In addition to being low in calories and high in a variety of nutrients, broccoli may have the added benefit of helping patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) fight off lung infections, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
The sulforaphane found in the vegetable stimulates production of a molecule known as Nrf2, which helps produce free radical-neutralizing antioxidants in the body.
“This research may help explain the long-established link between diet and lung disease, and raises the potential for new approaches to treatment of this often-devastating disease,” said study co-author Robert Wise.
The authors theorized that Nrf2 may help increase the amount of macrophages in the body, which are molecules that remove bacteria. They tested their hypothesis using sulforaphanes, because the compound has previously been shown to help produce Nfr2.
The sulforaphane treatment helped kill two types of bacteria that affect people with COPD and increased the macrophage’s ability to uptake bacteria by 300 percent.
In a study of mice, the compound was shown to reduce lung inflammation; while in humans, sulforaphane supplements raised blood levels of antioxidants.