Does eating broccoli reduce the risk of cancer?
Updated: Jul 28
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We know that including more fruit and vegetables in your diet is beneficial for your overall health for a number of reasons; provides fibre, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and other useful compounds. But is there a benefit of including specific vegetables like broccoli? This blog will explore broccoli and whether you should include it in your diet.
What do we know about broccoli?
Broccoli comes from the ‘cruciferous vegetables’ family other vegetables in this group are:
Bok choy (pak choy)
Why is broccoli particularly interesting?
All cruciferous vegetables are a good source of vitamins (Vitamins C, E, K and folates) and minerals, carotenoids (a type of antioxidant) and fibre. They also contain a compound called glucosinolates which are sulphur-containing chemical this gives these vegetables their distinctive bitter flavour and taste.
Broccoli contains a high amount of a particular glucosinolate called ‘glucoraphanin’. Research has shown some positive health benefits to including glucoraphanin in your diet. For example, research has shown diets rich in glucoraphanin can improve blood glucose control in Type 2 Diabetics, reduce blood cholesterol and linked to reduced cancer risk.
When we eat broccoli, the glucoraphanin is converted to the active form in the body called ‘sulforaphane’. This active form of glucoraphanin has been shown to reduce inflammation and protect cells from damage when it has been investigated in animal and cell studies.
Does broccoli reduce cancer risk?
If you have read a few of my blogs or followed me on social media, you will know that research in animals cannot always be translated to humans, you need strong, robust evidence in humans. So, what is the evidence in human studies?
There is some interesting research in men with cancer. Research in men has showed those that eat 3 or more portions of broccoli or cruciferous vegetables weekly have a reduced risk of cancer 1.
A randomised controlled trial called the ESCAPE (Effect of Sulforaphane on prostate CAncer PrEvention) study, tested 3 groups of men with prostate cancer who was on ‘active surveillance’ (which describes monitoring men with early signs of prostate cancer).
One group was given regular broccoli soup, one group had broccoli soup with high levels of glucoraphanin and last group has extra high levels of glucoraphanin soup. The men were advised to have the broccoli soup once a week for a year. The higher levels of glucoraphanin soup was produced by SmarterNaturallySoup which is made using a unique type of broccoli called GRextra which contain five times more glucoraphanin than regular broccoli.
During the study samples of cancer cells was taken from the men at the start of the study and then after 1 year. After 1 year the men that consumed the high and higher levels of glucoraphanin soup had less cell changes than those that consumed the standard broccoli soup. This is really promising especially for men undergoing active surveillance, so not started any treatment yet but this study had small numbers so further research is needed. However, adding in more broccoli into your diet or with a convenient form like a weekly soup may have a positive impact on your health and will definitely provide you with additional fibre (3.4g fibre) to your diet and help you meet your 5 a day!
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1. Liu, B., et al., Cruciferous vegetables intake and risk of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis. Int J Urol, 2012. 19(2):p. 134-41.
2. Traka, M.H., et al., Transcriptional changes in prostate of men on active surveillance after a 12-mo glucoraphanin-rich broccoli intervention-results from the Effect of Sulforaphane on prostate Cancer Prevention (ESCAPE) randomised controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr, 2019. 109(4): p. 1133-1144. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz012