From today we have one more reason to eat broccoli and crucifers in general. In fact, sulforaphane, a powerful antioxidant contained in vegetables belonging to this family, in addition to being an antitumor is also capable of protecting the liver from the accumulation of fat and of counteracting weight gain and an increase in triglycerides and insulin resistance. This emerges from a very recent scientific research that appeared in the Nutrients journal (Li et al, Nutrients, Dec 2021).
What is fatty liver and the damage it can cause
When we talk about fatty liver we mean a condition in which fats accumulate in the liver. Inflammation and oxidative stress complicate this condition, opening the way, in the long term, to more severe diseases, such as liver fibrosis, cirrhosis and cellular degeneration. Fatty liver affects up to 46% of the population in Western countries and therefore it is clear that any remedy, treatment or lifestyle capable of counteracting this condition must be taken into great consideration. Precisely to understand a possible protective action of some vegetables on the liver, the scientists leading the research we are talking about today have decided to focus attention on sulforaphane. Sulforaphane, an antioxidant from the isothiocyanate family, is contained in crucifers, such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, and has already shown, in previous studies, an anti-tumor action. More recent studies have also shown the ability of sulforaphane to reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver of animals. To understand a possible action of sulforaphane on the liver of human beings, the scientists therefore developed a research.
How cruciferous sulforaphane protects the liver and counteracts weight gain
The study took place in the laboratory on human liver cells. After inducing an accumulation of fat in these liver cells, the researchers placed the cells in contact with sulforaphane. What emerged was that sulforaphane, even in small doses, was able to counteract the accumulation of fats in the liver cells, activating the processes of lipolysis, that is, the degradation of fats, and preventing the deposit of lipids, and to protect the cells from oxidative stress, a condition that, as mentioned, is essential for any progression of the fatty liver. Hence, sulforaphane has been shown to protect the human liver from fatty liver condition as well. The second part of the study always took place in the laboratory but on a population of mice. In this case, sulforaphane has been shown to reduce the increase in body weight, triglycerides and ALT values, which are indicators of liver damage, despite a high-fat diet.