Claim: A viral WhatsApp message claims broccoli can prevent and cure breast cancer.
While it is true Sulforaphane (SFN), a property of broccoli, has cancer preventive potential, its effectiveness is still under research.
Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer in females and recently, a viral WhatsApp message claims consuming broccoli can prevent and cure it.
The WhatsApp message contained the link to a website, global excellence, which carries an expanded claim that broccoli helps with other types of cancer.
Verifying if this vegetable is a cure or not is important to guide the public’s choice of food.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable (vegetables of the family Brassicaceae with many genera, species, and cultivars being raised for food production) with many benefits.
It is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which can help prevent the development of various conditions.
The body produces molecules called free radicals during natural processes such as metabolism. Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable molecules with a lifespan of only a fraction of a second.
They are toxic in large amounts and can cause cell damage that can lead to cancer and other conditions.
While the body can eliminate many of them, dietary antioxidants are said to be helpful because they can neutralise unstable molecules, reducing the risk of damage.
This is where broccoli is believed to play a role in cancer prevention and cure.
Broccoli is an excellent food source of the natural cancer-fighting compound sulforaphane (SFN). SFN is a common antioxidant and the most potent anticancer plant active substance found in vegetables.
Does Broccoli prevent or cure Cancer?
The National Cancer Institute notes that studies in animals show increased levels of exogenous antioxidants prevent the types of free radical damage associated with cancer development.
A study reviewing literature on the topic notes that SFN has the potential to prevent disease development or recurrence and metastasizing, and as a compound protecting normal cells against the toxic effects of cytostatics.
Another study notes that broccoli and its sprouts contain naturally occurring isothiocyanates such as SFN which has potent cancer-fighting properties.
While in vitro and animal experiments have shown this process, further clinical studies and human trials related to their safety, side effects, isolation and therapeutic dosage are needed to provide an insight into the beneficial effects of these isothiocyanates.
Sunday Idoko, a gynaecologist at Garki hospital Abuja said broccoli is a vegetable that contains antioxidants which help with free radicals but he is not sure about this claim.
“I’m not so sure of this. But it’s a vegetable, they are filled with antioxidants which help deal with free radicals that have carcinogenic properties” he explained.
Jeremiah Agim, a senior registrar at the National hospital Abuja said he has no comment on this claim as it is still under research.
“I don’t have one, it’s still at research level. Look through the above research papers” he said.
Arinze Obiadazie, a medical officer, simply said, “this is not true”.
Although broccoli has a cancer-fighting property, SFN, there are still ongoing clinical trials on this. So broccoli cannot be said to prevent or cure breast cancer or any other kind of cancer yet.