was shown to modulate gene expression by nurturing a class of helper proteins called MicroRNAs. MicroRNAs are tiny pieces of genetic information that float around in the cell and interact with larger pieces of genetic information to affect how genes are expressed. When MicroRNAs are damaged, genes run amok, and tumors are likely to form.
(Fun fact: research suggests that MicroRNAs control the expression of about 30% of genes in mammals—they’re really important!)
My Take On This
I had a feeling that something funny was going on in my DNA whenever I ate an extra helping of greens. Just kidding—but I have known for the past 10 years that eating broccoli and other green vegetables can have incredible benefits for your health.
Research continues to show that we need cruciferous vegetables to be healthy. They decrease inflammation (Royston & Tollefsbol, 2015), the risk of cancer, and the risk of dying from cancer. They cut men’s risk of prostate cancer down by 32% (Steinbrecher et al. 2009). Another study showed that eating cruciferous vegetables decreased men’s risk of prostate cancer progression by 59% (Richman et al., 2011). To these impressive facts we can add our new knowledge that one of the key ingredients of these vegetables (sulforaphane) might actually be repairing our damaged DNA as we speak.
But first you actually have to eat the vegetable.
What You Should Do
If you’re a parent, you need to make sure you and your family are getting a healthy dose of green vegetables (iceberg lettuce with ranch dressing doesn’t count). You want a nice heap of broccoli, cabbage, spinach, kale, broccoli sprouts, and — everyone’s favorite— Brussels sprouts, and you want to get a good amount every day.
Almost half the plate should be green. If you really don’t like broccoli, load up on the other vegetables I just listed. But urge you to learn to like broccoli. C’mon, you are a grown-up! If you still can’t find something you like, you can get some of the benefits of these wonderful greens by taking a broccoli-based supplement (or one derived from similar vegetables).
But I am one for natural, whole foods, and so I vote veggies!
Stay tuned and stay well,
Geo Espinosa, N.D., L.Ac, C.N.S., is a renowned naturopathic doctor recognized as an authority in integrative management of male and urological conditions. Dr. Geo is the founder and director of the Integrative Urology Center at New York University Langone Medical Center (NYULMC), a center of excellence in research and integrative treatments for urological conditions.
Richman EL, Carroll PR, Chan JM.Vegetable and fruit intake after diagnosis and risk of prostate cancer progression. Int J Cancer. 2011 Aug 5.
Royston, K. J., & Tollefsbol, T. O. (2015). The Epigenetic Impact of Cruciferous Vegetables on Cancer Prevention. Curr Pharmacol Rep, 1(1), 46-51. doi: 10.1007/s40495-014-0003-9
Steinbrecher A, Nimptsch K, Husing A, Rohrmann S, Linseisen J. Dietary glucosinolate intake and risk of prostate cancer in the EPIC-Heidelberg cohort study. Int J Cancer 2009; 125: 2179–86.
Tortorella, S. M., Royce, S. G., Licciardi, P. V., & Karagiannis, T. C. (2015). Dietary Sulforaphane in Cancer Chemoprevention: The Role of Epigenetic Regulation and HDAC Inhibition. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, 22(16), 1382–1424. doi:10.1089/ars.2014.6097