Age-related immune system decline may be stemmed with the aid of sulforaphane, a compound found in broccoli, according to new research from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
"Our study shows that a chemical present in broccoli is capable of stimulating a wide range of antioxidant defence pathways and may be able to interfere with the age-related decline in immune function," explained lead researcher Andre Nel.
Oxidative stress damage may help determine the rate at which we age and how age will manifest, he outlined, advising that the study found that sulforaphane activated a set of antioxidant genes and enzymes in particular immune cells, countering the effects of free radicals.
Nel stated: "As we age, the ability of the immune system to fight disease and infections and protect against cancer wears down as a result of the impact of oxygen radicals on the immune system… This finding could be of major significance in preventing or reversing the effects of immune senescence in elderly human subjects."
Looking to the future, free radicals may only be part of the answer, he added, "It may prove to be a more multifaceted process and interplay between pro- and antioxidant forces."
"Dietary antioxidants have been shown to have important effects on immune function, including improvement of contact hypersensitivity (CHS) and vaccination responses in human subjects. To this list we can now add broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables that are deserving of a human trial," wrote the study authors.
In the meantime, Nel advised including these vegetables as part of a healthy diet.
J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008 May;121(5):1255-1261.e7.