Another Reason to Eat Your Broccoli…Or Sprouts
You may or may not have heard about a bacterium called Heliobacter pylori – H. pylori for short.
It’s a unique bug that can survive in the acid of the stomach. We need to know about it because infection with H.
pylori is associated with irritation of the stomach wall, ulcers and even stomach cancer. This bacterium is yet
another reason to eat your broccoli or, as you'll see, your broccoli sprouts.
The H. pylori story is one of my favorites. I like to remind my colleagues of it when they seem
to be a little resistant to a new way of looking at health and wellness.
You see, 20 years or so ago, no one had heard of H. pylori. Ulcers were common and the medical
world had a whole theory on what caused them (back in the day, it was all about stomach acid and the resistance of
the lining of the stomach to that acid). Experiments seemed to support that theory.
Not only that, we had treatments, both medical and surgical, based on that theory that
There was no mention of H. pylori infection as part of the cause of stomach and duodenal ulcers.
In fact, when I was in medical school they taught us that bacteria couldn’t survive in stomach acid.
So when a “crazy” Australian researcher claimed that this weird bacterium he found was really
the cause of ulcers, the medical establishment responded with ridicule.
Now, of course, medical professionals know the danger of H. pylori. I think this story
also makes a point about the importance of keeping an open mind and not being too sure of what we think we
Back to H. pylori...
Treatment of H. pylori reduces the risk of recurrent ulcers as well as the risk of stomach
However, eradicating H. pylori with traditional medications often proves to be difficult.
Physicians typically treat the infection with at least three drugs for 2 or sometimes 4 weeks. Even with that, the
success rate is only around 80%.
Now there’s good evidence that a simple green sprout added to your diet can reduce or eliminate
The sprout is question is broccoli. You’ve probably heard that vegetables of the cruciferous
class (broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, Brussels sprouts and so forth) are especially good for you. There is any
number of beneficial nutrients in these vegetables, but one compound that has been studied extensively is
Sulforaphane is a phytochemical that triggers the production of beneficial enzymes in the
stomach. These enzymes protect against inflammation, free radicals and DNA damage — and have a number of health
Previous studies have shown regular inclusion of vegetables containing sulforaphane protect against several types
of cancer (including bladder cancer), heart disease and may even help arthritis.
Sulforaphane levels are 50 times higher in broccoli sprouts than they are in mature broccoli,
and now there’s evidence that broccoli sprouts are effective against H. pylori.
In a study in mice infected with H. pylori, over 70% percent of the infections were cleared in
the treated group while none were cleared in the placebo group.1
Other laboratory studies have shown that sulforaphane kills over 90% of tested strains of H.
pylori, even those resistant to antibiotics, by 2 mechanisms – induced enzymes and direct effect.2
A more important study in humans infected with H. pylori showed significant suppression of H.
pylori infection, if not complete eradication, in people who ate about 2 ounces of broccoli sprouts a day.3
You can make your own sprouts, but they’re widely available under the brand name BroccoSprouts..
If I can find them in my little town in upstate New York, you can probably find them where you are.
The sprouts taste a little peppery. I like their taste and enjoy them in salads and on
sandwiches. Sometimes I just eat them by themselves as a side dish or snack.
Even if you don’t have any concerns about H. pylori, including broccoli sprouts in your diet
regularly is still a great idea. It’s another example of why we all should emphasize a wide variety of fruits
and vegetables in our diets.
1. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2003 December; 47(12): 3982–3984.
2. PNAS May 28, 2002 vol. 99; no. 11; 7610-7615.
3. Cancer Prevention Research 2, 353, April 1, 2009.