At the Daily Health we’ve written a few times about the benefits of broccoli and it seems that the health benefits of this versatile vegetable is almost never-ending.
A recent study from Cancer Prevention Research shows that daily consumption of broccoli sprouts may cut Helicobacter pylori infections (H. pylori), and offer protection against stomach ulcers, and maybe even certain types of cancer.
H. pylori is a bacterium that inhabits various areas of the stomach and duodenum (first section of the small intestine). It causes a chronic low-level inflammation of the stomach lining and is strongly linked to the development of duodenal and gastric ulcers and stomach cancer.
H. pylori is the only bacteria that can survive in the acidic environment of the stomach and also causes gastritis. A person infected with H. pylori have a two to six-fold increased risk of developing mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma, and gastric cancer compared with those uninfected.
The power of glucosinolates
Regular e-alert readers may remember that we have written about the wonderful healing properties of cruciferous vegetables before which can aid in the prevention of cancer and help in bringing relief to diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
The big buzzword here is glucosinolates.
Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, contain high levels of the active plant chemicals glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are metabolised by the body into isothiocyanates, which are known to be powerful anti-carcinogens (cancer-fighters). The main isothiocyanate from broccoli is sulphoraphane.
Details of the study
Dr. Jed Fahey, from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and his fellow researchers recruited 48 Japanese men and women (average age 54) infected with H. pylori and randomly assigned them to eat 70 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts daily for eight weeks or an equal amount of alfalfa sprouts.
After eight weeks, the researchers observed significantly lower levels of H pylori using breath, serum and stool samples from the broccoli sprouts group, while no changes were observed in the alfalfa sprouts group. These results suggested that the broccoli sprouts could reduce but not eradicate the bacteria in the stomach, said the researchers. They also concluded that previous studies have reported that sulphoraphane may induce cytoprotective, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory enzymes, which inhibits the inflammation caused by H pylori.
Broccoli sprouts are believed to be more effective because they are the richest source of glucoraphanin, also known as sulphoraphane glucosinolate (SGS), which is the precursor of sulphoraphane.
The researchers finally concluded: ‘The findings in this study strongly suggest that sulphoraphane has promise both as an antibacterial agent directed against H. pylori and as a dietary preventive agent against the development of human gastric cancer.’
Symptoms of H. pylori infection
Signs and symptoms associated with H. pylori infection can vary in severity and duration depending on which disorder is present. If you have an H. pylori-related disease, you may experience the following signs and symptoms:
- An ache or burning pain in your abdomen
- A change in appetite with weight loss
- Frequent burping
- Bloody vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- Bloody or black tarry stools
Disorders associated with H. pylori infection
There is still so much to be learnt about H. pylori and many questions are yet unanswered. Some people with H. pylori infection remain healthy and some develop digestive system disorders. Others exhibit milder disorders and some more severe disorders.
Factors that may make a difference include varying degrees of strains of H. pylori and genetic factors that may make some people more vulnerable to one of the following H. pylori-related disorders:
Stomach and duodenal ulcers: open sores in the lining of your stomach or the first part of the small intestine. H. pylori infection causes the majority of these ulcers. The most common sign of an ulcer is a frequent burning pain in your abdomen. The pain occurs most often when your stomach is empty and may last only a few minutes or several hours.
- Gastritis: Inflammation of the stomach’s lining. While signs and symptoms are often similar to those of ulcers, you may have gastritis with no apparent problems at first. H. pylori infection can cause a chronic inflammatory response that over time damages the lining of your stomach and results in the loss of acid-producing glands in your stomach. These changes can increase your risk of developing stomach cancer.
- Stomach cancer: a disease in which abnormal cells in your stomach divide without control. H. pylori infection is a strong risk factor for certain types of stomach cancer. Most signs and symptoms occur only after the cancer is fairly well advanced. Additional problems associated with cancer may include a bloated or full feeling after a very small meal, difficulty swallowing, breath odour, excessive gas or a general decline in health.
- Gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma: The development of a cancerous tumour from white blood cells (lymphocytes) in the lining of your stomach. H. pylori infection greatly increases your risk of gastric MALT lymphoma, and nearly all people with the disease are infected with this bacterium.
Non-ulcer dyspepsia: stomach pain or discomfort not caused by an ulcer or another identifiable disorder that would result in the pain. The relationship between H. pylori infection and non-ulcer dyspepsia isn’t clear.
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‘Broccoli sprouts may cut stomach ulcer risk’ by Stephen Daniells, published online 06.04.09, nutraingredients.com
‘H. pylori infection’ published online 01.06.07, mayoclinic.com