Super food: Broccoli good for blood, heart, and now lungs
September 17, 2008
A substance found in broccoli may limit the damage which leads to serious lung disease, research suggests.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. It includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and in some cases asthma. In the United States, an estimated 10 million adults had a diagnosis of COPD in 2000, but data from a national health survey suggest that as many as 24 million Americans are affected.
Dr. Shyam Biswal from The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore and colleagues have found a correlation between more severe COPD and a decrease in lung concentrations of a specific protein called NRF2, which defends the lung against inflammation-related injury. Broccoli contains a compound that helps stabilize NRF2 levels in the lung.
The same broccoli compound was recently found to be protective against damage to blood vessels caused by diabetes.
Brassica vegetables such as broccoli have also been linked to a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes.
In the latest study, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine team found significantly lower activity of the NRF2 gene in smokers with advanced COPD.
Writing in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, they said the gene is responsible for turning on several mechanisms for removing toxins and pollutants which can damage cells. We know broccoli naturally contains important compounds but studies so far have taken place in the test tube and further research is needed to find if you can produce the same effect in humans.
Previous studies in mice had shown that disrupting the NRF2 gene caused early onset severe emphysema – one of the conditions suffered by COPD patients.
Increasing the activity of NRF2 may lead to useful treatments for preventing the progression of COPD, the researchers said.
In the study, they showed that sulforapane was able to restore reduced levels of NRF2 in cells exposed to cigarette smoke.
“Future studies should target NRF2 as a novel strategy to increase antioxidant protection in the lungs and test its ability to improve lung function in people with COPD,” said study leader Dr Shyam Biswal.
“We know broccoli naturally contains important compounds but studies so far have taken place in the test tube and further research is needed to find if you can produce the same effect in humans.”