Even though giant pharmaceutical companies spend millions to develop new drugs, many of the most important discoveries in fighting cancer are still coming from investigations into natural chemicals created by plants.
These are compounds that are already entering our bodies – in our food. Provided you eat right.
And now researchers at Oregon State University say that a natural chemical found in a particular class of vegetables not only lowers the risk of cancer, but may also provide the chemical key to finally unraveling the origins of cancer and pointing the way to defeating this dreaded disease once and for all.
Are they overstating the case? Let’s take a look. . .
Oliver was doomed to die from
But then he found out what to do. . .
Oliver had reached the end of the road in his seven-year fight against cancer. His doctors didn’t think this 32-year-old man would live through the night.
But when I talked to Oliver six years later, he was the picture of health! He got rid of his cancer completely.
Yes, Oliver found the answer — his own cancer miracle.
I sat down with him and his doctor and they told me an incredible story. . . a story that could help save you or someone you love from this dreaded disease.
If you’d like to hear it, click here now.
More research is needed to determine if this really is the key to all cancer, but what the Oregon scientists have found is certainly intriguing. And it provides important insights into how tumors start and what might be done with natural chemicals to keep them from beginning or spreading.
The natural plant chemical itself – and its anticancer power – is not a new discovery. It has been causing a stir for quite a while among medical researchers. It’s called sulforaphane – a nutrient in broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables) that not only fights cancer, but also has other wonderful health benefits.
New look at a well-known food
If you’re well-informed about the natural cancer-fighting chemicals in vegetables, you’ve almost certainly read about the cruciferous vegetables – items like bok choy, broccoli, radishes, kale, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. They all provide sulforaphane.
But what the Oregon researchers have focused on in their investigations is that sulforaphane fights cancer by influencing genetic material known as non-coding RNAs (IncRNAs).
While IncRNA isn’t exactly a household word, it makes up a big part of our DNA that, until recently, was thought to be linked to the body’s “junk DNA” – genetic left-overs that were marooned in our cells that might have once had a purpose but are now non-functional because evolution took a different direction.
However, the Oregon scientists say (and other scientists agree), it turns out that IncRNAs play a central part in triggering cancer and sending it on its deadly missions through the body.
Their conclusion: If we want to understand the basics of cancer, we have to understand how IncRNAs operate in our cells. Far from being worthless junk, they control how other genes get switched on (“expressed”) or turned off (“downregulated”) – in what are called epigenetic effects.1
At the same time, a growing number of studies show that misbehaving IncRNA is most likely the starting point for many tumors. Sulforaphane apparently holds the answer to how IncRNA goes off the rails and how this destructive process can be stopped.
Reduced growth of prostate cancer by three-fourths
When the Oregon researchers took a look at how sulforaphane can affect prostate cancer, they focused on the fact that prostate cancer turns deadly when an IncRNA called LINC01116 goes into high gear (is upregulated). Sulforaphane can be introduced to put the brakes on.
When sulforaphane decelerates the availability of LINC01116, the growth of prostate cancer decreases by three-fourths. This fact leads the scientists to conclude that learning more about this IncRNA process – which resembles what happens in many cancers – will lead to a better comprehension of cancer’s origins and ways to treat it.
The Oregon researchers note that while sulforaphane has gotten a lot of attention previously for lowering the risk of cancer, their work demonstrates that it may be a valuable tool for striking back at cancer after it starts.
“We showed that treatment with sulforaphane could normalize the levels of this lncRNA,” says researcher Laura Beaver, who works at Oregon’s Linus Pauling Institute and College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “This may relate to more than just cancer prevention. It would be of significant value if we could develop methods to greatly slow the progress of cancer, help keep it from becoming invasive.”
Eat your vegetables
While the Oregon researchers nail down the intricacies of how sulforaphane stymies tumors, all of us should make an effort to eat more cruciferous vegetables.
As many of my readers know, I’ve previously discussed how to get the most sulforaphane from broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. But recent research has added a few wrinkles to this advice.
Most expert still agree – Eating cruciferous vegetables raw is the best way to get the highest levels of sulforaphane.
The reason: The vegetables you grow or buy don’t actually have sulforaphane in them. They have another natural chemical (glucoraphanin) that, as you prepare and eat the vegetable, is made into sulforaphane by an enzyme called myrosinase. Within the plant, the myrosinase is kept away from the glucoraphanin.
When you cut or chew the raw vegetables, the myrosinase is released and generates sulforaphane within the leaves, stem and other plant parts. But if you cook the vegetable too long, the myrosinase is destroyed and isn’t available to convert the glucoraphanin into sulforaphane.
How long is too long? You can only cook it briefly – so briefly that it should still be pretty crunchy. Most researchers now seem to agree that up to about five minutes of gentle steaming leaves most of the myrosinase intact. If you cook the vegetables more, it’s gone.
That being said, even without myrosinase in the vegetables, your body can get some sulforaphane from broccoli, bok choy and the other plants in the cruciferous family: The bacteria in your digestive tract can produce the myrosinase enzyme.2
However, each of us is different in how much myrosinase we have in our colon that can convert glucoraphanin into sulforaphane. And there’s really no way to know how well your gut performs this task.3
Plus, as I’ve pointed out before, if you cook a vegetable like broccoli and then toss in a little bit of another raw cruciferous vegetable like radish, horse radish or watercress, the myrosinase in the raw vegetable will make the sulforaphane conversion.
As you may know already, cruciferous vegetables are remarkable. Even if these foods didn’t fight cancer, they’d still be superfoods:
- They can improve weight loss. Lab tests in Japan show that glucoraphanin (the chemical that is made into sulforaphane) can help the body burn more calories by browning white fat in the body. Brown fat burns extra calories, while our white fat (the fat we carry around the stomach), increases the body’s inflammation and doesn’t use up much caloric energy.4
- Sulforaphane helps protect against harm caused by strokes. Research in England demonstrates that it helps preserve the blood-brain barrier, keeping harmful inflammatory substances out of the brain after a stroke.5
- Sulforaphane may be useful for people with autism. A study at Johns Hopkins and the Massachusetts General Hospital found that sulforaphane can improve communication and behavior in young men with autism. In this study, the benefits were seen within a month of starting to consume sulforaphane.6
- Broccoli sprouts (which are a rich source of myrosinase and, consequently, sulforaphane) have been shown to lower the risk of stomach ulcers.7
May taste bad to some people, but it’s good for you
Now I know that some people don’t like the bitter taste of raw vegetables, including raw broccoli. But that bitter taste is actually good for you. You know why? Because it means your chewing and cutting is causing the plant to make sulforaphane.
Originally, the bad taste was one of the functions of sulforaphane. It’s a defense mechanism to make the plant taste bitter when an animal starts to chew on it. However, for you and me, it’s a good reason to keep on chewing.
In our last issue we looked at one of the most famous herbal treatments for cancer – one that’s been well-known for nearly a hundred years (and much longer to other medical traditions). If you missed the article, you can read it just below.