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Can broccoli help heart damage?

Researchers claim that a compound found in brassica vegetables such as broccoli could undo the damage caused by diabetes to heart blood vessels.

Professor Paul Thornalley and his team from the University of Warwick have found that a compound called Sulforaphane can encourage the body to produce more enzymes to protect the vessels, as well as reduce high levels of molecules which cause significant cell damage.

Research

Professor Thornalley, at the University’s Warwick Medical School, tested the effects of Sulforaphane on blood vessel cells damaged by high glucose levels (hyperglycaemia).

The researchers observed a significant reduction of molecules called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). Hyperglycaemia can cause levels of ROS to increase three-fold which can damage human cells. The results of the study showed that Sulforaphane reversed this increase in ROS by 73 per cent.

They also found Sulforaphane activated a protein in the body called nrf2, which protects cells and tissues from oxidative stress by activating protective antioxidant and detoxifying enzymes. The study showed the presence of Sulforaphane in human microvascular cells doubled the activation of nrf2.

Encouraging results

“The results reported here were of studies carried out in human cells grown in different concentrations of glucose so we need to be aware that this is a long way from the real life situation," said Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at leading health charity Diabetes UK.

"However, it is encouraging to see that Professor Thornalley and his team have identified a potentially important substance that may protect and repair blood vessels from the damaging effects of diabetes. It also may help add some scientific weight to the argument that eating broccoli is good for you.

“People with diabetes are up to five times more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and stroke. Eating a healthy balanced diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables is key to helping people with diabetes achieve good blood glucose levels to reduce their risk of such serious diabetic complications."

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