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Eating Broccoli: Not Pills

A new study that may help explain why whole foods can provide more benefits than supplements has found that that people who consume a broccoli supplement are missing a cancer-fighting phytochemical seen among broccoli sprout eaters.

The study was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain a large family of phytochemicals called glucosinolates. In laboratory studies, glucosinolates have reduced and prevented tumor incidence. In our bodies, glucosinolates are converted into a biologically active compound, such as sulforaphane. But in order for glucosinolates to transform into sulforaphane, it needs a protein called myrosinase, which is missing in many supplements.

This study gave healthy people either broccoli sprouts or broccoli supplements (no myrosinase). By studying urine samples, the researchers found that the broccoli consumers excreted higher amounts of two major compounds – sulforaphane and erucin – compared to the supplement takers.

Source: John D. Clarke, Ken Riedl, Deborah Bella, Steven J. Schwartz, Jan F. Stevens, Emily Ho. "Comparison of Isothiocyanate Metabolite Levels and Histone Deacetylase Activity in Human Subjects Consuming Broccoli Sprouts or Broccoli Supplement." Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2011.

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