The new study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. It was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
Broccoli has been of particular interest to scientists because it contains the highest levels of certain glucosinolates, a class of phytochemicals that many believe may reduce the risk of prostate, breast, lung and colorectal cancer. When eaten as a raw or lightly-cooked food, enzymes in the broccoli help to break down the glucosinolates into two valuable compounds of intensive research interest sulforaphane and erucin.
Studies have indicated that sulforaphane, in particular, may help to detoxify carcinogens, and also activate tumor suppressor genes so they can perform their proper function.
Most supplements designed to provide these glucosinolates have the enzyme inactivated, so the sulforaphane is not released as efficiently. There are a few supplements available with active myrosinase, and whose function more closely resembles that of the whole food, but they are still being tested and not widely available, Ho said.
Small amounts of the myrosinase enzyme needed to break down glucosinolates are found in the human gut, but the new research showed they accomplish that task far less effectively than does whole food consumption.
Although broccoli has the highest levels of glucosinolates, they are also found in cauliflower, cabbage, kale and other cruciferous vegetables. The same cooking recommendations would apply to those foods to best retain their health benefits, Ho said.
Many people take a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals as supplements, and many of them are efficacious in that form, researchers say. Higher and optimal levels of popular supplements such as vitamins C, E, and fish oil, for instance, can be difficult to obtain through diet alone. Some researchers believe that millions
|Contact: Emily Ho|
Oregon State University