Even those who don’t like broccoli may find a good reason to start eating the vegetable now – it has properties that can potentially make humans stay young.
Broccoli contains a natural compound that delivered an energy-related, anti-aging effect on mice that “could be translated to humans,” the study says.
Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis say that an enzyme in broccoli called nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), which plays a role in metabolizing energy, was able to create an effect much like what happens to Benjamin Button.
When the enzyme was added the rodents’ drinking water, the mice had a sudden boost in metabolism, eyesight improved, blood sugar levels normalized and age-associated weight gain dropped. In short, the mice began acting younger than their age, New York Daily News says.
Lab mice live for only a few years, so the researchers began their NMN treatments at five months, and continued for one year. The study didn’t track how long the rodents survived, but the NMN-related enhancements suggest that the effects could extend an animal’s lifespan.
More studies are needed to better understand the role of NMN in improving health, its prospective benefits, and whether or not people can eat enough broccoli to gain the same effect.
Dr. Shin-Ichiro Imai, senior author on the study and professor of developmental biology and medicine, says, “If you do the math, I wouldn’t say it’s impossible entirely but probably very difficult to get the whole amount [you need] simply from natural foods.”
Part of the team, based at Keio University in Tokyo, is starting early human trials using NMN supplements in pill form, according to TIME. Imai says, “We are losing the enzyme NMN. But if we can bypass that process by adding NMN, we can make energy again. These results provide a very important foundation for the human studies.”
NMN is also found in cucumber, cabbage and edamame.
The study was published in Cell Metabolism.