Broccoli is considered an extremely healthy food. But apparently not all people benefit to the same extent from the healthy ingredients. As a renowned research team reports, certain intestinal bacteria ensure that health-promoting substances are released. However, these bacteria are not present in all people.
Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (USA) have found that some people benefit less efficiently from certain broccoli ingredients than others. Intestinal bacteria, which make these substances usable for the body, seem to be responsible for this.
Broccoli can have numerous positive effects on the body
The regular consumption of broccoli and other cabbage vegetables has already been linked to numerous positive effects on the body in studies. For example, cruciferous vegetables are said to
- have a positive effect on heart health,
- help with weight loss
- improve immune function,
- contribute to the prevention of cancer.
Not everyone benefits to the same extent
However, according to the University of Illinois researchers, some people are less efficient than others when it comes to reaping these benefits. The working group found that the microbial community in the gut could be responsible for these differences.
Bitter substances ensure the release of healthy substances
Raw broccoli contains an enzyme called myrosinase. This enzyme is involved in releasing healthy compounds in broccoli. But myrosinase also creates a bitter taste that most people don’t like.
Important enzymes are destroyed during cooking
Cooking broccoli inactivates the enzyme, eliminating the bitter taste. However, without the myrosinase, less healthy ingredients are also released. As the research team reports, this is where the intestinal bacteria come into play. Because certain microbes in the gut make their own version of myrosinase.
“Gut bacteria can convert glucosinolates in broccoli into isothiocyanates (ITC), the bioactive compounds with known health benefits, but they can also convert glucosinolates into other inactive compounds that do nothing for us,” explains lead researcher Professor Michael Miller.
As part of a state-funded project, the working group now wants to find out more precisely which intestinal bacteria convert the glucosinolates from broccoli into health-promoting isothiocyanates and which microbes tend to produce inactive substances.
New probiotics for weight loss and protection against cancer
The team’s goal is to develop tailored probiotics that could improve the gut flora of people with less efficient microbial communities. As a result, those affected could, for example, lose weight more easily or improve their cancer prevention. If you don’t want to wait for a probiotic and can deal with the bitter taste, you can of course also eat the broccoli raw. (vb)