14 November 2023

Consumption of broccoli sprouts in childhood protected against intestinal disease in adulthood

American scientists have shown that eating broccoli sprouts as a child can protect against Crohn's disease in adulthood. The study was conducted on mice, as such an experiment would not have been possible on humans.

Scientists from the University of Maine (USA) conducted an experiment on mice with a model of Crohn's disease. This is a severe chronic inflammatory disease of the GI tract, which can involve all its parts - from the oral cavity to the rectum with predominantly affected part of the ileum. The researchers wanted to find out whether a diet containing broccoli sprouts, which have anti-inflammatory metabolites, alleviated the symptoms of Crohn's disease. The findings are presented in the journal mSystems.

The first part of the experiment involved two groups of mice aged four weeks (this period can be called childhood). The first group ate standard rodent food, while the second group was fed raw broccoli sprouts. In the second part of the study, experts connected to the "cabbage" diet another group of mice, which were seven weeks old ("adolescents").

Then the animals were deliberately infected with Crohn's disease, planting them with rodents containing bacterial pathogens that may be related to the disease (there are several possible causes of its development). Over the next 15-16 days, the scientists weighed the mice regularly and collected fecal samples to assess signs of disease progression.

Finally, the animals were put to sleep and their gut tissues, microbiota, and the presence of inflammatory markers and broccoli metabolites in the blood were studied. It turned out that the concentration of the anti-inflammatory metabolite sulforaphane was elevated in the blood of the rodents fed on cabbage sprouts. This saved them from the most severe symptoms of the disease such as weight loss, diarrhea and blood in the feces.

Interestingly, rodents fed a "cabbage" diet as children were better protected from Crohn's disease than those who received broccoli as adolescents. The former had not only a milder course of the disease, but also a richer and more inflammation-resistant intestinal microbiome. Scientists believe that broccoli sprouts, which can be bought in the store or grown at home, may also be beneficial for people with inflammatory bowel disease.

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