In 1992, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical School isolated the substance in broccoli that makes it such a health-promoting vegetable. That substance, sulforaphane glucosinolate, or SGS, is now available in a tea product.

SGS is a natural antioxidant that, according to researchers, could be a powerful weapon against the development of breast and other cancers. Researchers also discovered that baby broccoli contains more of this phytochemical than its adult counterpart. Only three or four servings of sprouts made from carefully selected broccoli seeds pack the same punch as 4 to 5 pounds of broccoli.

"We've found that SGS boosts the body's naturally occurring detoxifying enzymes," says Paul Talalay, MD, of Johns Hopkins Chemopreventive Lab. Studies in which cells are bombarded by cancer-causing chemicals have shown SGS successfully neutralizes the carcinogenic effect, says Talalay.

"The most significant aspect of SGS is that its effects are long-lasting. After ingestion, it stays present and active in the body for days," he says. And in addition to significant results in animal studies that support SGS's anticancer properties, SGS has also been shown to reduce arterial plaque and protect the retina from oxidative damage that otherwise would lead to macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness among the aged.

Brassica, a company that works in conjunction with Johns Hopkins researchers to bring sulforaphane to consumers, introduced BroccoSprouts in 1998. This year Brassica debuted its tea, both green and black, supplemented with SGS.

Combining the antioxidant properties of SGS and tea has a potential synergistic benefit that exceeds what either would provide on its own. "Combination therapy," says Talalay, "is always more effective than a single therapeutic substance."

So far Brassica tea has only been test marketed and will be available in the fall. Keep abreast of Brassica research and availability at www.brassica.com.

—Barbara Hey