What's on Your Plate?
First we learned that broccoli can prevent cancer, thanks to a compound
it contains that was first isolated at Hopkins a decade ago. Now, a
new Hopkins study shows that the compound, sulforaphane, which is especially
concentrated in three-day-old broccoli sprouts, also may help prevent
human retinal disease. It turns out that sulforaphane helps cells defend
themselves against oxidants-highly toxic molecules that damage DNA and
As long ago as 1952, blindness resulting from damage to the retina-the part of the eye that detects and sends images to the brain-was linked to attacks by oxidants. Recent evidence suggests that dietary antioxidants can help prevent or reduce damage to retinal cells. As a result, Hopkins pharmacologist Paul Talalay, who's been investigating links between diet and disease for more that two decades, wondered if sulforaphane might have similar benefits.
His team tested three different cell types, including cancer cells
and cells from the retina. When the cells were treated briefly with
sulforaphane before exposure to an oxidant, all cell types defended
themselves against damage. Furthermore, the response triggered by sulforaphane
protected the cells against oxidants for two or three days. The extent
of protection was tied to the amount of sulforaphane as well as the
type of oxidant and its amount.
"This adds to already good evidence," says Talalay, "that eating large quantities of vegetables-and cruciferous ones play a special role-is one thing that really works to fight disease."
It's no secret that diet and exercise help people with diabetes control
the disease. But now, for the first time, comes evidence from a nationwide
study at Johns Hopkins and 26 other medical centers that eating right
and working up a sweat can dramatically lower the risk of getting type
2 diabetes in the first place.
Formerly called adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes, type
2 is the most common form of diabetes, affecting 8 percent of American
adults. People can develop type 2 diabetes at any age--even during childhood.
Being overweight and inactive can increase the chances of developing
Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the Diabetes Prevention Program found that a large group of overweight people with impaired glucose tolerance, a precursor of diabetes, who were assigned to intensive diet and exercise interventions were able to reduce their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. And, of the 3,234 study participants nationwide, 45 percent were from minority groups that suffer disproportionately from type 2 diabetes-African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Asians and Pacific Islanders.
The study also showed that treatment with the oral diabetes drug metformin
reduced the group's diabetes risk by 31 percent.