More research pointing to possible chemo-protective effects of cruciferous vegetables, in particular, broccoli: A new study published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research found that a compound derived from broccoli targets breast cancer stem cells — or CSCs. Like sinister cousins to ordinary stem cells (which can develop into any useful type of cell in the body), CSCs only develop into cancer cells, seeding malignancy and driving cancer recurrence. However, this heartening lab experiment from the University of Michigan discovered that this broccoli compound, called sulforaphane, killed up to 80% of nasty CSCs.

Further animal research found that sulphoraphane prevented mice afflicted with breast cancer from generating new tumors — whereas untreated mice developed devastating tumors within days. While the amount of sulforaphane was higher than what you’d normally get from consuming broccoli, previous research has linked higher intakes of broccoli with a reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer. Other research has indicated the potential protective breast benefits of other cruciferous vegetables: Juiced cauliflower was found to suppress breast cancer cell growth, while tripling cabbage intake was linked to a 66% lower risk of developing breast cancer, in one preliminary study.

Beyond breast cancer, broccoli compounds may offer a range of benefits including reducing diabetic damage and protecting the brain in the event of injury. A cup of steamed broccoli also contains 170% vitamin C and 280% vitamin K, all for a mere 50 calories.

Published June 1, 2010