A Compound in Broccoli Could Ward Off COVID

Here’s another good reason to eat your broccoli.

A compound found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables called sulforaphane is now being studied for its potential to fight coronavirus infection, including COVID-19. In a recent study, sulforaphane was shown to be antiviral against COVID and another common cold virus. It also helped to control the immune response to these viruses.

While searching for ways to prevent and treat COVID in the early phase of the pandemic, the team at Johns Hopkins University decided to look at sulforaphane because it has already been shown to have potent immune protecting and cancer-fighting properties.

The researchers carried out a few experiments. First, they looked at lab-grown cells and treated them with sulforaphane two hours before infecting the cells with SARS-COV-2 and the common cold virus. They then looked at sulforaphane combined with the antiviral drug remdesivir against COVID infection. Finally, they conducted an experiment in mice, pretreating them with sulforaphane before infection with SARS-COV-2.

The findings:

  • In the study on cells treated with sulforaphane and infected with coronaviruses, the sulforaphane treatment reduced the viral replication by 50% of six strains of SARS-CoV-2, including the delta and omicron variants, as well as that of the common cold coronavirus.
  • The team found that sulforaphane and remdesivir acted synergistically, and less of each was needed when combined to reduce the viral load in cells by 50%.
  • In mice, pretreatment with sulforaphane resulted in a 7.5% decrease in weight loss typically seen after the virus, a 17% decrease in viral load in the lungs, a 9% decrease of virus found in the upper respiratory tract, and a 29% decrease in lung injury when compared to the mice that were not treated with sulforaphane.
  • The sulforaphane treatment also decreased lung inflammation, a primary driver of COVID-related deaths.

The takeaway: More studies must be done in human trials to see how these results stand up. But sulforaphane has a profoundly positive effect on health with the potential to serve as treatment or prevention of coronaviruses and their related diseases. Adding more cruciferous vegetables to your diet, especially broccoli sprouts, which contain the highest amounts of sulforaphane, is an easy way to increase your intake of this natural and powerful plant compound.

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