Researchers have identified a naturally occurring chemical that may account for the cardiovascular health benefits of cruciferous vegetables, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition.
The cruciferous vegetable family (Brassicaceae) includes many popular food plants such as broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, canola (rapeseed), kale, mustard, radish, rutabaga, turnip and watercress.
Researchers discovered that the phytochemical indole-3-carbinol reduced human cells’ secretion of apolipopretein B-100 (apoB) in a laboratory culture. ApoB is a critical component of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and has previously been shown to be responsible for transporting cholesterol between the body’s tissues. Prior studies have also linked high concentrations of apoB to the formation of plaque in blood vessels.
Indole-3-carbinol reduced apoB secretion in a dose-dependent manner, with larger doses leading to lower secretion. A concentration of 100 micromoles per liter successfully reduced apoB secretion by 56 percent.
In addition to these effects, the scientists observed that the indole-3-carbinol-dosed cells showed decreased production of other fat compounds, including triglycerides.
“The results indicate that plant indoles have beneficial effects on lipid synthesis that could contribute to their potential cardio protective effect,” the researchers said.
A prior study has suggested that indole-3-carbinol also helps prevent and slow the growth of cancerous tumors, while many studies have demonstrated that a higher intake of fresh fruits and vegetables helps prevent against both cancer and cardiovascular disease.
According to the American Heart Association, 70.1 million people in the United States suffered from cardiovascular disease in 2002 — 34.2 percent of the population. It is one of the primary killers in the United States and Europe, accounting for 30 percent of all deaths.