Residents of Qidong, People's Republic of China, are at high risk for development of hepatocellular carcinoma, in part due to consumption of aflatoxin-contaminated foods, and are exposed to high levels of phenanthrene, a sentinel of hydrocarbon air toxics. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, contain anticarcinogens. Glucoraphanin, the principal glucosinolate in broccoli sprouts, can be hydrolyzed by gut microflora to sulforaphane, a potent inducer of carcinogen detoxication enzymes. In a randomized, placebo-controlled chemoprevention trial, we tested whether drinking hot water infusions of 3-day-old broccoli sprouts, containing defined concentrations of glucosinolates, could alter the disposition of aflatoxin and phenanthrene. Two hundred healthy adults drank infusions containing either 400 or <3 μmol glucoraphanin nightly for 2 weeks. Adherence to the study protocol was outstanding; no problems with safety or tolerance were noted. Urinary levels of aflatoxin-N 7-guanine were not different between the two intervention arms (P = 0.68). However, measurement of urinary levels of dithiocarbamates (sulforaphane metabolites) indicated striking interindividual differences in bioavailability. An inverse association was observed for excretion of dithiocarbamates and aflatoxin-DNA adducts (P = 0.002; R = 0.31) in individuals receiving broccoli sprout glucosinolates. Moreover, trans, anti-phenanthrene tetraol, a metabolite of the combustion product phenanthrene, was detected in urine of all participants and showed a robust inverse association with dithiocarbamate levels (P = 0.0001; R = 0.39), although again no overall difference between intervention arms was observed (P = 0.29). Understanding factors influencing glucosinolate hydrolysis and bioavailability will be required for optimal use of broccoli sprouts in human interventions.
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