Regular consumption of broccoli sprouts could contribute to the treatment of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Among other things, the sprouts have an extremely positive effect on the intestinal flora, which in turn leads to an alleviation of the symptoms of the disease.
A US research team led by Prof. Yanyan Li from the University of Maine examined the effect of broccoli sprouts on inflammatory bowel disease in a recent study on mice. The results are published in the specialist magazine “mSystems”.
Chronic inflammatory bowel disease
Chronic inflammatory bowel disease is usually accompanied by recurring symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea and can severely limit the quality of life of those affected. There is also a risk of complications that can be life-threatening, such as intestinal obstruction.
Although there are various medications that can be used against inflammatory bowel disease, lifestyle and diet adjustments in particular remain important pillars of therapy.
Recent research has also shown that the intestinal flora plays an important role in chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Above all, butyrate production by intestinal bacteria seems to be crucial.
Diet and the metabolic products produced by the intestinal flora are sources of anti-inflammatory substances that could alleviate the symptoms of chronic inflammatory bowel disease, explains the team led by Professor Yanyan Li.
Effects of broccoli sprouts investigated
In the new study, the researchers used mice to analyze what effect broccoli sprouts have on inflammatory bowel diseases, what interactions exist with the intestinal flora and with the immune system and how these connections are based.
In a special mouse model for Crohn’s disease, the experts examined the effect of broccoli sprouts in comparison to standard mouse food on animals of different ages.
The researchers wanted to find out how the interactions between the host, diet and microbial community and the severity of the disease differ depending on age.
Mice were fed for seven days to acclimate to each diet before symptoms were initiated. The diet was then maintained for the following two weeks as the disease progressed, the team explains.
The mice were regularly weighed and fecal samples collected to detect signs of the development of intestinal inflammation. At the end of the study, the researchers examined the intestinal tissue, the microbial communities in the intestine as well as certain inflammatory markers and broccoli metabolites in the blood.
“We found many exciting results in this study. “First, we showed that the mice that consumed broccoli sprouts had higher levels of an anti-inflammatory metabolite called sulforaphane in their blood,” reports Lola Holcomb from the University of Maine.
“Although our mice were immunocompromised and suffered from colitis, this increase in sulforaphane protected them from severe disease symptoms such as weight loss, blood in stool and diarrhea,” Holcomb continued.
Young animals benefited the most
It also became clear that young animals responded better to the broccoli sprout diet than their older counterparts. According to the researchers, the younger mice had milder symptoms of the disease and richer microbial communities in the intestines.
“We found that of the four groups studied, the younger mice fed broccoli sprouts had the mildest disease symptoms and the most robust gut microbiota,” emphasizes Holcomb.
Overall, the sprout diet reduced the prevalence and frequency of pathobiont bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Helicobacter, which are considered potential triggers of inflammation. According to the researchers, the composition of the intestinal microbiome benefited significantly from the sprouts.
Promising treatment option
Broccoli sprouts are easy to grow, available in many grocery stores, and appear to be a promising treatment strategy for inflammatory bowel disease, the research team concluded. (fp)