Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and breast cancer

Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower–they’re some of my favorite vegetables. And not just because they’re low in carbs. They’re also packed with disease-fighting antioxidants. In fact, these cruciferous vegetables have strong evidence supporting their ability to fight breast cancer.

The latest study was particularly impressive.

The findings come from the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study, which enrolled 4,886 breast cancer patients. Researchers analyzed the women’s intake of cruciferous vegetables during the three years following their cancer diagnoses.

Women who ate the most the most cruciferous veggies fared the best. During the three-year study period, they had

  • 35% less risk of cancer recurrence
  • 62% less risk of dying from breast cancer
  • 62% less risk of dying at all–from any cause

Over the years, researchers have determined that organic compounds called indoles are responsible for these benefits. One in particular, called diindolylmethane (DIM), helps keep hormones–particularly estrogen–in balance.

Of course, to get the levels of DIM you need to fight breast cancer, you’d have to eat 5 servings of broccoli every  day. Which isn’t really realistic. So in addition to eating cruciferous vegetables a few times a week (which is more manageable for most people), if you’ve got a family history of breast cancer–or increased risk from any other factor–it’s also a good idea to take a DIM supplement (60 mg three times a day).

You can find them in vitamin shops, health food stores, and online. They’re generally inexpensive, and are an easy way to get some added protection against what can be a devastating disease.