WASHINGTON, October 14 (RIA Novosti) – One of the healthiest staples of the Russian diet, cabbage, just added another feather to its cap: US scientists have found that it contains a compound that protects rodents from potentially deadly doses of radiation, a study published Monday says.
Researchers at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center irradiated rats with lethal doses of gamma ray radiation and then, for two weeks, gave the rodents a daily injection of the compound found in cabbage, known as DIM (3,3’-diindolylmethane).
“All of the untreated rats died but well over half of the DIM-treated animals were alive 30 days after the radiation exposure,” Eliot Rosen, a co-author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), said.
Irradiated mice that were treated with DIM were also found to have less of a drop in their red and white blood cell counts, and their platelets, negative side effects often seen in patients undergoing radiation treatment for cancer, the study says.
Furthermore, rodents responded positively to treatment with DIM even when it was administered 24 hours after exposure – an important consideration, given that access to treatment might be delayed after a person has been exposed to radiation.
Scientists have been eyeing DIM as a cancer prevention agent for years, “but this is the first indication that DIM can also act as a radiation protector,” Rosen said.
The researchers think that DIM protects against radiation by activating an enzyme that regulates responses to DNA damage, and by stimulating defenses to oxidative stress in irradiated tissues.
The researchers are looking into using DIM to “protect normal tissues in patients receiving radiation therapy for cancer” and to “mitigate radiation sickness in individuals accidentally exposed to radiation,” they say in the study.
DIM is found not just in cabbage but in all cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and Swiss chard.
It can be administered safely by injection or by mouth to humans, the study says, but it’s unclear – and probably unlikely – that eating cabbage will protect against radiation exposure.
Previous studies have shown there are other health benefits to eating cabbage, such as its high anti-oxidant, fiber and vitamin levels.
The researchers who worked on the Georgetown study believe so much in the power of DIM that they have filed a patent application for DIM and DIM-related compounds as protectors against radiation exposure.