Broccoli Sprouts Eaten During Pregnancy May Provide Children with Life-long Protection Against Heart Disease
Eating broccoli sprouts during pregnancy may provide your kids with life-long protection against cardiovascular disease, according to a research team led by Bernhard Juurlink at the University of Saskatchewan.
Using pregnant rats, the researchers found that not only did the broccoli sprouts improve the mothers’ health, they also seem to improve the health of their offspring into adulthood – even if the babies never tasted a sprout. “We looked at the offspring up to six months later and even on a normal diet, they were in better health than their mothers,” says Juurlink, a professor in the U of S anatomy and cell biology department. The findings are published in the journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).The work is a follow-up to the team’s 2004 study that found broccoli sprouts fed to hypertensive rats lowered their blood pressure. Juurlink’s lab studies the impact of oxidative stress which occurs when the body produces free radicals, a byproduct of normal metabolism, faster than it can remove them. These highly reactive molecules can cause a host of problems such as tissue inflammation, hypertension and stroke. The research team is trying to find ways to reduce oxidative stress using diet.So where do the broccoli sprouts fit in? The sprouts are high in a phase 2 protein inducer called glucoraphanin. In fact, they have 20 to 50 times more glucoraphanin than mature broccoli.”Phase 2 inducers promote the production of phase 2 proteins which either promote scavenging of oxidants or decrease the chance of these oxidants being formed in the first place,” Juurlink said.In effect, broccoli sprouts boost the bodyâs natural defenses against the oxidative stress that causes high blood pressure and inflammation. Surprisingly, this dietary change not only improves the health of the expectant mothers, but also has a lasting effect on the offspring.”It appears we’ve instituted a permanent change in the offspring, the question now is how,” Juurlink says.Human trials are planned in the near future. Juurlink says if humans react the same way as rats, 200 grams or less of sprouts every other day may be enough to reduce oxidative stress. If he’s right, a simple dietary change may prevent or delay onset of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, or possibly even neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.It’s important to eat the right variety of sprouts. The Calabrese variety used in the study produced beneficial effects, but even better, some commercially available varieties of broccoli sprouts have seven times as much glucoraphanin. Broccoli sprouts are typically eaten raw in salads or wraps, or cooked in a variety of dishes.Funding for this study was provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Other research team members were Hossein Noyan-Ashraf (anatomy and cell biology) and Lily Wu (pharmacology).(Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB): University of Saskatchewan: February 2006.)