Consumption of broccoli has increased in the United States over the last few decades as scientists have reported that eating the vegetable three to five times per week can lower the risk of many types of cancer including breast, prostate, and colon cancers.

A new study from the University of Illinois reports that including broccoli in the diet may also protect against liver cancer, as well as aid in countering the development of fatty liver or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) which can cause malfunction of the liver and lead to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a liver cancer with a high mortality rate.

“The normal story about broccoli and health is that it can protect against a number of different cancers. But nobody had looked at liver cancer,” says Elizabeth Jeffery, a U of I emeritus professor of nutrition. “We decided that liver cancer needed to be studied particularly because of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. It is already in the literature that obesity enhances the risk for liver cancer and this is particularly true for men. They have almost a 5-fold greater risk for liver cancer if they are obese.”

Majority of the U.S. population eats a diet high in saturated fats and added sugars. However, both of these are stored in the liver and can be converted to body fat. Consuming a high-fat, high-sugar diet and having excess body fat is linked with the development of NAFLD, which can lead to diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Therefore, Jeffery and her team wanted to find out the impact of feeding broccoli to mice with a known liver cancer-causing carcinogen. The researchers studied four groups of mice; some of which were on a control diet or the Westernized diet, and some were given or not given broccoli.

The study shows that in mice on the Westernized diet both the number of cancer nodules and the size of the cancer nodules increased in the liver. But when broccoli was added to the diet, the number of nodules decreased. Size was not affected.

Jeffery notes that adding broccoli to the diet of the mice did not make them “thin,” or affect their body weight, but it did bring the liver under control, ultimately making them healthier. This is one of the things that makes this very exciting for us.

“I think it’s very difficult, particularly given the choices in fast food restaurants, for everybody to eat a lower-fat diet. But more and more now you can get broccoli almost everywhere you go. Most restaurants will offer broccoli, and it’s really a good idea to have it with your meal.

loading...