Broccoli Contains a Natural Compound That May Slow Cancer Growth, Research Suggests

Zee Krstic

New research published in the journal Science suggests that a compound naturally found in cruciferous vegetables may inhibit cancerous cell growth in the body. Broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are examples of some of the nutrient-dense vegetables that contain the compound, which is called indole-3-carbinol, also known as "I3C." Researchers were able to successfully control another cancer-causing gene known as WWP1 using the compound in a study that involved both mice and humans.

The Harvard Medical School team behind the research set out in the hopes of reactivating a gene in the body called "PTEN," which helps the body stop tumor growth—the gene often deactivates in those who are diagnosed with most forms of cancer. But when analyzing cells in their subjects, they discovered that WWP1 stops the other gene, PTEN, from preventing cancerous growth. Later, researchers identified the compound found in broccoli and other veggies as a remedy to prevent PTEN from being deactivated; administering the compound to animals in particular, they illustrated that tumor growth dramatically slowed afterwards.

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It's no secret that vegetables are some of the best foods to incorporate into your diet, and the holistic benefits of eating more vegetables can be life changing. But in the study's release, lead author Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD, Ph.D., says that you'd have to eat upwards of six pounds of raw cruciferous vegetables everyday to absorb enough of the compound to fight cancerous cells. The team is working on a solution where those affected by cancer wouldn't have to eat so many vegetables to reap the benefit. "These findings pave the way toward a long-sought tumor suppressor reactivation approach to cancer treatment," Pandolfi, the director of the cancer research institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, told ScienceDaily.

Researchers are now working on a solution that can provide the benefits of this vegetable compound to anyone hoping to slow cancerous growths. This research adds another layer of evidence that suggests vegetables are powerhouse staples for any diet; there are plenty of innovative ways to incorporate broccoli into healthy weeknight dinners—not to mention cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, as well as cabbage, kale, and all the other delicious vegetables that fall under the cruciferous umbrella.