I eat a lot of broccoli–an average of two or more servings a day–so this article was of great interest to me when I ran it over one year ago. It’s so important, I thought it was worth repeating…
Broccoli every day may keep cancer away, study says…Andrea Janus, CTV.ca News
Published Sunday, Mar. 20, 2011 1:21PM EDT
Your mother may have been on to something all those years she forced you to eat Brussels sprouts. The much-maligned vegetable, as well as broccoli, cabbage and soy beans, forms the basis for a new kind of diet that may actually prevent cancer and other age-related diseases by impacting how your genes behave.
Research out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham serves as the foundation for the “epigenetic diet.” Experts believe the diet can ward off illness by suppressing changes in how genes express themselves that, over time, can cause disease.
Environmental factors, such as what food we eat, are known to affect the epigenome, the cellular material outside the genome that dictates how genes express themselves. While it cannot change a person’s DNA, the epigenome can cause genes to express themselves wholly, or only in part, or not at all.
Now, researchers at the UAB have discovered that compounds in certain foods can prevent cancer and other diseases by suppressing those changes in gene expression that lead to illness.
“Your mother always told you to eat your vegetables, and she was right,” said study co-author Trygve Tollefsbol, a biology professor at the UAB. “But now we better understand why she was right — compounds in many of these foods suppress gene aberrations that over time cause fatal diseases.”
For their study, researchers first identified disease-fighting compounds in vegetables in their lab at the UAB’s biology department.
They then compiled international studies on dietary compounds that fight disease and compared them with their own research. The results overwhelmingly showed “that many of the dietary compounds that we consume have epigenetic effects that can prevent cancer,” Tollefsbol said.
The findings were published in the journal Clinical Epigenetics.
The research led the UAB team to coin the term “epigenetic diet,” which includes foods known to inhibit those pesky gene aberrations. In addition to broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and soy beans, the diet includes:
- fava beans
- green tea
Researchers say the diet can be easily adopted because the foods don’t have to be consumed in unreasonable quantities for their compounds to be effective. For example, three cups of green tea per day provides enough polyphenols, which research in mice has shown suppresses the gene that triggers breast cancer. One cup of broccoli per day also provides enough sulforaphane, which studies show reduces the risk of many types of cancer.
It’s no secret that a diet high in vegetables, fruit and legumes has a plethora of health benefits, from lower blood pressure and cholesterol to a reduced risk of infections. The epigenetics diet shows that, just as environmental factors such as pollution, smoking, or a poor diet can have a negative impact on how genes express themselves, eating certain healthy foods can have the opposite effect.
“Our review article has drawn everything together from global studies,” Tollefsbol said. “And the common theme is that compounds in the epigenetics diet foods can, at the very least, help us lead healthier lives and help our bodies prevent potentially debilitating diseases like breast cancer and Alzheimer’s.”