Broccoli for life

red bowl filled with broccoli and wooden spoon on green tea towel

The world’s longest-lived rodents don’t eat broccoli, but they have the protection of a protein that, in humans, is activated by consumption of steamed broccoli.

The protein is called Nrf2, and it was connected with the maximum life span in 10 rodent species tested by the UT Health Science Center’s Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies. But its signaling is highest in the naked mole rat, which boasts a maximum life span of 32 years—eight to 10 times longer than the oldest mice of comparable size. Naked mole rats don’t just live longer, however. They also don’t develop cancer, and they remain healthy almost to the end of their extraordinarily long life span.

In the naked mole rat, Nrf2 is well regulated by several other proteins, which work to degrade the protein. Unregulated gene expression of certain protective molecules leads to diminished signaling and shorter life span.

Graduate student Kaitlyn Lewis is the lead author on the study that suggests targeting negative regulators of Nrf2 could yield interesting results in longevity and life span-extending drugs.

So, do you want to live longer? Changing your diet and adding more broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage can increase your Nrf2 activity, and just may provide some of the same protective mechanisms seen in healthy long-lived rodents.

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