A compound found in broccoli sprouts can help the body detoxify carcinogens, reducing the risk of developing liver cancer, according to a recent study.

US and Chinese researchers conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to test whether drinking hot water infusions of three-day-old broccoli sprouts containing known levels of sulforaphane could alter the metabolism of aflatoxin and phenanthrene (carcinogens). A control group drank a similar extract containing virtually no sulforaphane. Tests conducted on urine of individuals given the high-sulforaphane extract suggested carcinogens were being detoxified and flushed from the body. There was an inverse association between levels of sulforaphane derivatives in the urine and DNA damage.

“While this study did not directly look at liver cancer, it is clear that liver cancer has had devastating consequences in this region of China and in other parts of the world,” said Jian-Guo Chen, MD, one of the researchers. “This study is an initial step in evaluating dietary methods for preventing this disease, and it may be applicable to other types of cancers.”

Source: Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention (14, 11:2605-13, 2005