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Broccoli juice a day keep the heart attack away

Guest post by Alex Lloyd a PhD researcher in DIT

Macro shot of broccoli sprouts growing from seeds

Macro shot of broccoli sprouts growing from seeds

 

Did you know that roughly 17.5 million people worldwide die annually from cardiovascular diseases (CVD)? These are a class of diseases that affect either the heart or may affect the blood vessels such as coronary artery disease. CVD ranks the number one killer worldwide. However what if there was a cheap available food-based preparation that could decrease the disease progress, improve quality of life and reduce healthcare costs. Currently treatment costs for CVD represent approximately 15% of the annual spend in Ireland.

There are a combination of factors which increase the likelihood of CVD such as having a family history, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and excessive alcohol consumption. Typically men are more at risk than women and generally later in life you would be more prone. However, the good news is that 90% of CVD are preventable by modification of lifestyle factors such as increasing exercise, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake and most importantly healthy eating.

So focusing on diet I would to talk to you about a component in broccoli. As I’m sure you are aware broccoli is associated with a number of health benefits. To mention a few, it is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium and dietary fibre. Broccoli is also a good source of glucoraphanin, which is the precursor of the phytochemical sulforaphane (SFN). SFN reduces oxidative stress which is one of the main causes of CVD. The mechanism by which it reduces oxidative stress is through the induction of phase II detoxification enzymes in the liver. It also produces antioxidant proteins which protects against CVD and diabetes. If that wasn’t enough SFN is also a histone deacetylase inhibitor which essentially means it promotes gene expression. While SFN is associated with all these great attributes, like many other bioactive phytochemicals it is a relatively minor component in broccoli. This means that is infeasible to consume the amount required to generate any sort of physiological effect in the body. One solution to overcome this problem would be to prepare fortified foods which contain a high level of the active ingredient. This has been used very successfully in the case of flora pro-active and benecol. Alternatively, broccoli shoots are known to contain up to 100 times more glucoraphanin, the SFN precursor. However, they must be eaten at 4-5 days of maturity.

An Irish company which are involved in this project produce a broccoli sprout juice rich in SFN using pharmaceutical grade packaging. I am going to carry out a first of its kind dietary intervention study and an estimated 24 participants. I will define the in vivo efficiency of the broccoli sprout juice to modify clinical biomarkers of CVD and diabetes (lipoproteins, cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose). All previous research in this area has been based on in vitro and animal studies. Thus, there has been no clinical studies indicating the optimal consumption level of SFN in humans, which I hope to achieve. Watch this space!

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