April 28, 2004 -- A powerful antioxidant found in broccoli and broccoli sprouts may help protect the heart from high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
A new study shows the compound, called glucoraphanin, helped improve heart health, fight inflammation, and boost natural defense systems against oxidative stress in laboratory rats.
Oxidative stress occurs when unstable molecules, known as free radicals, react with oxygen in the body, causing inflammation and cell damage that can raise the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Antioxidants are thought to help prevent these effects by fighting the effects of oxidative stress on the body.
Glucoraphanin is one of a group of chemicals that act as an indirect antioxidant that raises the body's antioxidant defense systems. It's found naturally in broccoli and broccoli sprouts.
The study appears in the May 4 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the research was supported by the Saskatchewan Agriculture Development Fund.
Broccoli Sprout Compound Helps Heart
In the study, researchers looked at the association between a diet containing broccoli sprouts, which have a high concentration of glucoraphanin, and oxidative stress in an animal model of high blood pressure.
For 14 weeks, researchers fed rats broccoli sprouts that were either rich in glucoraphanin or had been depleted of the compound. By the end of the study, they found rats fed the glucoraphanin-rich diet had decreased blood pressure and inflammation in the heart.
Researchers say the improvements were due to increased antioxidant defense systems and a lowered inflammatory response triggered by the glucoraphanin.
"Although more research needs to be done to fully establish the link between [glucoraphanin] and improved heart health, the findings are encouraging," says researcher Bernhard H.J. Juurlink, PhD, of the University of Saskatchewan, in a news release. "This study opens up a whole new area of research that may lead to a simple, preventive measure that may help millions of Americans reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease."