It is no secret that diabetes disproportionately affects the African American population. Overall, only 9.3% of adults in the general population have been diagnosed with the disease. But while only 7.4% of white Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, that figure rises to 12.7% among African Americans.
Now, research from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine has shown that a compound found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables can help to reduce the negative effects of Type II diabetes that overweight adults experience.
The study was led by Jed Fahey, an associate professor and director of the Cullman Chemoprotection Center.
The chemical compound in question is called sulforaphane, which is a phytochemical, or a compound found in plants. It has been shown to have a positive effect on a large number of common diseases and ailments by increasing the body’s production of Nrf2.
Nrf2 is a protein that helps to regulate the creation of antioxidants that assist in repairing stressed, damaged, or even decaying cells throughout the body. By increasing your intake of sulforaphane, you increase your Nrf2, which thus increases your body’s ability to mitigate the damage caused by diseases such as diabetes.
If that sounds complicated, Fahey has an easy way of explaining it:
“This molecule [Nrf2] is responsible for shouting out to cells, ‘You’re in trouble; you’re being attacked by sunlight, by ultraviolet light, by toxins. You’ve got to up your game, you’ve got to enhance your protective strategy,'” he said to the said to the Baltimore Sun.
This study represents the newest in a series of efforts by John Hopkins researchers to explore the health benefits of broccoli. In fact, the sulforaphane compound was first isolated by Fahey’s predecessor, pharmacology professor Paul Talalay.
Two years after he first isolated the compound, Talalay made a discovery that earned him accolades around the world. He was able to show that sulforaphane was able to increase the body’s resistance to cancer, forever changing the way we think about broccoli.
Since then, researchers have experimented with the benefits of broccoli on a number of separate issues, from autism to Alzheimer’s. Researchers have even examined the way synthetic sulforaphane compounds might help osteoarthritis, a disease that affects over 30 million American adults.
Now, Fahey seems to be building on that growing body of knowledge. His study was the first to examine the effect of sulforaphane on diabetes, and so far it has been considered a success.
“This shows that sulforaphane is useful not only for cancer prevention,” said Fahey, “but it also demonstrates anti-diabetes and many other activities.”
The idea that Broccoli has benefits to health was hardly new, even in Talalay’s day. Broccoli has long been used as a home teeth whitener, and there is some evidence to support this claim. While not as medically beneficial as fighting diabetes, it could be argued that this is among its most widely applicable uses, with 96% of adults viewing an attractive smile an important factor in physical appearance.
But that doesn’t mean that the benefits of broccoli are all positive. Some feel that broccoli and similar leafy greens can help contribute to sleep deprivation, a condition that affects 60 million Americans.
For Fahey, the good clearly outweighs the bad, “We’ll keep trying to get the word out.””