Eat your greens!
These three words of wisdom have been passed on from generations to generations and still some of us wince at the thought of eating a mouth full of vegetables.
Dark green vegetables are not only a source of daily fiber, but they also have a repertoire of nutrients and naturally occurring substances which have health-promoting effects. Researchers have been studying the properties of these substances in vegetables and found that they have some remarkable anti-carcinogenic benefits. They warrant that a regular high intake of cruciferous vegetables is found to lower the risk of breast cancer by 15%.
What gives these vegetables their anti-cancer powers?
Dark greens refer to cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale. The anti-cancer benefits of these vegetables are due to the presence of a natural compound called Indole-3-carbinol (I3C). The human body converts I3C to 3,3′-diindolylmethane (DIM) when we chew and digest cruciferous vegetables.
Scientists have found that DIM is a bioactive compound with remarkable health benefits. Due to its anti-estrogenic effects, DIM plays a key role in the treatment of a variety of cancers including thyroid cancer, prostate cancer, and female reproductive cancers, especially breast cancer.
What is the link between estrogen levels and breast cancer?
Hormone responsive cancers (also called, hormone related cancers) occur when there is an excess of estrogen in the body. Too much estrogen in the body is a precursor to breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers in women – while it’s excess can lead to prostate cancer in men.
High estrogen levels are linked to various medical conditions. A type of breast cancer in which cancer cells grow in response to estrogen is called ER-Positive breast cancer. It is found that about 80% of breast cancer is ER-Positive.
What is the role of DIM in cancer treatment?
Researchers conducted clinical studies on the cancer preventive activity of DIM. They administered patients with a stipulated dose of DIM for 14 days along with a conventional treatment protocol. The lab results at the end of the trial showed that DIM enhanced estrogen metabolism, thus lowering estrogen levels in the body.
As the body metabolizes estrogen and eliminates it, it goes into two pathways, namely, the formation of 2-hydroxyestrone (2-OHE1) and the formation of 16 alpha-hydroxyestrone (16 alpha-OHE1). 16 alpha-hydroxyestrone is linked with an elevated risk of cancer and is less desirable. The presence of DIM promotes estrogen to be converted into 2-hydroxyestrone instead, thereby lowering the risk of cancer.
How much DIM do you need and how to get it?
It is well understood that I3C is present in cruciferous vegetables so DIM can be received by consuming these vegetables. However, the mere consumption of cruciferous vegetables cannot supply the body with the required amount of DIM to fight cancer. A dose of 100 mg of DIM is required by the body to maintain hormonal balance whereas a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables can supply only very minimal amounts. Hence the need of supplementation.
What is more beneficial – I3C or DIM?
It can be quite perplexing when both I3C and DIM supplements are available in the market. However, experts believe it is of greater benefit to supplement with DIM rather than I3C as the former is a very powerful antioxidant. Also, the body gets relieved of its task of converting I3C to DIM and can better use the energy reservoir to heal and repair itself.