A compound found in broccoli may help boost the immune system and ease the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a recent study published in Science Translational Medicine. The study, conducted by researchers at John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that an organic molecule found in broccoli, sulforaphane, stimulates the production of a molecule known as Nrf2, which helps produce free radical-neutralizing antioxidants in the body.
Patients with COPD often display poor white blood cell activity in their lungs, while the immune bodies’ ability to consume invading bacteria seems to be compromised by free radical damage. However, according to the study, consumption of dietary supplements containing sulforaphane will increase the production of free radical-neutralizing antioxidants and improve the body’s ability to consume bacteria, increasing feelings of overall health and wellness.
Recent studies strengthen these results, revealing that a decrease in Nrf2 signaling in patients with COPD may hamper their ability to defend oxidative stress. However, the role of Nrf2 in COPD exacerbations has not been determined.
“Our findings demonstrate the importance of Nrf2 … in improving antibacterial defenses and provide a rationale for targeting this pathway, via pharmacological agents such as sulforaphane, to prevent exacerbations of COPD caused by bacterial infection,” wrote the study authors.
In addition to producing free radical-neutralizing antioxidants, sulforaphane was also found to help kill two types of bacteria that affect people with COPD and to increase the ability of macrophage, a bacteria-removing molecule, to uptake bacteria by 300 percent. Further, in a study of mice, the compound was shown to reduce lung inflammation.