Home / Juvenon Health Journal / Cruciferous Veggies: The Key to Good Gastro-Intestinal Health 5/09

 

Juvenon Health Journal volume 8 number 5 may 2009

cruciferous veggies: the key to good gastro-intestinal health

By Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D.

Do you know someone who can eat almost anything, like fatty and spicy foods, without suffering unpleasant consequences? Actually, during our youthful years, many of us could get away with such unhealthy overindulgence. But as we age, so do our digestive systems, resulting in an inability to endure the abuse they once could. In fact, if we don’t take special care to follow a nutritious diet, the consequences can be far more than uncomfortable.

By contrast, making vegetables – specifically the cruciferous family, including broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts – a part of our diet, on a regular basis, seems to lead to health. Why? A significant amount of medical research has identified a cruciferous component as potent in protecting the digestive system from conditions like ulcers, pathological bacteria, even cancer.

Turning On 200 Genes
For example, research by Paul Talalay, professor and medical scientist at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, led to the discovery of a chemical in cruciferous vegetables, known as sulforaphane. Talalay’s laboratory was the first to show sulforaphane has the ‘magical’ effect of turning on a specific (and large – over 200) set of genes that act to protect our cells from toxins, free radicals and inflammation.

Talalay’s work was the catalyst for numerous scientific investigations in laboratories around the world. The race was on to determine how, exactly, sulforaphane activated these cell-protective, potentially disease-preventative genes. (SeeJuvenon Health Journal Volume 7, No. 7, July 2008, “Cruciferous veggies: the latest on why they’re good for us.”)

Talalay later discovered that the highest concentration of sulforaphane is found in broccoli sprouts. His research prompted not only the appearance of this form of the vegetable on supermarket shelves, but also sprout-specific research.

Bacteria-fighting Broccoli Sprouts
A group of investigators from the Tokyo University of Science in Japan took the research a step further, investigating the effects of a diet rich in broccoli sprouts on the pathology associated with a specific bacteria, Helicobacter pylori or H-pylori. A significant percentage of humans are infected with this pathogen, some showing symptoms while others are asymptomatic. Several years ago, H-pylori was linked to gastritis, ulcers and stomach cancer. 

The researchers devised a protocol to examine the effects of the broccoli sprout-rich diet on H-pylori infected mice, an established animal model to study this disease. They compared the mouse model results to those obtained from H-pylori-infected humans who were on a diet enriched with either broccoli sprouts or a placebo, alfalfa sprouts (no sulforaphane).

Soothing Sulforaphane
Mimicking the human study, the mice were divided into two groups. The experimental group was fed an extract of broccoli sprouts containing sulforaphane for eight weeks. The control group was fed an alfalfa-sprout extract for the same time period. 

At the end of the eight weeks, microscopic examination of the stomach lining revealed a dramatic improvement in tissue health for the broccoli sprout-treated mice, as compared to the controls. In addition, blood work showed a significant decrease in markers of inflammation that are produced by inflammatory cells (TNF alpha, and Interleukin-1 beta) as well as markers of DNA damage (8-OHdG) and cell death. These results seem to indicate that sulforaphane is acting to sooth the cells of inflammation and prevent damage.

Molecular Mission
So, how does sulforaphane elicit its cell-protective effects? Theoretically, by activating a specific protein molecule in the cell, Nrf2, which then travels to the cell’s control center, the nucleus, and trips the “on” switch for numerous cell-protective genes.

To test this theory, the Japanese investigators genetically engineered a group of mice to be lacking the Nrf2 gene and protein molecule. They compared this group’s response to broccoli sprouts to a group of normal mice capable of making the Nrf2 protein. Both groups of mice were infected with the H-pylori bacteria, and fed identical diets. The mice deficient in Nrf2 were not protected by ingesting broccoli sprouts, clearly suggesting the role of this protein in mediating the sulforaphane-induced protection from H-pylori infection.

A Man or a Mouse
Do humans have the same response to broccoli sprouts? Fifty subjects, determined to be infected with H-pylori, participated in a study. They were divided into two groups, one agreeing to consume 70 grams (2.5 oz) of broccoli sprouts and the other the same amount of alfalfa sprouts per day for eight weeks. At the end of this period, blood was taken and analyzed for the production of cell-protective gene products, normally activated by Nrf2, as well as other markers of inflammation.

The results showed a remarkable two-to-three-fold increase in cell-protective enzymes and a decrease in markers of inflammation for the broccoli-sprout group. Analysis of this group’s stomach lining also revealed a decrease in the quantity of H-pylori.

Good Gastro-intestinal Health

Environmental factors, such as diet, contribute to whether a person infected with the H-pylori pathogen develops ulcers or cancer in the digestive system. Animal and human studies support the health-promoting effects of cruciferous vegetables in particular. The evidence also suggests these “veggies” may have a systemic effect: they may help establish a more balanced production of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory molecules, holding inflammation and associated disease in check.

Other dietary steps to improve our chances of maintaining a healthy gastro-intestinal system? Avoid excessive amounts of salt and burned meat, as well as kinds of fish and other foods that produce certain toxins (nitrates, etc.) when mixed with stomach fluids. And make sure your diet contains lots of fruits, berries, legumes, whole grains and other vegetables, in addition to our cruciferous friends.

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Research Update

Investigators, from two universities in Japan and the Johns Hopkins University in the U.S., examined the effects of an extract of broccoli sprouts on the disease-producing stomach bacterial pathogen, Heicobacter (H-pylori). Their article, “Dietary Sulforaphane-Rich Broccoli Sprouts Reduce Colonization and Attenuate Gastritis in Helicobacter pylori–Infected Mice and Humans,” in the April 2009 issue of Cancer Prevention Research, details their approach and findings.

H-pylori, the most common bacterial pathogen in man, is widely accepted as a causative agent for ulcers and stomach cancer. Environmental influences, such as diet, also determine whether H-pylori infection and the associated diseases develop. In fact, epidemiological studies have linked a diet high in one food type – cruciferous vegetables – with a decrease in H-pylori infection and stomach cancer incidence.

The investigators’ goal was to scientifically demonstrate this seemingly protective effect in mice and humans. Their study involved feeding H-pylori-infected subjects either broccoli sprouts or, as a control, alfalfa sprouts for an eight-week period.

Broccoli sprouts were chosen based on previous work that implicated sulforaphane, a compound common to cruciferous vegetables, as the active agent in preventing H-pylori pathologies. Sulforaphane’s concentration is highest in broccoli sprouts and completely absent from alfalfa sprouts (hence the control).

The results of the study were impressive, showing a dramatic decrease in the H-pylori-induced destruction of the stomach lining (mucosa) in the broccoli sprout-fed subjects as compared to the controls. Additionally, in both humans and mice, there was a significant reduction in markers of inflammation in the blood (indicating a positive systemic effect from the broccoli sprouts) as well as the cells of the stomach mucosa.

The authors conclude that a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables does, in fact, have the effect of protecting the lining of the stomach from the harmful effects of toxins specifically associated with infections by H-pylori.

Read article abstract here.

This Research Update column highlights articles related to recent scientific inquiry into the process of human aging. It is not intended to promote any specific ingredient, regimen, or use and should not be construed as evidence of the safety, effectiveness, or intended uses of the Juvenon product. The Juvenon label should be consulted for intended uses and appropriate directions for use of the product.


 

Ask Ben
Dr. Treadwell answers your questions about Juvenon™ Cellular Health Supplement

question: I currently take 500 mg (2 capsules) daily of your Resveratrol. I’ve, thus far, not noticed any increase in energy or slow weight loss, as some claim. I have noticed some improvement in age-related skin “spots” that clearly seem to be on the wane.

How much can I safely boost the daily intake of Resveratrol? Is this product on a par with what was discussed on the “60 Minutes” program by Dr. Stilwell? I assume there is no risk of kidney damage?

Finally, judging from the internet, there clearly are many “resveratrol” supplements out there with no way of knowing the efficacy of any of them. I am trusting that Juvenon’s product is the real thing. Listing your Scientific Advisory Board and other particulars helps maintain that faith. Thanks so much. – L 

answer: Research seems to indicate that resveratrol may help improve insulin sensitivity and metabolic balance, which can have a long-term positive effect on overall health. To date, there are few reports of side effects from taking resveratrol, however, I do think that taking one to two capsules of this supplement per day is all you will probably require for maximum benefit.

The resveratrol-like compound, discussed on “60 minutes,” is a synthetic formula that is not yet available on the market, and probably won’t be for several years. Whether this turns out to be more effective than natural resveratrol remains to be seen. Juvenon Resveratrol is carefully analyzed to determine the quantity of the active isomer of resveratrol in our supplement. The active isomer is trans resveratrol, as opposed to the inactive isomer, cis resveratrol (an oxidized product of the trans form). Juvenon Resveratrol is virtually all in the trans form.

Thank you for describing your own experience and the possible effect on your age-related skin spots.

Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D., is a former Harvard Medical School associate professor.

 


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