Broccoli has been linked to a growing list of health benefits, such as a reduced risk of cancer and osteoporosis. New research suggests consuming broccoli could also slow or reverse blood-vessel damage and atherosclerosis due to high cholesterol.

The study, in Experimental Biology and Medicine, found that a high-cholesterol diet combined with supplements containing sulforaphane, a natural compound in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, significantly reduced levels of LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, in rabbits, compared with a high-fat diet without the supplements. Sulforaphane-fed rabbits also had higher levels of good cholesterol and improved blood-vessel function.

Previous studies showed that sulforaphane can reduce inflammation in cultured vascular cells, but its effects on atherosclerosis hadn’t been studied directly, the researchers said. Sulforaphane has an “extraordinary” ability to trigger multiple enzymes that protect against oxidative or environmental stress and reduce inflammation, they suggest.

The study, at Mansoura University in Egypt, involved three groups of five rabbits. Two of the groups were fed a high-cholesterol diet for four weeks, including one group that also received daily supplements of sulforaphane orally in a sodium solution. A control group got a normal diet without sulforaphane.

Treatment with sulforaphane decreased total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL by 43%, 70% and 40%, respectively, compared with untreated rabbits on a high-cholesterol diet. Sulforaphane treatment also enhanced levels of HDL, the so-called good cholesterol, above normal, according to the study. The cholesterol ratio, an indication of heart-disease risk, was close to control levels in sulforaphane-treated animals, the study said.

After four weeks, CRP, or C-reactive protein, a marker of systemic inflammation, significantly decreased in suforaphane-treated rabbits on the high-cholesterol diet compared with rabbits on the same diet that didn’t get the supplement. CRP levels in sulforaphane-treated rabbits were almost at control levels.

Blood vessels from rabbits on the high-cholesterol diet were atrophied and inflamed. There was mild vessel swelling in sulforaphane-treated rabbits, while control rabbits had normal vessels.

Caveat: Sulforaphane hasn’t been tested on people with high cholesterol. The equivalent quantity of broccoli in humans wasn’t mentioned.

Sulforaphane attenuates the development of atherosclerosis and improves endothelial dysfunction in hypercholesterolemic rabbits

Article Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/broccoli-may-slow-or-reverse-some-atherosclerosis-1458571222

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