Broccoli helps fight cancer

Laura Mappas
Monday, January 4, 2010
Broccoli fights cancer. Image: Getty

If you up your broccoli intake by just a few servings a week you'll be helping fight cancer.

Stopping cancer in its tracks
"Everybody says eat your vegetables, but nobody can tell us why," says Richard Mitten, a biologist at Britain's Institute of Food Research. "Our [2008] study shows why vegetables are good."

A specific chemical found in the green veggie is the cancer-fighting key. According to Mitten, this wonder chemical sparks hundreds of genetic changes, activating some genes that fight cancer and switching off others that fuel tumours.

"When people get cancer some genes are switched off and some are switched on," Mitten says. "What broccoli seems to be doing is switching on the genes that prevent cancer developing and switching off other ones that help it spread."

Broccoli is best
While the researchers noted that other cruciferous vegetables that contain the compound isothiocyanate, such as brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, rocket, watercress and horseradish, would also be beneficial, broccoli also contains another stand-alone ingredient, the compound sulforaphane. And it's this compound that researchers believe gives broccoli its potent cancer-fighting kick.

Go back for seconds
While the focus of this study was primarily on prostate cancer, researchers say it's likely that these vegetables will also work in the same way in other parts of the body, and are more than likely capable of fighting a range of other cancers.

And the best bit — according to Mitten just a little bit of the healthy green stuff will have big benefits. "You don't need a huge change in your diet," he says. "Just a few more portions makes a big difference."

Corbis imagesDiet lessons you need to unlearn Getty imagesThe 3 best ways to curb sugar cravings Getty imagesSix bad eating habits and how to break them Eat smart for your heart

Ask our experts

Should I continue my affair with a married man? Our answer SEX & RELATIONSHIPS EXPERT Dr Gabrielle Morrissey

What's your BMI?


Body Mass Index Measure your BMI >>Find out if your body is in the healthy body mass index range. Calorie CounterCalorie CounterKeep track of your daily dietary intake. Burn BarometerBurn BarometerHow much exercise should you be doing?