Broccoli cuts diabetic risk of heart disease

NOW there is another good reason to eat your greens. Broccoli, the superfood already credited with the potential to fight cancer, cataracts and stomach ulcers, has been found to aid diabetics.

Researchers believe a compound in the vegetable could reverse the negative effects of diabetes on the heart.

While studies are at an early stage, scientists believe broccoli could be a significant weapon in the battle against heart disease.

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Diabetes raises the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease five-fold.

A team from the University of Warwick found that the compound sulforaphane, found in broccoli, can encourage the body to produce enzymes that protect the blood vessels.

It also reduces levels of the molecules which cause significant cell damage.

Previous research has shown that a diet rich in vegetables, particularly brassica vegetables like broccoli, is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.

In the current study, published in the journal Diabetes, Professor Paul Thornalley and colleagues tested the effects of sulforaphane in the lab on blood vessel cells damaged by high glucose levels – hyperglycaemia.

They found that adding the compound reversed the increase in molecules in the body called reactive oxygen species (ROS) by 73 per cent. Hyperglycaemia – a serious problem among diabetes – can cause ROS levels to increase threefold and such high levels can damage human cells.

The researchers also found sulforaphane activated a protein in the body which protects cells and tissues from damage.

Prof Thornalley said: "Our study suggests compounds such as sulforaphane may help counter processes linked to the development of vascular disease in diabetes.

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"It will be important to test if a diet rich in brassica vegetables has health benefits for diabetic patients. We expect it will."

The finding could be welcome news for the almost 200,000 people in Scotland with diabetes.

Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes UK, pointed out that the current research had focused on cells grown in a lab, some way from real life.

"However," he said, "it is encouraging to see that Prof Thornalley and his team have identified a potentially important substance that may protect and repair blood vessels from the damaging effects of diabetes.

"It also may add some scientific weight to the argument that eating broccoli is good for you."