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Jewish World Review
Forget face-lifts and fake knees. Scientists have seen the fountain of youth --- and it's broccoli
Premium Health News Service
Call it, 'keen cuisine'
"I'm president of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli!" proclaimed George H.W. Bush in a 1990 news conference. America's 41st president disdained broccoli so much that he banned the vegetable from the White House menu.
Now 87, Bush may live to regret his broccoli bullying: New scientific evidence suggests that a chemical in broccoli may rejuvenate the immune system enough to ward off common diseases of aging.
At the University of California-Los Angeles, Andre Nel and colleagues recently discovered that sulforaphane, a phytonutrient in broccoli, activates antioxidant pathways at the cellular level.
"This is a radical new way of thinking about how to increase the immune function of elderly people to possibly protect against viral infections and cancer," Nel says.
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Injected into the dendritic cells (immune cells in the skin) of old mice, the sulforaphane flipped on a set of antioxidant genes and enzymes sufficiently to fight free radicals of oxygen to a standstill. The immune responsiveness of the old mice rose to that of young mice in the study. The researchers believe that broccoli may protect the immune system from such common accompaniments of aging as cardiovascular disease, degenerative joint diseases, and diabetes.
"We have known for some time that free radicals are important in aging," says Nel. "But most of the past attention has focused on mechanisms that produce free radicals rather than addressing the pathways used by the body to suppress their production." Free radicals are everywhere in our body; they help kill off intracellular bacteria, but they also interact with DNA, leading to diseases such as cancer.
The sulforaphane in broccoli and other members of the cabbage family also protects against cancer via another mechanism. In the liver, it induces the production of enzymes that detoxify carcinogenic substances.
Understanding molecular pathways is vital in unraveling the mysteries of aging. But it may be just as wise to reassess the love-hate relationship Americans have with broccoli. The sulfurous aroma it gives off while cooking is an acquired taste for many, but broccoli contains so many traditional nutrients and bioactive compounds that it deserves a high ranking on anyone's must-eat list.
Broccoli has a ripple effect on the body, revitalizing the immune system, the brain, and bones, says dietitian Suzanne Moorse. She believes that Nel's study, published recently in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, will kick off more research on the nutritional power of broccoli. Every vegetable has its own unique set of benefits for the body, she says, but broccoli seems to contain hundreds of vital nutrients.
"I would guess that this study is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the wonderful things broccoli and its vegetable friends can do for us," she said. For now, experts suggest a steady diet of cruciferous veggies--cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, as well as broccoli--for a healthy immune system.
Who ever thought the much-fabled fountain of youth would wind up looking a lot like broccoli!
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