Broccoli sprouts may prevent stomach cancer by defeating Helicobacter pylori

PHILADELPHIA – Three-day-old broccoli sprouts, a widely available human food, suppressed Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infections, according to a report in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. H. pylori infections are one of the most common bacterial infections worldwide and are a major cause of stomach cancer.

The cancer protective effects of sulforaphane, a phytochemical from broccoli, have been known for almost two decades, but this is the first study to show an effect of broccoli in humans on the bacterial infection that leads to stomach cancer. In this study, researchers enrolled 48 Helicobacter-infected Japanese men and women and randomly assigned them to eat 70 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts daily for eight weeks or an equivalent amount of alfalfa sprouts.

“Broccoli has recently entered the public awareness as a preventive dietary agent. This study supports the emerging evidence that broccoli sprouts may be able to prevent cancer in humans, not just in lab animals,” said Jed Fahey, Sc.D., a faculty research associate in the Department of Pharmacology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Researchers assessed the severity of H. pylori infection at enrollment, and again at four and eight weeks using standard breath, serum and stool tests. H. pylori levels were significantly lower at eight weeks on all three measures among those patients who had eaten broccoli sprouts, while they remained the same for patients who had eaten alfalfa sprouts.

A reduction in H. pylori is expected to lead to a reduction in stomach cancer due to their well-established cause-and-effect link. Stomach cancer has a grim prognosis and is the second most common and the second deadliest cancer worldwide.

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