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Worried About Air Pollution? Eat More Broccoli

Jun 18, 2014 03:04 PM EDT

Researchers have discovered that a plant compound most commonly found in broccoli actually helps the body naturally expel carcinogens and other toxins that are in heavily polluted air.

According to a study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, broccoli is a strong source of glucoraphanin - a compound that generates sulforaphane in the human body.

Sulforaphane, in turn, increases the prevalence of enzymes that help the body excrete toxins like benzene and acrolein - a carcinogen and lung irritant, respectively.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health determined this after assessing the health of 291 people, 21 to 65 years old, who live in a rural farming community in Jiangsu Province, China.

Due to positioning, the region receives a significant amount of the city of Shanghai's air pollutants, making it an ideal place to measure the beneficial properties of glucoraphanin. China, as one of the most industrialized nations in the world, boasts dangerous levels of air pollution, especially downwind from its most urban sectors.

According to the study, the participants were randomly assigned to either drink a beverage containing a dissolved freeze-dried powder made from broccoli sprouts, or the same beverage without the powder. The participants were asked to drink their assigned beverage once a day for 12 weeks.

Amazingly, the broccoli sprout group excreted 61 percent more of the carcinogen benezine each day compared to the control group. They also excreted 23 percent more acrolein, showing that the glucrophanin found in this powder was certainly doing its job.

Study co-author Thomas Kensler explained that this is the first step in helping the world develop a new way to help the body resist unavoidable contaminants.

Naturally raising sulforaphane levels in the body using glucrophanin, is a "frugal, simple and safe means that can be taken by individuals to possibly reduce some of the long-term health risks associated with air pollution," he said in a statement.

The researchers concluded that while regulator polices are still the most ideal way to reduce the risks of air pollution, science should also be perusing means for individuals to protect themselves.

The study was published in Cancer Prevention Research on June 9.

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