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Broccoli and cabbage promote immune system health and counteract inflammation

February 16, 2021
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Broccoli and cabbage promote immune system health and counteract inflammation

Nutrition plays an essential role in maintaining the health of the immune system and in modulating its action, both by stimulating the defenses, when it is necessary to deal with an external threat, and by helping to avoid inflammatory reactions, excessive, chronic or autoimmune. Today we know that another substance can help regulate the immune response. We are talking about sulforaphane, an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antitumor substance contained in vegetables of the cruciferous family, such as cabbage, cauliflower but above all broccoli and broccoli sprouts. This is what emerges from a very recent scientific research published in the Nutrients journal by an Australian team [1].

The antioxidant action of sulforaphane, capable of counteracting cellular degeneration, was already known thanks to previous studies. Its ability to modulate the immune system in animals was also known. Instead, until the publication of the research we are talking about today, nothing was known about a possible action to regulate the defenses in humans. That is why researchers from the University of Melbourne have decided to shed light on this aspect. 14 volunteers were recruited and a blood sample was taken. The blood was then put in contact with the sulforaphane and the amount of pro-inflammatory substances was evaluated both in the presence and in the absence of a stimulus induced by bacteria and viruses in order to test the inflammatory response. What emerged is that sulforaphane plays an effective regulating action on the immune system even in humans. Indeed, the researchers have observed, for the first time, that sulforaphane promotes a very particular and fascinating mechanism at the level of monocytes, which are a type of white blood cell generated by the bone marrow. Monocytes normally enter the bloodstream where, after a few hours, they reach the organs and become macrophages, the experts say that they mature. In turn, the macrophages will produce other molecules, such as pro-inflammatory interleukins and tumor necrosis factor alpha to stimulate the immune response and inflammation. Well, sulforaphane takes part of this process by promoting the transformation of monocytes into other immature cells capable of self-regulating their transformation into macrophages. In short, sulforaphane seems to allow the release of white blood cells capable of understanding when timely action is needed to combat the external threat, but without generating an excessive response, and when it is necessary to reduce inflammation to prevent it from becoming chronic.

The study is very small, in fact it involved just 14 people, but in any case of considerable importance because it made it possible to verify the immunomodulating properties of sulforaphane also on humans. Other studies will follow and, as anticipated by the same authors of the study, will be focused on understanding the dose of sulforaphane necessary to extinguish chronic inflammation in the case of diseases already in progress. In short, the aim is to make sulforaphane a real medicine useful to modulate the immune response. In the meantime, it is definitely a good choice to add cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and broccoli sprouts to your diet to fill up with sulforaphane and thus counteract free radical damage and inflammation and protect the health of the immune system.

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