A number of approximately 300 Chinese men and women who live in one of the country’s most polluted areas were involved in a clinical trial, which reports that daily consumption of a half cup of broccoli sprout beverage produces rapid, significant and sustained levels of benzene excretion, one of the most dangerous carcinogens and a lung irritant.

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Scientists from the Johns Hopkins Bloomerg School of Public Health used broccoli sprout beverage in order to create sulfotaphane, which is a plant compound that is already scientifically proven to have cancer preventive properties, in animal studies.

What this study reveals is that simple and safe methods can be taken by individuals in order to possibly reduce some of the long-term health risks that are associated with air pollution, ‘while government leaders and policy makes define and implement more effective regulatory policies to improve air quality’, according to Thomas Kensler, Ph.D., professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomerg School, co-author of the study.

The explanation of this result is that broccoli and related plants have been found to reduce risk of chronic degenerative diseases, including cancer. The main benefit of consuming the broccoli sprouts is that it contains glucoraphanin, which is a compound that is known to generate sulforaphane whenever the plant is chewed, either the beverage swallowed. The drink was found to increase enzymes that enhance the body’s capacity to expunge these types of pollutants.

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The 12-week trial, which included a number of 291 participants, selected them on the criteria of living in a rural farming commuity in Jiangsu Province, one of China’s most heavily industrialized areas. The participants were asked to drink a beverage made of sterilized water, pineapple and lime juice while the beverage for the tratment group additionally included glucoraphanin, as well as sulforaphane. Among the participants, 21 per cent were men (62) and 79 per cent were women (229), with a median age of 53. Urine as well as blood samples were taken during the trial to measure the fate of the inhaled air pollutants.

Among the findings, the rate of excretion of the carcinogen benzene increased by 61 per cent, and it began from the first day and continued throughout the 12 weeks. Moreover, the rate of excretion of the irritant acrolein increased rapidly and durably during the same period, by 23 per cent. Other analyses made by investigators suggedted that the sulforaphane could be exerting its protective actions by activating a signaling molecule, NRF2, which elevates the competency of the cells to adapt to and survive a large range of environmental toxins. The strategy could be effective for some contaminants in water and food, as well.

The trial targeting prevention evaluated a possible method to reduce the body burden of toxins which follow unavoidable exposures to dangerous pollutants. Most of the clinic trials involving treatments of diseases which were already presented and even advanced into later stages. Other analogue clinical trials are planned in the same Chinese region in order to evaluate the optimal dosage and the frequency of the broccoli sprout beverage.

Air pollution is a complex and pervasive public health problem. To address it comprehensively, in addition to the engineering solutions to reduce regional pollution emissions, we need to translate our basic science into strategies to protect individuals from these exposures. This study supports the development of food-based strategies as part of this overall prevention effort’, declared John Groopman, Ph.D., and Anna M. Baetjer Professor of Environmental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

A number of almost 7 million deaths a year worldwide is caused by the increasing global pollution and one of the most affected areas on the globe includes many parts of China, according to the World Health Organization.

The complete study can be found here: Rapid and Sustainable Detoxification of Airborne Pollutants by Broccoli Sprout Beverage: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial in China