Eating Broccoli Regularly Helps to Ward Off Stomach Cancer

Eating Broccoli Regularly Helps to Ward Off Stomach Cancer

London Free Press

Mon, May 4, 2009

By Dr. Richard Beliveau


Though many children would likely disagree, eating broccoli can be a lifesaver.  In addition to its ability to help prevent certain types of cancer, recent studies have shown broccoli also has antibacterial properties when it comes to a dangerous bacterium found in the stomach that can lead to cancer.


Helicobacter pylori are the only type of bacteria able to survive in the acidic conditions inside the human stomach, eventually infecting its inner walls. And that infection is no rare phenomenon, with nearly two thirds of the world’s population carrying this bacterium. While the majority of cases are found in developing countries, a significant number of North Americans also are carriers of the bacteria, especially those older than 60. 

Where public health is concerned, this high incidence of H. pylori infection has significant and lasting effects as it causes more than 75% of stomach ulcers. Even more alarming is its role in causing certain stomach cancers. Identifying ways to eradicate these bacteria could therefore reduce the frequency of stomach cancer, one of the biggest killers worldwide.


In 2002, researchers made a major breakthrough in determining ways to reduce the incidence of H. pylori infection. They discovered a molecule found in broccoli, sulforaphane, possessed strong antibiotic properties against H. pylori, which suggested the vegetable could play an important role in preventing stomach cancer.


To verify these findings, a pilot study was recently done in Japan, a country with a large portion of residents infected with H. pylori and a high incidence of stomach cancers. In this study, 25 volunteers carrying the bacteria ate 70 gm of broccoli sprouts daily, an excellent source of sulforaphane, while another group of volunteers ate alfalfa sprouts, which do not contain sulforaphane.  After two months on this diet, the presence of H. pylori in the stomachs for both groups was examined.  Those who consumed broccoli sprouts during the study saw their levels of H. pylori reduced by 40%.


Those results are even more impressive considering that the diet also contributed to a reduction in the inflammation of the stomach lining.


Because the ability of H. pylori to inflame the stomach lining plays a big role in the progression to stomach cancer, these results suggest regular consumption of broccoli could reduce the risk of these cancers.


The reduction of H. pylori levels while on a broccoli-rich diet is reversible, meaning as soon as a person stops consume the vegetable, the H. pylori comes back.  Consuming the vegetable regularly (two or three times a week) is the best way to protect yourself from stomach cancer, as well as bladder and prostate cancer.

Richard Beliveau holds the chair in the Prevention and Treatment of Cancer at the University of Quebec at Montreal, where he is a professor in the chemistry and biochemistry department.