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New Study Shows Broccoli may Provide Protection Against Diabetes Damage

A new study from researchers at the University of Warwick in England found that eating broccoli may help reverse damage to heart blood vessels caused by diabetes.

In their study researchers exposed human cells to low and high glucose levels in order to replicate the effects of diabetes. They found that high blood sugar levels led to an increase of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) free radicals inside the cells. Excessive ROS molecules can cause cell damage and may be a risk factor for heart disease.

Researchers then introduced a compound called sulforaphane which is found in the cruciferous family of vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, broccoli). Sulforaphane is particularly rich in broccoli and cauliflower.

The study found that sulforaphane activated a protein called nrf2 which seemed to protect blood vessels by lowering ROS levels. The results, published in the July issue of the journal Diabetes, show that the sulforaphane was associated with a 73% reduction in ROS levels.

Based on these results, one of the authors of the study, Professor Paul Thornalley, suggested that compounds like sulforaphate may help counter processes linked to the development of certain types of heart disease that stem from diabetes.

This is the second study in as many months that shows broccoli may have powerful health benefits. In June 2008 British researchers found that eating more broccoli may protect men from prostate cancer. Broccoli is also high in B vitamins which studies show have anti-cancer properties, support the immune system and lower homocysteine (an amino acid related to high risk of heart disease and stroke).

Additional research is needed to confirm the results of this recent study, including human testing to identify if broccoli is as effective at lowering ROS in the body as it was in this in vitro test. But these results do seem to bolster the assumption that broccoli provides a number of important health benefits.

1Clinical Sciences Research Institute, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, University Hospital, Coventry CV2 2DX, U.K. and
2Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Central Campus, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex CO4 3SQ, U.K.
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