A daily dose of broccoli, cauliflower and sprouts could prevent everything from arthritis to heart disease by keeping your gut healthy, new research suggests.
Mice fed a diet supplemented with broccoli are better able to tolerate digestive issues, a study found.
This is thought to be due to cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, containing a substance that promotes gut health and barrier function, according to the researchers.
Maintaining a healthy intestinal lining could prevent leaky gut syndrome, which exposes the body to toxins and pathogens, they add.
Lead author Professor Gary Perdew from Penn State University, said: 'There are a lot of reasons we want to explore helping with gastrointestinal health and one reason is if you have problems, like a leaky gut, and start to suffer inflammation, that may then lead to other conditions, like arthritis and heart disease.
A daily dose of broccoli could prevent everything from arthritis to heart disease
VITAMIN K IN KALE, SPINACH AND BROCCOLI KEEPS HEARTS HEALTHY
Eat your greens for a healthy heart, research suggested earlier this month.
Vitamin K, which is found in kale, spinach and broccoli, maintains the size of the vital organ's left ventricle, a study found, which is responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood around the body.
Insufficient levels of the vitamin cause the left ventricle to enlarge, the research adds.
Previous research reveals large hearts do not pump blood as efficiently as they should, which can result in fatal heart attacks.
The more vitamin K a person has, the less likely they are to develop an enlarged heart, the study found.
Past research suggests vitamin K may activate a protein involved in maintaining heart size.
How the research was carried out
The researchers believe cruciferous vegetables contain a compound that breaks down into other substances in the stomach.
These substances then bind to and activate a gut receptor, known as aryl hydrocarbon, which maintains gut health and barrier function.
The researchers therefore investigated genetically-modified mice with a high or low ability for such substance-receptor binding.
All of the mices' diets were made up of 15 percent broccoli.
Broccoli prevents a leaky gut
Results reveal a diet supplemented with broccoli allows mice with a high-binding ability to better tolerate digestive issues associated with a leaky gut and colitis.
A strong digestive barrier protects the intestines from toxins and pathogens, while allowing nutrients to be absorbed.
Professor Perdew said: 'There are a lot of reasons we want to explore helping with gastrointestinal health and one reason is if you have problems, like a leaky gut, and start to suffer inflammation, that may then lead to other conditions, like arthritis and heart disease.
'Keeping your gut healthy and making sure you have good barrier functions so you're not getting this leaky effect would be really big.'
When the results are translated to humans, the researchers speculate people would have to eat three-and-a-half cups of broccoli a day to reap the benefits.
Professor Perdew said: 'Now, three and a half cups is a lot, but it's not a huge amount, really. A cup [of Brussels sprouts] could get us to the same level.'
The findings were published in the Journal of Functional Foods.