Can Broccoli Prevent or Even Treat Asthma?

broccoli drawing

broccoli drawingMore than 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, with children being hit the hardest by the ailment. It’s a frightening condition especially for the young children who are admitted to hospitals unable to breathe. But, evidence suggests that preventing and treating this lung condition could be as simple as eating more broccoli – an idea your child must warm up to, no doubt.

Treating Asthma and Rhinitis with Broccoli

Asthma is caused by “inflammation and airway hyperactivity in reaction to certain exposures,” according to the CDC. These exposures are often exposure to free radical toxins like allergens and airborne irritants including tobacco smoke or pollution. The symptoms of asthma and other respiratory disorders like it could be lessened or even eliminated if we could simply reduce the impact of these free radicals. Enters broccoli.

Broccoli is an excellent source of something known as sulforaphane. This compound is highly antioxidant, which means it protects the body from free radicals. Scientists with UCLA conducted tests to determine the effects sulforaphane might have on free-radical irritation of the airways. What they found was significant.

Participants were given various doses of broccoli sprouts or alfalfa sprouts (the control) and tested over a period of three days. The antioxidant enzyme levels of their airways were analyzed. The researchers found that broccoli sprouts actually increased antioxidant levels markedly—two to three times.

  “This is one of the first studies showing that broccoli sprouts — a readily available food source — offered potent biologic effects in stimulating an antioxidant response in humans,” said Dr. Marc Riedl, the study’s lead author. “This strategy may offer protection against inflammatory processes and could lead to potential treatments for a variety of respiratory conditions.”

The broccoli sprouts didn’t only affect one antioxidant enzyme either. In fact, they increased several.

“A major advantage of sulforaphane is that it appears to increase a broad array of antioxidant enzymes, which may help the compound’s effectiveness in blocking the harmful effects of air pollution,” said Riedl.

While the researchers stopped short of saying broccoli and broccoli sprouts should be included in the diet of every asthma sufferer, we won’t. While it may be too soon to recommend a particular dosage, boosting your broccoli intake could have dramatic positive effects on your airways, particularly if you suffer from an inflammatory disorder like asthma.

And as you might expect, you’ll be providing your body with numerous other benefits as well by consuming broccoli. The same compound, sulforaphane, has been shown to kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unaffected, help restore gut health, and boost health overall.

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