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What Are Indoles?
January 03, 2013 03:59 PM
Indoles? What are these?
These are natural substances found in cruciferous vegetables when crushed or during cooking. Also referred to as indole-3-carbinol. Cruciferous vegetables include kales, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. These plants contain a high level of glucoSinolate glucobrassicin when broken down which is the main source of this substance. Indole is becoming increasingly popular since it is a powerful antioxidant and has been proved to help in relieving a number of ailments.
Benefits Of Indoles:
Some of the benefits of indole-3-carbinol is that is supports the liver's detoxification process which in extension assist the colon work effectively. Liver detoxification help in filtering out the unwanted impurities from our bodies and also when used as a colon supplement, help colon work properly to eliminate waste material from our bodies. Studies have shown that this supplement (I3C) is successive in treating a prostate cancer tumor and also preventing them in the first place.
Estrogen enhanced cancerous cells in the breast, cervix and endometrial can also be prevented if used as a dietary supplement. It works by altering estrogen metabolism and cellular activities. Especially for women, indoles are beneficial since it aids in the treatment of endometriosis which is a condition where the endometrial tissue form outside the uterus. This condition causes problems such as irregular periods, lower fertility and pelvic pain.
As a powerful antioxidant, indoles help in preventing cellular damage due to free radicals and maintains the hormonal balance of the body in both men and women. Studies have also proved that it helps reduce incidences of muscle soreness due to overexertion and menopausal symptoms, breast tenderness and cramping. Indoles have been known to cause no side effects to most people when used the same amounts as found in the diet hence is safe. It however causes skin rashes and an increase in liver enzymes in some people when not used appropriately.
DIM For Estrogen Balance
July 10, 2008 03:26 PM
Diindolylmethane from broccoli can help with estrogen balance: There is plenty of evidence to suggest that, but before discussing the whys and wherefores, let's first have a look at the substance, where it comes from and why it should have any effect on estrogen or its balance.
Diindolylmethane is an indole contained in brassicas such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts and cauliflower. It is a dimer of indole-3-carbinol, which is itself formed by the autolytic degradation of glucoSinolate glucobrassicin which is found in brassicas. Both this and the dimeric diindolylmethane are currently being tested for their antioxidant, anticancer and antiatherogenic properties, although this type of research has been mainly made on animals. When the cell walls of brassicas are ruptured, the enzyme myrosinase is released, that breaks down the glucobrassicin.
Because diindolylmethane is oil soluble it is more bioavailable to the body in the presence of vitamin E and other lipophilic substances, and these are normally included in oral supplements. However, back to estrogen and its effects upon human estrogen balance. Estrogen is the name for a group of steroids that function substantially as the female sex hormone. They have many effects on the body, including regulation of the menstrual cycle, breast development and promote the formation of secondary female characteristics such as reduced height and muscle mass.
Estrogen is also present in the male, where it regulates several factors pertaining to the reproductive system. It does not, however, take part in the process that determines sexual desire. If all of these properties are considered it would seem logical to believe that estrogen levels could be used to control weight increase, although claims that it can be use to enhance sexual performance seem ill founded: based more on hope than on science!
What science appears to have found, however, is that estrogen dominance, due to an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone levels in the body, can give rise to increased weight, and even obesity, in women. It can also lead to uterine, ovarian and breast cancers, and cervical dysplasia which, while not cancer, can give rise to cervical cancer if not treated. Estrogen imbalance, therefore, is not good news and something to be avoided if it possibly can. So what can be done to avoid it?
The answer is to find a hormonal balance, and this is where diindolylmethane (DIM) comes in. The substance has been found to have a positive effect on the balance between estrogen and progesterone, although eating broccoli will not be sufficient to do the job properly. Insufficient DIM is released by breaking the cell walls of broccoli through chewing to have much effect on the balance, about a kilo of broccoli a day being needed to have any noticeable effect. It is the diindolylmethane supplements that are able to have the desired effect in restoring the hormone balance and eliminating the undesirable effects of estrogen imbalance.
But why should estrogen imbalance occur? What are the factors that cause this dangerous condition, and if it is so common how did our ancestors manage without today's science? The answer to the second question lies in that to the first, but before we discuss that don't go thinking that your ancestors managed through thick and thin. Perhaps yours did, but your life expectancy is significantly greater than that of your parents when they were born. In fact, you don't have to go too far up your family tree to when you would be doing well if you hit forty! So the argument about your ancestors doesn't wash.
In fact, an estrogen imbalance can be caused by several factors: a slow estrogen metabolism that leads to an excess of estrogen because it is not broken down quickly enough is common, but far more common is the effect of pollutants such as pesticides, car exhaust fumes, emulsifiers, household cleaners and even some soaps. They contain chemicals known as xenoestrogens that our body believes to be real estrogens. They can stick to estrogen receptors on healthy cells, and can also prevent true estrogen from binding to the cell it should bind to. This results in an increase in free estrogen that cannot bind to the estrogen receptors that it should. Your ancestors did not have these problems with such 'estrogen mimics' and so managed just fine.
There is also the fact that estrogen can be broken down in the liver by means of two different routes: one leads to a form of estrogen that metabolizes to provide many benefits, such as strong bones and a reduction in heart disease, while the other has the opposite effect of causing cancers, depression, osteoporosis and problems with your immune system. That is by no means the full list: you don't want to see that, believe me!
You might think that if estrogen is dominant over progesterone, then taking progesterone would resolve the problem. It would seem to be a good cure. In fact, it is not a good idea since progesterone can be metabolized into yet more estrogen, making the problem even worse. The real answer is to take a supplement containing the substance that solves the problem by changing the estrogen metabolism pathways in the liver: diindolylmethane. More of the so-called "good" estrogen metabolites are formed, and less of the bad. The actual estrogen levels are not changed, but the way in which the excess estrogen causes harm is changed. That way, it doesn't matter what the imbalance is, the estrogen cannot do ham to your body.
DIM possesses many potential positive benefits when used as a supplement. It can reduce your chances of getting breast, cervical and ovarian cancers, and also acts as a strong antioxidant, and helps to strengthen your immune system. It might help you to lose weight, but more studies are needed before this can be claimed conclusively. However, there is evidence at the moment that it has a weight reducing effect.
Its effect on sexual health is largely unfounded, but the effect of a placebo in this area can be astounding: that indicates how much psychology has to do with sexual performance. Nevertheless, the known and projected benefits of diindolylmethane are so significant that taking a supplement would seem a reasonable thing to do, and although your mom was right about you eating your broccoli, brassicas alone are not a rich enough source for a significant effect.
Detox your Body with Wasabi Rhizome
January 29, 2008 10:30 AM
The Wasabi rhizome, the underground fleshy stem of the wasabia japonica plant, is prized not only for its fiery flavour but also its effect in detoxifying the liver. However, make sure that you are getting the real McCoy since many restaurants in the USA do not use the genuine paste.
The wasabi is a plant of the cruciferous family, the same family as cabbage, broccoli, turnip, radish, horseradish and mustard, and is native to Japan and Korea and now grown on the Pacific coast of Canada. It grows best in temperate to cold climates, especially in mountainous areas where there are plenty of cold streams.
Anybody who regularly enjoys sashimi and sushi should be familiar with the wasabi rhizome, that green lump of paste lying on the side of the plate. It is hot and fiery, although not in the same way as the chilli pepper that is fiery on the tongue and in the mouth. This tends to affect the sinuses more, and leaves a sweetish taste once the initial heat has dissipated. However, it is not always what it should be.
The last comment there refers to the practise, especially in the USA, of using dyed common horseradish as wasabi paste, so be careful of that since the two are not equivalent in the health benefits they impart to your body. Although of the same family as the horseradish, and sometimes termed the Japanese horseradish, ordinary horseradish does not have the same health benefits as genuine wasabi, and does not contain the same active ingredients so do not confuse the two.
Real wasabi is normally used grated, and there are specific techniques that should be used to grate wasabi rhizomes to bring out the fullness of the flavour. True grated wasabi should be of a natural pale greenish color rather than the brighter green normally associated with sushi restaurant wasabi.
Traditionally, wasabi rhizome is used as a condiment with sushi, although their leaves can also be used in salad dressings and or as a delicacy pickled in soy sauce or sake brine. The genuine vegetable is difficult to cultivate which explains why ordinary horseradish is dyed and used in its stead, and the vast majority of non-Japanese do not know the difference because it is likely to be all they have consumed under the name of wasabi. The health benefits of the genuine article, however, are considerable greater.
So that’s what it is, but what does it do? What are the health benefits of wasabi rhizomes and why are they considered to be so good for your liver? Wasabi rhizomes contain substances that are very effective in detoxifying you liver, and that are also very strong antioxidants that provide you with good overall health benefits in their capacity to destroy the free radicals created by the pollution of modern living.
The active antioxidants in the rhizome are precursors of isothiocyanates, which are known as phytochemicals. These are chemicals that can protect or prevent diseases through its antioxidant properties. The term ‘precursor’ means that the isothiocyanates are synthesized by your body from the nutrients contained in the wasabi rhizome. Other examples of phytochemicals that you may have heard of are carotenoids, flavonoids and polyphenols that also possess antioxidant properties.
Other antioxidants are vitamins A and E, which is why these are used in anti-wrinkle creams, since their anti-oxidant effect helps to prevent the free radicals destroying the skin cells in the dermis and epidermis that leads to the wrinkles associated with aging. Wasabi is equally effective as an antioxidant, although it has other properties that are important to your liver.
The liver is your body’s chemical plant. That is where most of the chemical reactions take place that are essential for life. If your liver is unhealthy you can develop diseases such as hepatitis and cirrhosis, and a healthy liver is essential for life let alone a healthy life. Wasabi helps to detoxify and clean out your liver.
Apart from creating the wide variety of enzymes needed to process your food, and controlling the vast majority of the biochemistry of your body, your liver is also your detoxification plant that coverts toxins into biodegradable molecules that your waste disposal system can evacuate without harm. This occurs in two phases.
Phase I coverts the toxin to a form that your body can further process (the bioactive form), and Phase II breaks it down into a form that your kidneys can handle and eject it in your urine. Isothiocyanates are involved in the production of the enzymes that enable the chemical reactions of Phase II to proceed. They allow your body to cleanse itself of toxins, and without this process you would be less healthy and more prone to cancers and other undesirable conditions and diseases in your body.
It is becoming more important in this modern age with its increasing natural and synthetic pollution that your liver is working at peak efficiency. Your liver is equally as important to you as your heart and brain, and without it you cannot survive. Wasabi also contains glucoSinolates that help the isothiocyanates to induce the production of Phase II enzymes, and it is general believed that eating this tuber cab help protect you against stomach, colon and breast cancers as well as help your cardiovascular system and blood clotting.
An interesting fact is how wasabi rhizome came to be traditionally served with raw fish. The isothiocyanates precursors, and the glucoSinolates that wasabi also contains, apparently help to destroy the bacteria associated with raw fish, and help prevent disease and illness. It was likely found healthier to include a dollop of this green paste with your sushi than not, and so the use of common horseradish might be somewhat questionable if it has less of an effect.
Make sure, therefore, that your have the real thing, and apart from any specific health considerations associated with eating raw fish, you are best advised to take it as a supplement to help Detox your liver rather than visit sushi bars for your consumption. It will also help your wallet!
You Should Say: Please Pass the Broccoli, Not I’ll Pass
January 22, 2008 04:38 PM
'Please pass the broccoli': not something that many mothers hear from their children. In fact, not many children appear to like any green vegetables let alone broccoli. This is not important at such a young age, but there comes a time when the health benefits that broccoli brings become almost essential to your good health and well being. Parents are right, but your children won’t believe you.
Some say that the nutritional punch of broccoli is stronger than that of any other vegetable. Is this claim justified? Let’s have a look at the evidence and the facts and you can judge for yourself. First the ‘ordinary’ nutrients of broccoli: vitamin C (more than oranges) and A, folic acid and calcium and also lots and lots of fiber. However, this wonderful vegetable contains not only high levels of calcium, but is also the one of the richest vegetable sources of magnesium. Calcium needs magnesium in order to be properly incorporated into your bone structure, and so broccoli is a very important calcium/magnesium source for vegans that do not drink milk or eat any other dairy products.
It is also rich in protein, containing 3% by weight and is also rich in iron. It is therefore an important part of the diet of women during menstruation when iron is important to enable the blood to maintain its proper erythrocyte levels. A deficiency of iron in the diet of women can lead to anemia and render them more susceptible to infection. However, it is more than just iron that renders this vegetable an important part of the female diet. Broccoli has been established to be of major importance in preventing cancer.
It is likely the most potent anti-cancer vegetable in your diet, and it has been established over 20 years of study that broccoli can help to prevent cancers of the breast and the cervix. The indoles that it contains prevent estrogens from promoting tumor growth, and it also contains beta-carotene, a strong antioxidant that destroys the free radicals that can also cause cancer. However, there is more to broccoli than just that.
Broccoli contains the highest concentration of sulforaphane of all the cruciferous vegetables that include Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, rocket and turnip, amongst many others. When you chew broccoli, the glucoSinolate glucoraphan is converted to sulforaphane, not by the enzymes in your saliva, but by the actual physical damage done to the plant by the act of chewing. It could likely also be generated by hitting it with a hammer! It is glucoSinolates that provide the slightly bitter taste many people experience when they eat vegetables such as brussels sprouts and broccoli, and that likely renders them somewhat unattractive to children!
Sulforaphane is an isothiocyanate containing the NCS functional group, and is actually bound loosely to the sugar as sulforaphane glucoSinolate. It is the loose binding that allows it be released on chewing. Broccoli sprouts are its richest source, and it is a strong antioxidant which is why it is so effective in reducing the possibility of certain cancers.
When fighting cancers, your body produces phase-II enzymes, and since sulforaphane induces these enzymes, it stops the carcinogens before they can damage your DNA. This is achieved through the enhancement of the transcription of the proteins that suppress the tumors. In layman’s terms, it is the generation of tumor suppressant proteins from DNA that kills off the tumors before they can destroy the DNA.
There is even more however. Indoles have already been mentioned, and those in question are predominantly indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and 3,3-diindolylmethane (DIM). The latter is generated from the digestion of the former and possesses very potent anti-cancer properties. However, this indole can affect your health in ways other than just as an anti-cancer agent. It can modulate the immune system in a way that renders it suitable for the treatment of a number of viral infections, and is also believed to be a possible answer to the problem of bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. It appears to operate synergistically with Interferon-Gamma, a cytokine that helps to prevent viruses from replicating within the cells of the body, to strengthen the MHC-I Complex, a part of the human genome that supports the immune response to viral attacks.
To put it plainly, broccoli can aid your resistance not only to certain cancers, but also to attack by viruses and some bacteria. It is not only cancers of the cervix and breast that broccoli can help to prevent, but also of the lung, prostate, larynx and bladder. I3C also helps to support the function of your liver in detoxifying your blood as well as supporting the cellular reproduction without which your body could not maintain itself after damage.
Broccoli is therefore an important vegetable to men as well as to women, not only for its anti-cancer properties, but also as a general antioxidant and consequent free radical scavenging properties. Its high fiber content is equally split between soluble and insoluble vegetable fiber, and so meets your dietary needs of both types.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli have been singled out by health organizations the world over as essential to your diet, and you should eat them regularly. Once daily would be good, but more is recommended if possible. As stated at the start, strong tasting vegetables containing glucoSinolates might not be attractive to children and younger people, but their phytochemical content (the foresaid indoles and isothiocyanates) render them very potent antioxidants and anti-cancer foods.
Taken in relation to other foods, an ounce of broccoli contains as much calcium as a glass of milk, more vitamin C than a similar weight of orange, and a medium floret has more fiber than one slice of bran bread. It is rich in vitamin A and of course there are the other antioxidants and anti-cancer phytochemicals already detailed.
There are many ways of cooking broccoli to maintain its nutritional content, but if you do not like broccoli, then there are supplements available. You can purchase pure broccoli extract or an extract from a mixture of cruciferous vegetables. The choice is yours, but of one thing there can be no doubt. Broccoli is the king of green vegetables, and the nutrients it contains are not available in any other vegetable in such a concentrated and easy to assimilate form.
Your mom was right: it's not just 'eat your veg', but 'eat your broccoli'. No nutritional advice could be better than that. “Pass the broccoli please mom!”
Fruit and Vegetable Lightning drink mixes from Natures Plus
February 06, 2007 02:41 PM
Enjoy the Rainbow – the Color Wheel of Fruits and Vegetables
We’ve all heard the statistics, and have probably seen the signs in the produce section of our favorite grocery store: eating 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day is important,
Chances are also pretty good that we’ve also seen the newest food pyramid, encouraging Americans to “eat a rainbow of frits and vegetables.” That is, choose from the rich variety of colors for the best all-around health benefits.
In this Ask the Doctor, we’re going to look at the unique health components of different colored fruits and vegetables, and why they’re so important. Plus, we’ll learn about supplemental options, like fruit and vegetable drink mixes, for those days when our diets just aren’t that great.
Q. What’s the big deal about fruits and vegetables?
A. Well, for the main reason that they are whole foods – created by nature (or at least generations of farming) and are rich in a variety of nutrients. Processed foods can’t match the health benefits of strawberries or broccoli – items that have fiber, vitamins, and enzymes built right in.
Q. What does “eating a rainbow” of fruits and vegetables really mean?
A. This is simply an easy way of remembering to get as much color variety in your diet as possible to maximize your intake of a broad range of nutrients. The colors of fruits and vegetables are often a tangible clue to the unique vitamins and other healthy substances they contain. Getting a variety of colors, therefore, means getting a variety of the essential nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and strong.
Enjoying the Rainbow: Fruit and Vegetable Benefits:
Q. Can you tell me a little more about the healthy components of fruits and vegetables?
Let’s take a look at some of the most well-studied and important nutrients:
Quercetin is found in apples, onions and citrus fruits (also is hawthorn and other berries and apple-related fruits usually used in traditional herbal remedies and modern supplements). It prevents LSL cholesterol oxidation and helps the body cope with allergens and other lung and breathing problems.
Clinical studies show that quercetin’s main points of absorption in the body appear to be in the small intestine – about 50%. The rest – at least 47% is metabolized by the colonic micro flora – the beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum. You may consider adding these beneficial bacteria (found in yogurt) either through the diet or a supplemental form.
Ellagic Acid is a component of ellagitannins – dietary polyphenols with antioxidant (and possibly anticancer) properties. Polyphenols are the basic building blocks of many plant-based antioxidants. More complex phenolic compounds, such as flavonoids are created from these molecules.
Ellagic acid is found in many fruits and foods, namely raspberries, strawberries, pomegranates, and walnuts. Clinical studies suggest that ellagitannins and ellagic acid act as antioxidants and anticarcinogens in the gastrointestinal tract.
Ellagitannins are durable antioxidants, and happily, they do not appear to be diminished by processing, like freezing. This means the benefits are still strong, even in frozen packs of raspberries or strawberries, or some of the better multi-ingredient supplement drink mixes.
In scientific studies, ellagic acid also showed an anti-proliferative effect on cancer cells, decreasing their ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production. ATP is the molecule that provides the primary energy source for the cells in our bodies. In a sense, ellagic acid seems to deprive cancer cells of their fuel.
Beta-Carotene: Probably the best-known of the carotenoids, beta-carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A. Many vegetables, especially orange and yellow varieties, are rich in this nutrient. Think summer squash, yams and of course, carrots.
Beta-carotene has long been associated with better eyesight, but it has other benefits, too. In a scientific study, beta-carotene decreased cholesterol levels in the liver by 44% and reduces liver triglycerides by 40%.
Lycopene is a carotenoid mostly found in tomatoes, but also in smaller amounts in watermelon and other fruits. Clinical studies have shown that lycopene consumption may decrease the risk of prostate cancer. In fact, high intakes of lycopene are associated with a 30% to 40% reduced risk. And, as good as beta-carotene is, its cousin, lycopene, seems to be an even stronger nutrient, protecting not just against prostate cancer, but heart disease as well.
Lutein is found in many fruits and vegetables, including blueberries and members of the squash family. Lutein is important for healthy eyes, and in fact it is found in high concentrations naturally in the macular region of the retina – where we see fine detail. It is one of the only carotenoids, along with its close sibling zeaxanthin, that is found in the macula and lens of the eye.
Lutein also supports your heart, too. In a scientific study, lutein reduced atherosclerotic lesion size by 43%. In other words, high intakes of lutein may actually help prevent coronary artery disease!
Interestingly, as is the case with lycopene, cooking or processing foods with lutein may actually make it more easily absorbed.
In clinical studies, men with high intakes of lutein (and its close cousin, zeaxanthin, found in broccoli and spinach) had a 19% lower risk of cataract, and women had a 22% decreased risk, compared to those whose lutein intakes were much lower.
Vitamin C: One of the best-known nutrients out there, vitamin C keeps our immune system strong; speeds wound healing, and promote strong muscles and joints. A free-radical fighter, vitamin C prevents oxidative damage to tissues, builds strength in collagen and connective tissue, and even reduces joint pain.
Sources of vitamin C are scattered throughout the spectrum of fruits and vegetables.
Potassium: Most Americans are deficient in potassium. For the most part, it’s hard to get too much of this valuable mineral. Potassium does great things for our hearts. Higher intakes of dietary potassium from fruits and vegetables have been found in clinical research to lower blood pressure in only 4 weeks.
Many researchers believe that the typical American diet has led to a state of chronic, low-grade acidosis – too much acid in the body. Potassium helps change pH balance to a more alkaline environment in the body and increases bone density.
This was proven in the long-running Framingham Heart Study which showed that dietary potassium, (along with magnesium and fruit and vegetable intake) provided greater bone density in older individuals.
Fiber is another food component many just don’t get enough of – especially if they’re eating a “typical American diet.” Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are excellent sources of fiber. However, fiber from a good fruits and vegetable drink mix should be derived from inulin and chicory root. This soluble fiber source not only adds to the overall amount of fiber you need (25 to 38 grams a day), but also provides a nice “nesting ground” for the beneficial bacteria that populate the intestines. And, even though some fiber has a bad rap for inhibiting mineral absorption, inulin and chicory root are “bone building” fibers – they actually help the body absorb calcium.
Flavonoids are an overarching term that encompasses flavonols, anthocyanidins, and flavones, isoflavones, proanthocyanidins, Quercetin and more. They are almost everywhere: in fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, nuts and seeds – even in the coffee, wine and tea we drink. Flavonoids are responsible for the colors in the skins of fruits and the leaves of trees and other plants.
Flavonoids have many health benefits. They can help stop the growth of tumor cells and are potent antioxidants. Additionally, flavonoids have also been studied for their ability to reduce inflammation.
Anthocyanins: High on the list of important “visible” nutrients are anthocyanins. They color fruits and vegetables blue and red.
Anthocyanins are members of this extended family of nutmeats, the flavonoids. Typically found in high amounts in berries, anthocyanins are readily absorbed in the stomach and small intestine.
As antioxidants, anthocyanins dive deep into cell membranes, protecting them from damage. IT may be one reason why the anthocyanins from blueberries are considered such an important component in battling neuronal decline, like Alzheimer’s. Blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are also excellent sources of this flavonoids group.
SDG lignans, (short for secoisolaricireSinol diglucoside) are polyphenolic components of flaxseed, pumpkin and other herbal sources. Much of the recent research surrounding lignans has focused on flaxseed. In scientific and clinical studies, lignans from flaxseed support hormonal balance and may have cancer-preventing abilities. In fact, in one study, flaxseed lignans reduced metastatic lung tumor by 82% compared to controls.
The lignans in pumpkin seed, also considered a major source, target 5-alpha reductase activity.
This enzyme catalyzes the conversion of testosterone into the more potent dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT, like testosterone, is a steroid hormone or androgen. Androgens are responsible for the development and maintenance of masculine sex characteristics in both men and women. Excess levels of DHT can cause serious problems with prostate or bladder health. That’s why modulation of the 5-alpha reductase enzyme is so important – it helps maintain healthy testosterone and DHT levels. By balancing the levels of these key hormones, pumpkin seed lignans provide protection for prostate and bladder cells.
In addition, pumpkin seed has been shown to modulate the enzyme aromatase. Aromatase is present in the estrogen-producing cells of the adrenal glands, ovaries, testicles, adipose tissue, and brain. Aromatase converts testosterone, an androgen, into estradiol, and estrogen.
Inhibition of the aromatase conversion can help maintain a balance of healthy testosterone levels in women, which has been shown to strengthen pelvic muscles and reduce incidence of incontinence.
In fact, a clinical study, involving a pumpkin extract in conjunction with soy, resulted in significant support for bladder health. After two weeks of supplementation, 23 of the 39 postmenopausal women enrolled in the study showed great improvement in urinary frequency and sleep. By the end of the six week study, 74.4 percent of participants found pumpkin extract safely and significantly improved “nocturnia,” that is, the need to urinate frequently at night. For individuals with 2 to 4 episodes of nocturnia prior to the stud, and 81.8% improvement was seen – also showing great improvement in sleep quality. After all, if you don’t have to wake up every couple of hours to go to the bathroom you’re bound to get better sleep.
Beta glucan: Mushrooms are intense immune-boosting powerhouses due to their beta-glucan content. Three well-studied power-house mushrooms that contribute beta glucan to the diet include maitake, reishi and shiitake.
The most significant constituents of mushrooms are long chain polysaccharides (molecules formed from many sugar units) known as beta-glucan. These huge molecules act as immunoregualtors in the human body, helping to stabilize and balance the immune system.
This includes specific support of white blood cells, or lymphocytes, the primary cells of the immune system. Lymphocytes fall broadly into three categories: T cells, B cells, and natural killer (NK) cells.
In one clinical study, 165 patients with various types of advanced cancer were given maitake mushroom compounds alone or with chemotherapy. Cancer regression or significant symptom improvement was observed in 58% of liver cancer patients, and 62% of lung cancer patients. Plus, when maitake was taken in addition to chemotherapy, the immune cell activities were enhanced 1.2 to 1.4 times, compared with chemotherapy alone.
In another clinical study, researchers determined that Reishi increased the number of cancer killing white blood cells and made them more deadly to cancer cells.
And, in a scientific study of human breast cancer and myeloma cancer and myeloma cancer cell lines, shiitake compounds provided a 51% antiproliferative effect on the cells – inducing “apoptosis’ – the programmed cell death that should occur naturally.
While beta-glucan are distributed throughout the mushroom body, the beta-glucan concentrations are significantly higher in the mycelium – the interwoven fibers or filaments that make up the “feeding structure” of the mushroom.
Bioflavonoids are commonly found in bright yellow citrus fruits, including lemons, limes and oranges. They are responsible for the bright pigment found in the skin of the fruit, and are considered a “companion” to vitamin C, seeming to extend the value of the nutrient within the body.
Hesperidin is just one of the valuable bioflavonoids found in citrus. Hesperidin appears to lower cholesterol levels, as well as support joint collagen in examples of rheumatoid arthritis.
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG):
Polyphenols, most notably EGCG, or epigallocatechin gallate, are well-studied and powerful components of tea. EGCG has been shown to reduce colon and breast cancer risk. Green tea also boosts the immune system and encourages T-cell formation – part of the front-line defense of our bodies against sickness and disease.
Q. I’ve been seeing articles about fruits, vegetables and supplements touting “high ORAC value.” What does this mean?
ORAC is an acronym for Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity, and is simply a measurement of antioxidant activity of nutrients. Oxygen radicals, or free radicals, are unstable molecules. They grab electrons from other cells to use for themselves, and in the process can damage them. It is believed that free radical activity plays a role in the development of many diseases such as heart disease and cancer, and also plays a role in aging.
Antioxidants help prevent this damage by “loaning out” extra electrons to stabilize free radicals/ Consider any fruit or vegetable with a high ORAC rating as having a lot of “antioxidant power.”
I know I should eat more fruits and vegetables, but it just seems so hard to get five servings a day.
The number one excuse I hear for not buying frits and veggies is that “fruits and vegetables are too expensive.” But are they really? Certainly, fresh foods that aren’t in season and have to be shipped a distance can be a bit pricey. If anyone added up how much spend on fast food, or prepackaged or processed snacks, it would probably be shocking.
Luckily, there are many ways to get your “Daily 5”. For instance, frozen fruits and veggies retain much of their nutrient profile. They can be an excellent alternative when certain foods are out of season. So too, are fruit and vegetable drink mixes – excellent supplemental sources of some of the nutrients our bodies need most.
More recently, the American
Of course, for people not accustomed to the fiber in fruits and veggies, there is some reason to think it’ll increase gas. When cell walls break down, and fiber passes through the system, it can create flatulence. Folks who eat fruits and vegetables every day generally don’t have this problem. Their systems are already accustomed to it.
For those just starting out on a better diet, however, start slowly – it helps your body adapt. Cooking vegetables can help, too, because it begins breaking down the cell walls early on.
One thing is certain, however. The “Typical American Diet” and good health are mutually exclusive. The increase in type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and hypertension all point to the abuse our bodies suffer by eating diets high in fatty meats, processed sugars, and refined grains.
Q. Can I just drink fruit and vegetables drinks in place of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables?
Green drinks and fruit and vegetable drink mixes aren’t meant to replace whole foods, but they can be an excellent substitute when you’re rushed or traveling or just trying to fill everyday nutritional gaps. Their whole food ingredients absorb very easily and gently in the gut, and many of these drink mixes contain healthy doses of fiber, too.
Green drink mixes and food-based drink mixes combine many colorful fruits and vegetables and sometimes grasses in a healthy, mixable supplement assortment. While there have been many advancements in the field of green drinks, there are only a few that take the primary reason we eat into consideration: taste!
Happily, there are some companies out there with great-tasting drink mixes that also formulate based on the color concept, ensuring you get the broadest assortment of nutrients from a full range of fruit and vegetable colors to promote optimal health.
High-quality fruit and vegetable drink mixes offer the best from nature’s color wheel in a convenient and great-tasting supplement. So, the next tie you feel like taking a coffee break – try a fruit and veggie break instead. Your body and spirit will thank you.
May 13, 2005 08:38 AM
Sulforaphane Stimulates the Body's Cancer-Fighting EnzymesSecret Weapon Against Cancer Found in Broccoli Sprouts
by Richard Conant, L.Ac, C.N.
The health benefits of vegetables were known historically, long before researchers began seeing a connection between vegetable consumption and cancer prevention. Over the last twenty years, evidence concerning this connection has steadily accumulated. The latest and most promising findings reveal that specific vegetable constituents—"phytochemicals" to use current scientific parlance— enhance the body's defenses against cancer.
This article will focus on one phytochemical in particular, a sulfur-containing compound called "sulforaphane." Found in Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, sulforaphane may prove to be one of our most powerful cancer prevention allies. Recent studies have shown that sulforaphane stimulates, or "induces," "Phase two enzymes." These enzymes are an integral part of the body's elaborate detoxification system that renders carcinogens inactive. This detoxification system turns carcinogens and other toxic substances into harmless molecules that are excreted from the body.
We need not fear carcinogens—the body is equipped to deal with them.
These findings, coupled with an appreciation of the body's ability to defend itself against carcinogens, have the potential to dramatically change the way we look at cancer and substances in the environment that "cause" cancer. We need to minimize unnecessary exposure to carcinogens, and the staggering quantity of hazardous chemicals in the environment remains an urgent health concern, for cancer and many other health problems. But, knowing the body is equipped with the means to defend itself against toxins, we do not need to fear carcinogens as perhaps we have in the past.
The natural world is full of carcinogens.
What's more, even if you eat 100 percent organic food and live in a environment free of toxic man-made chemicals, you are still being exposed to carcinogens every day of your life. Food is the primary route of this exposure. Plants, for their own defense, produce over 99% of all the pesticides in agricultural products.1 Almost all foods—in their natural state—contain tiny amounts of naturally-occurring, potentially carcinogenic chemicals.
The point is not to trivialize the concern over environmental toxins. The point is that the natural world is full of toxins that are not man-made. These substances have been around since before we appeared, which is why we have evolved with a highly efficient system for neutralizing them before they can damage our cells and initiate the complex process that produces cancer.
Broccoli sprouts are a concentrated source of cancer-fighting sulforaphane.
We cannot avoid carcinogens. What we can do is support our internal detoxification system. Sulforaphane is a powerful tool in this effort. We can start by following the often-repeated advice to eat a variety of vegetables every day, and include broccoli in our menu.
There is an even richer source of sulforaphane than broccoli itself. In September 1997, a group of scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine made a breakthrough discovery— broccoli sprouts contain ten to one hundred times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli.2 Vegetable sprouts are generally regarded as exceptionally healthy foods. Broccoli sprouts now look like a shining star, especially when it comes to cancer prevention.
For those lacking the time or inclination to keep a fresh supply of broccoli sprouts on hand, broccoli spouts have been processed into an extract that is even more concentrated in sulforaphane. More on this later.
What have researchers learned about broccoli consumption and cancer rates?
More than 200 epidemiological studies—studies which track groups of people over time to uncover realtionships between variables such as diet and the incidence of disease—have invesitgated the connections between vegetable consumption and various forms of cancer.1 It should be understood that findings from epidemiological research are generally not regarded as conclusive; these studies are not controlled, and often use data gleaned from questionnaires, which are an imprecise method of gathering information. (In the case of diet questionnaires, for example, the study subjects may or may not record their food intakes with 100 percent accuracy.)
Epidemiological studies look for trends. To be credible, these trends need to show up consistently, in different population groups. Findings from the vegetable intake/cancer studies easily meet these criteria; the number of studies is large and the trend is consistent—vegetable consumption is strongly associated with a lower risk of developing cancer.
What about broccoli in particular? A paper published in the September 1996 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention analyzes epidemiological data gathered from 94 studies concerning the cancer preventive effect of brassica vegetables.3 (The Brassica genus, part of the Cruciferae family, includes broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.) The data suggest that broccoli consumption reduces the risk of some of the most feared forms of cancer, including stomach and lung cancer.
Now, to put these data into a balanced perspective, the researchers point out that in most of the studies reviewed, brassica vegetable consumption was reported as part of the total vegetable intake. "In hardly any epidemiological studies was the effect of brassica vegetables separated from the effect of total vegetables or other vegetables by adjusting for consumption of these variables. Therefore, it is difficult to sort out whether the observed observation was attributable to brassica vegetables, to vegetables as a whole, or to other vegetables," they noted.
This uncertainty is a good example of why epidemiological studies alone do not give us open and shut conclusions. But the paper also adds that the apparent anti-cancer effect of brassica vegetables agrees with "the results of experimental studies in which brassica vegetables reduced mammary tumor incidence, hepatic tumor size, numbers of tumors per liver, tumor frequency, and the number of pulmonary metastases when given to rodents before or after a carcinogen insult."3
When you put together a plausible trend from epidemiological research with results of experimental studies that agree with the trend, and then add additional research that reveals the underlying mechanism for these observations, a clear picture begins to take shape. And, indeed, we now have a fairly good idea as to just how brassica vegetables, especially broccoli, help prevent cancer.
How sulforaphane helps prevent cancer from developing.
To see how sulforaphane works, let's look at a brief overview of the body's detoxification system.
The detoxification of carcinogens and other toxic substances takes place in the liver, and involves two distinct enzyme-driven processes or "phases". Phase one enzymes neutralize toxins by various routes. Some of these convert toxins into substances that are immediately eliminated. However, other Phase one steps convert toxins into intermediate products which are carcinogenic themselves, and require further treatment before they can be excreted. Phase two enzymes do this vital job. Phase two enzymes deactivate these carcinogenic metabolites of Phase one, and the final breakdown product is then eliminated once and for all. (For an excellent review of this subject, see Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, by Drs. Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno.4)
Phase two is critical. If Phase one is in good working order, but Phase two is not, the potential threat from carcinogens increases. It is vitally important to keep Phase two operating well. This is where sulforaphane plays its cancer preventive role. Sulforaphane is a powerful inducer of Phase two enzymes.5,6
Broccoli sprouts-the ideal source of sulforaphane
Sulforaphane is one among a group of phytochemicals called "isothiocyanates." (These occur in brassica vegetables largely as "glucoSinolates," which are precursors for isothiocyanates2,12 When the plant is crushed, glucoSinolates are converted to isothiocyanates.) Sulforaphane induces Phase two enzymes exclusively, leaving Phase one enzymes alone. This means it helps reduce the load of carcinogenic Phase one intermediates without adding to the load by stimulating Phase one.8,9
As reported by the Johns Hopkins University research group, broccoli sprouts are an "exceptionally" rich source of sulforaphane (in the form of "glucoraphanin, sulforaphane's glucoSinolate precursor). And broccoli sprouts have another advantage over mature broccoli. They contain almost no indole glucoSinolates, phytochemicals present in mature broccoli that "can enhance tumorogenesis."2
Broccoli sprouts as an extract, now available as a dietary supplement, takes the concentration of sulforaphane to the next level. This recently developed nutraceutical product contains a potent 20 to 1 extract of three-day old fresh broccoli sprouts.
One 125 mg capsule supplies the same amount of sulforaphane as 125 grams, or about 5 ounces, of mature broccoli. Taking just one capsule a day is like eating two pounds of broccoli per week, which equals the intake of cruciferous vegetables believed necessary to obtain their health benefits.
1. Steinmetz, K.A. Potter, J.D. Vegetables, fruit, and cancer prevention: A review. J Am Diet Assoc. 1996;96:1027-1039.
2. Fahey, J.W., Zhang, Y., Talalay, P. Broccoli sprouts: An exceptionally rich source of inducers of enzymes that protect against chemical carcinogens. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 1997; 94:10367-10372.
3. Verhoeven, D.T.H., et. al. Epidemiological studies on brassica vegetables and cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 1996;5:733-48.
4. Murray, M. Pizzorno, J. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing;1998:110-120.
5. Zhang, Y. Talalay, P, Cho, C., Posner, G.H. A major inducer of anticarcinogenic protective enzymes from broccoli: Isolation and elucidation of structure. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 1992;89:2399-2403.
6. Gerhäuser, C. et. al. Cancer chemopreventive potential of sulforamate, a novel analogue of sulforaphane that induces phase 2 drug-metabolizing enzymes. Cancer Research 1997;57:272-78.
7. McDanell, R., McLean, A.E.M., Hanley, A.B., Heaney, R.K., Fenwick, G.R. Chemical and biological properties of indole glucoSinolates (glucobrassicins): A review. Fd. Chem. Toxic. 1988;26(1):59-70.
8. Talalay, P. Mechanisms of induction of enzymes that protect against chemical carcinogenesis. in Advances in Enzyme Regulation, Vol. 28, Weber, G., Ed., 1989: Pergamon Press.
9. Prochaska, H.J. Santamaria, A.B., Talalay, P. Rapid detection of enzymes that protect against carcinogens. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 1992;89:2394-98.
VitaNet ® Staff