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Broccoli Sprouts May Benefit Diabetes Patients


Daily intake of broccoli sprouts raised total antioxidant capacity of the blood and reduced oxidative stress in diabetes patients, according to a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. If you don’t like broccoli sprouts, that’s okay: the benefits were obtained using broccoli sprout powder.

Oxidative stress leads to insulin resistance

Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have been studied mostly for their anticancer properties, which are attributed to high levels of glucosinolates. Once ingested, glucosinolates are metabolized into potent anticancer substances and antioxidants called isothiocyanates.

One member of the family of isothiocyanates is sulforaphane, an antioxidant found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. The richest source of sulforaphane is broccoli sprouts, which contain 20 to 50 times the amount of the phytochemical found in mature broccoli.

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When the body’s ability to fight disease-causing radical molecules such as reactive oxygen species becomes overwhelmed, its antioxidant defenses cannot keep up with the load, and it leads to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been associated with the onset of insulin resistance, which eventually leads to diabetes.

In a new study, researchers from the National Nutrition and Food Technology Research Institute in Tehran, Iran, enrolled 81 people with diabetes in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. The participants were assigned to take either 5 or 10 grams daily of broccoli sprout powder, or a placebo, for four weeks.

Participants in both of the broccoli sprout powder groups experienced a significant decrease in the levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), a known marker of oxidative stress. Broccoli sprout powder also was associated with a reduction in another oxidative stress marker, oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

The doses of broccoli sprouts used in this study for diabetes provided 112 micromoles sulforaphane isothiocyanates per 5 grams of powder and 225 micromoles for the 10 gram dose. However, the authors note that “the ideal dose of broccoli sprouts has not yet been determined,” and that “further studies with longer duration and different doses are needed to confirm the effects of broccoli sprouts and related mechanisms.”

Bahadoran Z et al. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2011 May; doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2011.59