Undoubtedly, the best way to avoid the damage air pollution can cause to your health is to move to where the air is clean. The World Health Organization estimates that the chemicals in air pollution take seven million lives per year, worldwide. Fortunately, there may be a way to cancel out some of the unhealthy effects of pollution without leaving home. Researchers from Johns Hopkins and China’s Qidong Liver Cancer Institute tested the effects of a tea made with broccoli sprouts among 291 residents of Jiangsu Province, an area of China that which has some of the worst air pollution in the country. The study showed that a daily drink of a half cup of the tea – a combination of freeze-dried broccoli sprout powder, water and pineapple and lime juice – increased elimination of by-products of the cancer-causing toxin benzene by 61 percent, and boosted excretion of acrolein, a lung irritant, by 23 percent. Increased elimination of these substances began immediately after the participants began drinking the tea and continued at the same rate through the study. No such changes were measured in study participants who drank a similar tea that did not include the broccoli sprout extract. Broccoli sprouts contain sulforaphane, a compound that has been shown in animal studies to help lower risks of cancer and promote excretion of benzene. You can get sulforaphane in your diet by eating broccoli, but a more concentrated form would be needed to match the levels provided by the tea in the study.
Thomas Kensler et al, “Rapid and Sustainable Detoxication of Airborne Pollutants by Broccoli Sprout Beverage: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial in China,” Cancer Prevention Research, doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-14-0103