The George Mateljan Foundation is a non-profit organization free of commercial influence, which provides this website for you free of charge. Our purpose is to provide you with unbiased scientific information about how nutrient-rich World's Healthiest Foods can promote vibrant health and energy and fit your personal needs and busy lifestyle.

eating healthycooking healthyfeeling great

Broccoli Sprouts Fight Ulcers as well as Cancer

The same research team that discovered that broccoli sprouts fight cancer, (see our earlier Healthy Way of Eating story Broccoli Sprouts, Packed with Cancer-Protective Compounds), have now published a study showing that these mighty sprouts can also eradicate helicobacter pylori, the bacterium responsible for most peptic ulcers.

Glucoraphanin, a compound found in broccoli and broccoli sprouts that the body turns into the cancer-preventive chemical sulforaphane, appears to be more effective than modern antibiotics against H. pylori. Moreover, studies using mice suggest glucoraphanin provides formidable protection against stomach cancer -- the second most common form of cancer worldwide.

And, just a single ounce of sprouts has as much glucoraphanin as a pound and a quarter of cooked broccoli, thus offering a simpler-and for those who don't enjoy the taste of broccoli-more palatable way of consuming health-promoting amounts of this protective chemical.

Practical Tips

Look for broccoli sprouts in the same area of your grocery's vegetable display where alfalfa and bean sprouts are found. Here are a few ideas to help you enjoy the protective benefits of broccoli sprouts:

Want to learn more about the amazing health benefits of broccoli, truly one of the World's Healthiest Foods? Just click broccoli.

For some quick, easy and delicious recipes that will help you enjoy making broccoli a frequent contributor to your healthy way of eating, take a look at the World's Healthiest Foods' Recipes containing broccoli. Simply, click on the Recipe Assistant, select broccoli from the Healthy Foods List, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all our recipes containing broccoli will appear immediately below.

Research Summary

This new research, led by Johns Hopkins University pharmacology professor Paul Talalay and his colleagues, is the latest in a 10-year series of studies on broccoli's cancer-fighting potential.

The research began in 1992, when Talalay and his team found that sulforaphane -- a chemical we now know is produced in the body from a compound in broccoli called glucoraphanin -- ramped up the production of enzymes in the liver responsible for detoxifying cancer-causing chemicals. These phase II enzymes are among the most potent anti-cancer compounds known.

Epidemiological studies have consistently shown that people who eat more vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables, have a much lower risk for cancer, but the Talalay team's broccoli studies were some of the first to identify a particular chemical that might explain why crucifers confer protection.

Further studies in mice showed that sulforaphane prevented the development of breast and colon cancer, as well as other tumors, even in mice exposed to potent carcinogens. When mice were dosed with benzopyrene, a chemical known to cause stomach cancer, those mice pre-treated with sulforaphane had 39% fewer tumors.

Then Talalay's team discovered that glucoraphanin, the key protective compound in broccoli, is at least 20 times more concentrated in 3-day-old broccoli sprouts than it is in broccoli. At this point, Talalay and co-researcher Jed W. Fahey founded a company to produce broccoli sprouts for grocery stores and began testing the effects of sulforaphane on Helicobacter pylori. The bacterium, found globally but especially in Asia, not only causes ulcers, but increases a person's risk of getting gastric cancer three to sixfold.

Fahey said the idea for the study arose when he learned that two employees at a broccoli sprout facility who had had longstanding ulcers were cured after they took up snacking on the sprouts.

The John's Hopkins' team, working with researchers from the National Scientific Research Center in Nancy, France, found that sulforaphane easily kills H. pylori, even strains that have become resistant to combinations of two or three antibiotics, as reported in another Healthy Way of Eating story Broccoli Eliminates H. Pylori, Protects Against Ulcers, Stomach Cancer. In test tube studies, sulforaphane even killed H. pylori that had hidden inside human stomach lining cells, one way in which the bacterium evades attack.

Talalay said the group is preparing to start a human clinical trial in Japan where 80% of Japanese adults are infected with H pylori -- a primary reason that gastric cancer is the leading cancer killer in Japanese women and second only to lung cancer in Japanese men. According to Talalay, H. pylori is similarly common and deadly in many parts of the world where antibiotics are unavailable or unaffordable.

"Gratifyingly, this is a dietary approach," he said, "which is the only approach feasible or practical if you want to knock down the incidence of this very serious disease in the parts of the world where it is most prevalent." Fahey is optimistic. "The levels that are effective are levels that could be achieved by eating a serving or so of broccoli sprouts, based on the chemistry we know," he said. "This isn't one of those rat studies in which you need 400 times the maximum amount a human could handle."

If upcoming human studies confirm recent findings, a daily dose of broccoli sprouts could become a common prescription not only in Asia, where the incidence of H. pylori infection, ulcers and stomach cancer has reached epidemic proportions, but also in the U.S. where 50% of Americans over age 50 harbor H. pylori.

References: Fahey JW, Haristoy X, Dolan PM, Kensler TW, Scholtus I, Stephenson KK, Talalay P, Lozniewski A. Sulforaphane inhibits extracellular, intracellular, and antibiotic-resistant strains of Helicobacter pylori and prevents benzopyrene-induced stomach tumors. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2002 May 28;99(11):7610-5. Rick Weiss, "Study Touts Broccoli to Fight Ulcers, Cancer," Washington Post, May 28, 2002, p.A04.