URBANA A University of Illinois study has shown for the first time that sulforaphane, the powerful cancer-fighting agent in broccoli, can be released from its parent compound by bacteria in the lower gut and absorbed into the body.
"This discovery raises the possibility that we will be able to enhance the activity of these bacteria in the colon, increasing broccoli's cancer-preventive power," said Elizabeth Jeffery, a U of I professor of human nutrition.
"It's also comforting because many people overcook their broccoli, unwittingly destroying the plant enzyme that gives us sulforaphane. Now we know the microbiota in our digestive tract can salvage some of this important cancer-preventive agent even if that happens," she said.
Although scientists had long theorized that the intestinal microbiota could perform this trick, no one knew it for certain.
Now Jeffery and U of I colleagues Michael Miller and Ren-Hau Lai have proved it by injecting glucoraphanin, the parent compound for sulforaphane, into the ligated lower gut of rats and demonstrating that sulforaphane is present in blood from the mesenteric vein, which flows from the gut to the liver.
"The presence of sulforaphane in measurable amounts shows that it's being converted in the lower intestine and is available for absorption in the body," Jeffery said.
The cecum, the part of the rat's lower gut into which the scientists infused the glucoraphanin, houses bacteria that aid in digestion and metabolism, similar to the human colon.
According to Jeffery, sulforaphane is an extremely potent cancer-fighting agent. "The amount that you get in three to five servings a weekthat's less than one daily serving of broccoliis enough to have an anti-cancer effect. With many of the other bioactive foods you hear about, vast amounts are required for a measurable outcome."
Sulforaphane also has anti-inflammatory properties, which are interesting to sci
|Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences