Eat Your Brussels Sprouts! They Could Prevent Cancer

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Brussels-sproutsIndole 3 carbinol (I3C), a substance found in some vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.), and its metabolite di-indolylmethane (DIM) exhibit protective powers against some types of cancer, including breast cancer. These substances help support healthy estrogen metabolism by the liver, thereby potentially decreasing the risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers.

Factors such as lifestyle, exposure to viruses, stress, air pollution, and diet all play important roles in the overall risk of getting cancer. Various studies have shown, though, that a high intake of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts has been associated with lower risk of several types of cancer. Why? These vegetables are associated with an abundance of I3C.

I3C is not available in these plants in its natural form. There needs to be some damage done to the plant cells in order to access this important substance. Luckily, the breaking down of these cells can be easily achieved in chopping or chewing the vegetable. If you aren’t a big broccoli or Brussels sprouts fan, good quality supplements are also available.

So how does I3C help reduce the risk of cancer? Well, the body breaks down estrogen in several ways. Some estrogen is converted into a substance called 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone, a compound that promotes breast tumors. Another method of breakdown produces 2-hydroxyestrone, which does not stimulate breast cancer cells. Taking I3C supplements shifts the ratio so your body produces more of the “good” estrogen breakdown product and less of the “bad.” It does this by increasing the activity of a defying enzyme in the liver called cytochrome P450 1A1.

There are other important anti-cancer mechanisms for I3C. For example, dioxin is a potent cancer-causing pesticide that binds to receptor sites on breast and prostate cells known as the “AH” receptor (aryl hydrocarbon) and stimulates these cells to grow. I3C has been shown to fit into the AH receptor, but instead of sending signals that help cancer grow, it sends powerful signals that stop it. By binding to the AH receptor, I3C also keeps dioxin out of cells.

It also helps balance hormone levels and support the immune system. Animal studies have shown that I3C by oral administration may assist in detoxifying the body. In these studies, dietary supplementation with I3C, which alters estrogen metabolism, showed enhanced responsiveness of the immune system, which is promising for the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

To learn more about I3C and its metabolite DIM, please contact one of our nutrition experts!

Photo from here, with thanks.

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January 2023