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Tweak Could Enhance Broccoli's Cancer-Busting Potential

Broccoli, a vegetable already renowned for its cancer-fighting potential, might now become an even more potent enemy to tumors everywhere. Scientists have made a key discovery into how the cruciferous veggie's compounds are used by the body, meaning that a little tinkering could make its protective powers even more effective.

Scientists at the University of Illinois are behind the discovery, which is published in the November issue of Food & Function. The team evaluated how sulforaphane, a well-known component of broccoli, is absorbed by bacteria in the intestine of rats, and then transferred to the body's blood stream.

The intestinal region studied in the rats bears striking similarity to the human colon, leading the researchers to suspect that our bodies might absorb sulforaphane in similar ways.

"This discovery raises the possibility that we will be able to enhance the activity of these bacteria in the colon, increasing broccoli's cancer-preventive power," Dr. Elizabeth Jeffery, a professor of human nutrition at the University of Illinois, said in a statement.

And broccoli over-cookers can keep dining on their limp, boiled veggies. Cooking destroys an important enzyme linked to sulforaphane production, but the team found that bacteria in the gut were able to "salvage" some of the compound regardless.

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