Research reveals a broccoli boost for arteries

September 4, 2009,
Research reveals a broccoli boost for arteries
The new research suggests a way vegetables may help prevent heart disease.

(PhysOrg.com) -- New British Heart Foundation (BHF) research from Imperial College London may have revealed why vegetables are good for the heart. The findings suggest that a chemical found in vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, can boost a natural defence mechanism to protect arteries from disease.

Arteries don’t clog up in a uniform way. Bends and branches of blood vessels - where blood flow is disrupted and can be sluggish - are much more prone to the build-up of fatty plaques known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can lead to angina, heart attack and stroke.

BHF-funded researchers from Imperial College London have discovered that a normally-protective protein called Nrf2 is inactive in areas of that are susceptible to disease. But, they also found that treatment with a chemical found in certain vegetables - known to gardeners as ‘brassicas’ - can activate Nrf2 in these disease-prone regions.

Dr Paul Evans, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, who led the research team, said: “We found that the innermost layer of cells at branches and bends of arteries lack the active form of Nrf2, which may explain why they are prone to inflammation and disease. Treatment with the sulforaphane reduced inflammation at the high-risk areas by 'switching on' Nrf2.

“Sulforaphane is found naturally in , so our next steps include testing whether simply eating broccoli, or other vegetables in their ‘family’, has the same protective effect. We also need to see if the compound can reduce the progression of disease in affected arteries.”

Brassicas - also called ‘cruciferous’ vegetables - include broccoli (which has the highest levels of sulforaphane), cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy and rocket.

Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the BHF, said: “These fascinating findings provide a possible mechanism by which eating vegetables protects against heart disease.

“As well as adding evidence to support the importance of eating ‘five-a-day’, the biochemistry revealed in this research could lead to more targeted dietary or medical approaches to prevent or lessen disease that leads to heart attacks and strokes.”

Using normal mice, and mice engineered to lack the Nrf2 protein, the research found that in straight sections of arteries Nrf2 was present in the endothelial ‘lining’ cells. Through its action on other proteins, it prevented the cells from becoming inflamed, which is an early stage in the development of atherosclerosis.

In the lining cells of disease-prone sites - such as bending or branched arteries - Nrf2 was attached to a protein that made it inactive. This stifled its protective properties.

The addition of sulforaphane re-activated Nrf2 in the disease-prone regions of the artery, restoring the cells’ ability to protect themselves from becoming inflamed. The researchers believe that this will enable these artery regions to remain healthy for longer, or even reduce the progression of existing disease. This will be tested in their next phase of research.

The research is published today in the Journal Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

More information: Activation of Nrf2 in Endothelial Cells Protects Arteries From Exhibiting a Proinflammatory State. M Zakkar et al. Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, DOI: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.109.193375

Provided by Imperial College London (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Scientists grow human esophagus in lab

September 20, 2018
Scientists working to bioengineer the entire human gastrointestinal system in a laboratory now report using pluripotent stem cells to grow human esophageal organoids.

Study identifies stem cell that gives rise to new bone and cartilage in humans

September 20, 2018
A decade-long effort led by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists has been rewarded with the identification of the human skeletal stem cell.

Researchers identify human skeletal stem cells

September 20, 2018
Human skeletal stem cells that become bone, cartilage, or stroma cells have been isolated from fetal and adult bones. This is the first time that skeletal stem cells, which had been observed in rodent models, have been identified ...

A new app enables a smartphone to ID bacteria in just one hour

September 20, 2018
In a potential game changer for the health care industry, a new cell phone app and lab kit now allow a smartphone to identify bacteria from patients anywhere in the world. With the new app, doctors will be able to diagnose ...

Synthetic sandalwood found to prolong human hair growth

September 19, 2018
A team of researchers led by Ralf Paus of the University of Manchester has found that applying sandalwood to the scalp can prolong human hair growth. In their paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the group ...

Zombie cells found in brains of mice prior to cognitive loss

September 19, 2018
Zombie cells are the ones that can't die but are equally unable to perform the functions of a normal cell. These zombie, or senescent, cells are implicated in a number of age-related diseases. And with a new letter in Nature, ...

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

irjsiq
5 / 5 (1) Sep 05, 2009
Never a fan of Broccoli, until I began buying Fresh Broccoli . . . Microwaved to the standards of one's desired 'al dente'; broccoli is great as a vegetable entre!
Roy Stewart,
Phoenix AZ
georgert
not rated yet Sep 05, 2009
Microwaved? Steamed with ground hot red pepper and some cumin. That's the ticket.
markkens
not rated yet Sep 05, 2009
If you don't have steak...steamed broccoli and Hollandaise sauce.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.