Broccoli May Prevent Blindness
Contains Antioxidant That Protects Eye Cells From UV Damage
WebMD News Archive
July 13, 2004 -- To protect your eyesight, try broccoli. An
antioxidant found in broccoli may be a powerful force in preventing
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have
discovered that sulforaphane, the naturally occurring antioxidant in broccoli
and broccoli sprouts, protects the eye from damage caused by the sun's
Cells in the eye's retina are extremely sensitive to damage
caused by oxidants, especially those generated by light. While several
processes within the eye help cut that damage, the eye gradually loses that
capability as we age.
This is believed to be the primary cause of age-related macular
degeneration -- the leading cause of blindness, writes researcher Xiangqun Gao,
a molecular scientist with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His
report appears in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Science of the USA.
To combat this damage, a simple long-term strategy is
important, Gao notes. That's where sulforaphane comes in.
Previous studies from this group of researchers have shown that
sulforaphane prevents tumor growth and kills stomach bacteria that lead to
ulcers and stomach cancer. In one study, they showed that feeding broccoli
sprouts to rats prevented high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
In their latest laboratory experiment, the Johns Hopkins
researchers exposed human retina cells, which protect against oxidative stress
and free radicals, to various doses of sulforaphane. Then they exposed cells to
ultraviolet light -- similar to sunlight -- to produce oxidative damage.
Sulforaphane protected eye cells from damage, reports Gao. In
fact, the more sulforaphane exposure the cells got, the more protection they
"Much evidence points to the central role of oxidative
damage in chronic degenerative diseases of the eye," writes Gao. A diet
high in broccoli and broccoli sprouts is a safe, long-term approach to
preventing age-related macular degeneration and blindness, he says.