Therapeutic property of Broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. cv. Italica)
Author: Leela Bhatt

The broccoli is a vegetable that belongs to family Cruciferae and genus Brassica; this genus also includes commercially important crops such as cauliflower and cabbage. They are rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber and also contain glucoraphin, sulforaphane, selenium and isothiocyanates. Broccoli is also an excellent source of indole-3-carbinol that has the capability to enhance tumorigenesis. Broccoli is a source of phenolic compounds (flavonoids) and contains significant amounts of other important phytochemicals, such as ascorbic acid, carotenoids and glucosinolates .Broccoli also provides many health-promoting properties which attributes to its antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic compounds. It is primely composed of polyphenols, glucosinolates, sulforaphane and selenium. Epidemiological studies have suggested that diets rich in broccoli, may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, and consumption of one or more portions of broccoli per week can reduce the incidence and the progression from localized to aggressive forms of prostrate cancer. Cruciferous vegetables, which contain both anticarcinogenic and antioxidant properties, are excellent examples to illustrate the problem in assessing health benefits of foods that vary in content of bioactive components. In broccoli, the content of both glucosinolates and their bioactive hydrolysis products varies with genotype, environment and processing.One of the phytotherapeutic roles of broccoli is for skin diseases in whichthe juice of the leaves is used to treat warts. The pharmacokinetics of broccoli explains that when hydrolysis takes place, glucoraphanin produces many products that include the bioactive isothiocyanate sulforaphane. The percentage of isothiocyanate sulforaphane present in these vegetables varies depending upon the conditions of hydrolysis, food handling, and preparation procedures. The organosulfur chemicals namely glucosinolates and the S-methyl cysteine sulphoxide found in broccoli in concert with other constituents such as vitamins E, C, K and the minerals such as iron, zinc, selenium and the polyphenols namely kaempferol, quercetin glucosides and isorhamnetin are presumably responsible for various health benefits of broccoli.

Role of broccoli in human diet

1. Aid in Pharmacological Activities

Broccoli plays a beneficial and major role in treating cancer of several forms that occurs in different parts of the body and also effective in the treatment of other diseases.

2. Helpful in Cancer prevention

Isothiocyanates, which are the major active constituents of many cruciferous vegetables, suppress tumor growth by generating reactive oxygen species, or by inducing cycle arrest leading to apoptosis. Broccoli sprouts are a rich source of several isothiocyanates (ITCs) that are well known class of cancer chemopreventive agents. They inhibit the size, multiplicity and progression of bladder cancer when the extracts are delivered selectively to the bladder epithelium through urinary excretion. Selenium-enriched broccoli sprouts, when compared to the normal broccoli sprouts are found to be superior and induces apoptosis of prostate cancer cells, inhibits cell proliferation and decreases prostate-specific antigen secretion. The sprouts of high Se-broccoli are protective against chemically induced mammary or colon cancer. The cancer-preventive effect of Se in high Se-broccoli extends to mammary cancer and the protective forms of broccoli against colon cancer include high Se-broccoli sprouts. Sulforaphane along with another phytochemicals such as indole-3-carbinol and brassinin from broccoli have been useful for cancer chemoprevention.

3. Having antioxidant activity

The content of glucosinolates in Brassica plants is known to represent a healthy advantage as they are associated to antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties. Brassica sprouts, is grown to evaluate the glucosinolate profile and myrosinase activity during the sprouting. Glucoraphin is another major compound in broccoli sprouts. Sulforaphane is used as an antioxidant dietary supplement.

4. Broccoli in the treatment of diabetes

Broccoli is rich in flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that protect against diabetes. Flavonoids can result in reduced risk of incident diabetes . Sulforaphane has the potential to induce some peroxisome proliferators-activated receptors that contributes to glucose homeostasis in hyperglycaemic and oxidative conditions. They also prevent nephropathy, diabetes-induced fibrosis and vascular complications. Sulforaphane is an excellent choice for supplementary treatment in type 2 diabetes.


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About Author / Additional Info:
I am currently pursuing Ph.D. in Horticulture (Vegetable Science) from GBPAU&T Pantnagar.