Super Vegetable Fights Type 2 Diabetes and More
Scientists have developed a special variety of one vegetable that can help fight type 2 diabetes as well as other age-related diseases such as cancer and obesity. The vegetable is called Beneforte, and it is a special form of broccoli that provides elevated levels of a nutrient called glucoraphanin, which in turn is converted into another potent component you may know about already.
What is so special about this broccoli?
If broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (e.g., cabbage, cauliflower, kale, boy choy, radishes, mustard greens) are not a regular part of your diet, then it may be time to rethink your menu. All of these foods have been identified as possessing powerful anti-cancer and antioxidant characteristics, which are mainly associated with levels of a nutrient called sulforaphane.
Numerous previous studies have shown that sulforaphane interferes with uncontrolled cell division characteristic of cancer and also helps trigger the body’s antioxidant defense mechanism. The authors of a 2011 study reported they were the first to show that sulforaphane can kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells.
Here’s what happens when you eat broccoli. An enzyme called myrosinase converts glucoraphanin into two substances: raphanin, which has antibiotic properties; and sulforaphane. Now scientists at Norwich Research Park have developed a super broccoli with high levels of glucoraphanin and studied its impact on the body.
The study involved 48 volunteers who were assigned to one of three groups: one group consumed 400 grams of Beneforte broccoli per week for 12 weeks, another ate the same amount of ordinary broccoli, and the third consumed peas but no broccoli.
Based on the results of baseline and post-trial blood samples, the volunteers who ate the super broccoli had an improvement in metabolism. The elevated levels of glucoraphanin improved processes that are critical for maintaining good health and which can become unbalanced as people age.
More specifically, the researchers found that glucoraphanin corrected an imbalance between the production of fatty acids and related substances and the generation of energy—reactions known as anaplerotic and cataplerotic. This discovery is important, according to one of the study’s authors, Professor Richard Mithen from the Institute of Food Research, because for the first time scientists have been able to identify the mechanism behind metabolic changes that occur in humans.
Broccoli benefits abound
This study now can be counted among many others that have found numerous health benefits associated with broccoli and sulforaphane. For example:
- Broccoli has been shown to kill breast cancer stem cells
- Heart health can be improved by including broccoli in your diet
- Broccoli may help protect the lungs of people who smoke
- The sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts offer protection to the gut from damaging bacteria associated with ulcers and stomach cancer
To reap the most benefit from broccoli, it’s best to steam it lightly for 2 to 4 minutes; never overcook it. That’s because overcooking destroys myrosinase, the enzyme that is necessary for sulforaphane to form.
The authors of the new study concluded that “a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables effective retunes our metabolism by rebalancing anaplerosis and cataplerosis and restoring metabolic homeostatis” and that these vegetables, including broccoli--even if it's not super broccoli--“may be able to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases associated with aging.” Type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, and heart disease are among the conditions that may benefit from consuming more of these vegetables.
Armah CN et al. A diet rich in high glucoraphanin broccoli interacts with genotype to reduce discordance in plasma metabolite profiles by modulating mitochondrial function. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2013 Sep; 98(3)
Clarke JD et al. Differential effects of sulforaphane on histone deacetylases, cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in normal prostate cells versus hyperplastic and cancerous prostate cells. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research 2011 Jul; 55(7): 999-1009
Cramer JM, Jeffery JH. Sulforaphane absorption and excretion following ingestion of a semi-purified broccoli powder rich in glucoraphanin and broccoli sprouts in healthy men. Nutrition and Cancer 2011; 63(2): 196-201