Broccoli is loaded with I3C, the subject of ongoing biomedical research into its potential anticarcinogenic and cancer-preventive effects. Discover more about what makes I3C so beneficial.
Factors such as lifestyle, exposure to viruses, stress, air pollution, and diet all play important roles in the overall risk of getting cancer. Various studies have shown, though, that a high intake of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts has been associated with lower risk of several types of cancer.
The main functional bioactive substance identified in these vegetables is indole-3-carbinol (I3C). It is closely linked to a reduction in the risk of acquiring several types of cancers, particularly in the lung, colon, prostate, cervix, and breast.
The formation of I3C
I3C is a phytonutrient and does not exist in the cruciferous vegetables in its original form. Actually, I3C is the breakdown product of a compound called glucobrassicin, found in abundance in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale.
When plant cells are damaged, as happens when chopping or chewing, the enzyme myrosinase catalyzes glucobrassicin hydrolysis to form I3C. In the acidic condition of the stomach, I3C is able to form a complex mixture of biologically active compounds known as acid condensation products. Although cooking cruciferous vegetables can inactivate myrosinase, glucobrassicin can still be broken down by myrosinase in intestinal bacteria to form some I3C.
I3C and cancer
Both animal and human studies show that I3C is a key bioactive food component in cruciferous vegetables and has multiple anticarcinogenic and antitumorigenic properties. Interestingly, some studies have shown that people diagnosed with lung cancer have significantly lower intakes of cruciferous vegetables than people who were cancer free.
Oral administration of I3C has been shown to benefit the treatment of breast cancer, as it manipulates estrogen metabolism in a beneficial manner. Several animal tests and mechanism studies on I3C have shown the possible treatment of lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer. Studies have also suggested the possibility of I3C as a preventive agent against lung cancer.
I3C and the immune system
I3C also helps balance hormone levels and support the immune system. Systemic lupus erythematosus, commonly known as lupus, is an autoimmune disease characterized by severe fatigue, joint pain, headaches, and blood clots that lead to life-threatening organ damage.
Animal studies have shown that I3C by oral administration may assist in detoxifying the body. In these studies, dietary supplementation with I3C, which alters estrogen metabolism, showed enhanced responsiveness of the immune system.