Broccoli is a Superfood

August 03, 2008

Eat for your Genes: Your Food as Your Medicine – Why Broccoli is a Superfood

Competency # 14 Superfoods              Reference: Public Library of Science On Line PloS One 3 (7): e2568 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002568 

 Once upon a time, doctors took care of bad diseases.  Heart attacks, cancer, appendicitis.  We still do.  But, as science progressed, we started getting smarter.  We started to figure out the risks for heart attacks.  They were high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, (no red wine).  So, we started taking care of those risks, to prevent a heart attack.  Then, we started figuring out the risks for high blood pressure and diabetes.  

The cutting edge of current health care is all about addressing the RISKS for the RISKS.  I get diabetes because… I develop metabolic syndrome in my twenties and thirties because I get overweight, eat too much fructose, get inflammation from huge meals, eat too much saturated fat, eat trans fats.  Those are all various theories that are floating around about the RISKS for the RISKS.  This column has dealt with each of those ideas, and will again as they come forward.

 But the real cutting edge is the next step.  What are the risks for the risks for the risks.  R3. Those are your genes.  And we are now discovering that the food you eat, in the right circumstances affects your genes.  Your food becomes your medicine.  The line between the pill you take for medical care, and the food choices you make is blurring.  As science progresses, we are getting the sophistication to understand just what makes some foods so good for you, and just how they act.  Eating to affect your genes is not a question any more of how well you fit in them. 

 It’s not the jeans, baby, it’s the genes. Broccoli is the example de jour.  One serving of broccoli a week was given to men with early precancerous changes in their prostate glands.  These men were studied by the Institute for Food Research in Britain. Tissue samples and genetic analysis before, at 6 months and after 12 months were studied.  What the researchers found was that there were hundreds of changes in the cells tilting in a fashion that demonstrated a wide variety of genetic changes going on that affected cancer cells.  There were good effects towards less cancer and more normal growth.  Those men with the GSTM1 gene benefited the most.  Half of men have that gene.  

Broccoli has been known to be the champion example of all the isothiocyanate-rich cruciferous vegetables.  Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage count too. We’ve known for years that broccoli contains sulforaphane, a particularly potent isothiocyanate.  In fact, there are even “Brocco-sprouts” on the market that are sprouted broccoli seeds that have a huge amount of sulforaphane in them, just for that reason.  We also know that a diet rich in extra vegetables and fruits dramatically reduces your risk for cancer, at a far more effective rate of cancer reduction than doses of chemotherapy after the fact.  So, this story is interesting.  The science is progressing and the story is getting more clear.  It’s the risks for the risks for the risks.   All in your genes.  Your food is your medicine. 

 WWW:  What will work for me?  I like broccoli.  Not everyone does.  Some folk's tastebuds are very sensitive to its flavor and they can’t stand it.  As for me, I’m choosing to eat it more often.  At the Chinese buffet, I got the stir fry with broccoli and tried not to think about all the MSG.  With some help, even Brussels sprouts can be fantastic.

 Brought to you by John E. Whitcomb, M.D. Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI (262-784-5300)