More Evidence that Spicing up Broccoli Boosts its Cancer-Fighting Power



Broccoli Sprouts




British Journal of Nutrition, Sept/Oct 2011  —  Myrosinase is an enzyme necessary to form sulforaphane, a compound found abundantly in broccoli that confers cancer-preventative effects.  Found in spicy foods, including broccoli sprouts, mustard, horseradish, and wasabi, myrosinanse promotes the release of sulforaphane in the digestive system in a form that is most bioavailable to the body.  Jenna Cramer, from University of Illinois (Illinois, USA), and colleagues observed that when fresh broccoli sprouts were eaten with broccoli powder, bioactive compounds were present in the blood 30 minutes later When these compounds peaked at three hours, they were much higher when the foods were eaten together than when either was eaten alone. Observing that: “Combining broccoli sprouts with the [broccoli] synergistically enhanced the early appearance of [sulforaphane],” the researchers submit that their findings “[offer] insight into the combination of foods for improved health benefits of foods that reduce the risk for cancer.”

Jenna M. Cramer, Margarita Teran-Garcia , Elizabeth H. Jeffery.  “Enhancing sulforaphane absorption and excretion in healthy men through the combined consumption of fresh broccoli sprouts and a glucoraphanin-rich powder.” British J Nutr.



October 18, 2011, URBANA – Teaming fresh broccoli with a spicy food that contains the enzyme myrosinase significantly enhances each food’s individual cancer-fighting power and ensures that absorption takes place in the upper part of the digestive system where you’ll get the maximum health benefit, suggests a new University of Illinois study.

“To get this effect, spice up your broccoli with broccoli sprouts, mustard, horseradish, or wasabi. The spicier, the better; that means it’s being effective,” said Elizabeth Jeffery, a U of I professor of nutrition.

In the study, when fresh broccoli sprouts were eaten with broccoli powder, the scientists were able to measure bioactive compounds in the blood 30 minutes later. When these peaked at three hours, they were much higher when the foods were eaten together than when either was eaten alone. Urine samples corroborated the blood results, said Jenna Cramer, lead author of the study.

It’s no secret that many people cook the benefits right out of broccoli instead of steaming it lightly for two to four minutes to protect its healthful properties, she said.

“However, this study shows that even if broccoli is overcooked, you can still boost its benefits by pairing it with another food that contains myrosinase,” she said.

Myrosinase is the enzyme necessary to form sulforaphane, the vegetable’s cancer-preventive component, co-author Margarita Teran-Garcia explained.

Note what happened with the fresh broccoli sprouts and broccoli powder eaten in this experiment. The powder doesn’t contain myrosinase, but it does contain the precursor to the anti-cancer agent sulforaphane. Eaten together, the sprouts were able to lend their myrosinase to the powder. As predicted, both foods produced sulforaphane and provided greater anti-cancer benefit, Jeffery said.

Other foods that will boost broccoli’s benefits if they are paired together include radishes, cabbage, arugula, watercress, and Brussels sprouts.

“Here’s another benefit of protecting and enhancing the myrosinase in your foods,” Jeffery said. “If myrosinase is present, sulforaphane is released in the ilium, the first part of your digestive system. Absorption happens well and quickly there, which is why we saw bioactivity in 30 minutes.”

An earlier Jeffery study showed that microbiota are capable of releasing sulforaphane in the lower gut, but absorption happens more slowly in the colon than in the upper intestine, she said.

Scientists say that as little as three to five servings of broccoli a week provide a cancer-protective benefit.

“But it pays to spice it up for added benefits and find ways to make it appealing so you don’t mind eating it if you’re not a broccoli fan. I add fresh broccoli sprouts to sandwiches and add them as one of my pizza toppings after the pie is out of the oven,” Cramer said.



, by Aaron Saenz, Summer/Fall 2011  —  Google received more than a billion unique visitors in May. Nearly half of the worldwide internet population.

Google’s online dominance can now be expressed in a new way: every month, the equivalent of one seventh of the world’s population travels to their sites on the internet. Or maybe it’s every week. ComScore, the web data-mining site, recently announced that a billion unique visitors went to Google in May 2011. That’s a mind-blowing milestone, but Google seems to think they passed it long ago. In September of last year, VP Marissa Mayer said they were serving one billion users every week! Either way, we are talking about some massive traffic for the search engine giant, and they aren’t alone. According to ComScore’s estimates of monthly unique visitors, Microsoft has around 900 million, Facebook 700 million, and Yahoo about 690 million. Between them, these companies can reach and influence a huge portion of the online public which is now more than 2 billion people worldwide. As these sites continue to grow, how will the internet change with them?

Very quickly, I want to point out that while ComScore’s numbers have made the bigger splash in the media recently, their statements aren’t infallible. Far from it. These numbers are all estimates based on two million or so users (a big number, but a small fraction of the total overall), and 90 out of 100 of the largest web content publishers. However, Google itself doesn’t contribute to ComScore’s estimates, and we can’t take these numbers as certain fact. Google released their own approximation of traffic back in September that sounds like they are reaching people at four times the rate that ComScore proposes. According to VP Marrissa Mayer, they’ve already passed “One Billion Users on Google’s Sites Each Week” mark (see the video below, it’s been cued up to the remark at Google Search 2010). Whether we put more stock in ComScore’s “billion unique visitors per month” or Google’s “billion users each week” doesn’t matter as we can still draw the same conclusions about Google and its competitors: these sites are big, they’re growing, and they represent the largest shared communications we have online. Actually, considering average TV, film, and radio audiences, these companies are among the most widespread forums for communication on the planet. Period.

It’s unclear what these businesses are using that platform to say, however, besides simply asking us all to keep coming back to visit. While the business model for each of these companies is different, every one of these sites (or collection of associated sites, really) serves as a hub for communication. Search engines to point you to other web pages, social networks where you can share with friends, or just basic services like email, news feeds, etc. These aren’t (by and large) the generators of content, they are the aggregators. But they are mighty. They make huge profits off of the ads that you see, and sometimes click on, while passing through their pages. In other words, these companies are operating tollbooths. Sure, we may not think of watching ads as paying a toll, but that’s what they are. Mega-sites like Google and its competitors have built valuable expressways on the internet superhighway…and they’re making their money back handsomely.

Which isn’t to say that these companies aren’t providing great services – I would weep if I had to go a day online without Google – it’s simply important to remember how they make their profits. The top sites on the web live off of the scale of traffic itself, and they are transitioning us towards a sort of advertising based online economy. The real money isn’t (exclusively) in selling, it’s in helping other people sell. As Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook grow, the importance of consumer-ad interaction is going to increase as well. In that kind of world, there’s a premium to be placed on locking in users to their internet habits. A consumer that comes to the same site everyday, follows links often, and attracts other consumers with new content is a valuable asset. Internet users are becoming, if we aren’t already, the most important commodity on the web.



*Information compiled by ComScore Data Mine.

Examining how each of the top traffic sites have grown in the past year highlights this new way of looking at consumers. Google is at the top, but only gained around 8% from last years numbers. Microsoft rose 15%, Yahoo 11%. The clear winner in growth is Facebook, which rose nearly 30% from May 2010 to May 2011, and nudged out Yahoo for the third place. Facebook is the epitome of the new consumer as commodity paradigm (which I’m very tempted to shorten to con-comm just to sound vaguely Orwellian). As users generate content they become more invested and attract other users in turn. The social network is viral in nature and addictive in habit. Facebook makes their money simply by selling things to us while we sell ourselves to each other.

Though maybe that’s a morbid way to put it. Let’s look at the bright side of things. Even if Google and the rest are operating tollbooths, the highways they’ve laid down are amazingly useful. I can find anything I need online in fractions of a second. I can find old friends I’ve lost and meet new ones quickly. I can communicate with people all over the world, and store/search those correspondences easily. I’m exposed to the ideas of thousands of people I’ve never met and I can share my own thoughts with many more. The internet would still be here if all four of these big hitters disappeared, but that doesn’t mean it would be as good. Nor maybe as interconnected.

As we, the consumers, continue to build up these mega-sites we’re effectively giving people all around the world a common ground. Two billion people online and counting, and most pass through these portals every month. Think of the possibilities to share information, to allow the world to have a nearly universal experience on a regular basis. Could these shared experiences help prevent wars? Probably not. But they are certainly expanding trade and the exchange of ideas. We’re on the verge of some very powerful possibilities, perhaps even positive ones, as more and more of us walk down the same online roads everyday. What Google, Facebook, and the rest will do with these opportunities to speak to the world is unclear. Google may put up a fun variation of their logo, but they aren’t exactly writing editorials on global political events. They don’t really seem concerned with message building. The changes mega-sites may bring are likely to be through subtle influences rather than overt statements.

For better or worse, we have a large amount of influence in a small number of companies, and it looks like that trend will continue for the foreseeable future. I worry what it means to have an online economy centered on the consumer as commodity business model, and I know that the concentration of advertising revenue through a small number of hands is going to make proximity to those hands, not real merit, the best determinant of success for many smaller businesses. Singularity Hub is proud to be viewed by its readers (roughly) a million times every month, and we’re definitely ecstatic by how quickly we’ve been growing these past few years. But for now, no site that relies on generating its own content can hope to compete with those that search, collect, and share the content of others. Maybe that’s as it should be – I’m not sure. I just know that Google, Facebook and their ilk are leviathans the likes of which the world has never seen before. Hopefully they’ll turn out to be more BFG than “fee-fi-fo-fum“.
, by Aaron Saenz  —  Could our online activities lead to a form of virtual immortality?

There are well defined legal, social, and religious traditions that come into play when our physical lives end that help decide how people remember us, and what happens to our property. Yet we also have digital lives, and their fates are much less understood and controlled. Facebook pages, Google, Twitter – all of these services exist in a legal murky ground after you die as most of these companies maintain rights to any public information you share through their sites. That can prove hectic to loved ones trying to tie up loose ends after someone has passed, but it also highlights a curious condition of the modern age: we may continue to live long after we die thanks to our online records. Are we creating a digital afterlife?
Social media is big and getting bigger: there are over 400 million active Facebook users, Twitter has around 106 million, and there are millions more on MySpace, Yelp, Flickr, Google Buzz, YouTube etc, etc. Everyday, internet users contribute billions of pieces of new content to these sites (25 billion per month for Facebook) creating a sort of virtual presence on the web. Funny things you post on a friend’s wall, a review for a local restaurant, a video of you at a wedding, a tweet describing the obnoxious guy next to you on the bus – these are all stored and maintained by these ever growing online media hubs. The virtual you is a living record of your thoughts, actions, and publicly shared experiences.

Digital Life as Property
Currently, it’s unclear if that record should be treated like all other records of people’s lives. If you leave a diary, it becomes a property of your heir. If you leave a Facebook page…Facebook probably still owns it. The property rights surrounding digital information isn’t well regulated in the US, and it leads to most companies making common-sense approaches to the topic.

Facebook, for instance, maintains rights to your activities on your site and they have the right to terminate an inactive account after a certain period of time. However, they are very willing to turn a deceased person’s profile into a memorial. Simply contact the company with the proper documentation (proof of death, etc) and they’ll strip a profile of its status updates and user access and turn it into a place where loved ones can post loving comments on the wall and share memories. There’s been some speculation about how many such memorial accounts exist.

Gmail accounts can also be terminated after a period of inactivity (9 months). Which means that the email addresses of the deceased may simply fade away after time. If you want access to a deceased person’s account, it takes some doing. You’ll need a death certificate, proof of power of attorney, an email from the account in question. The same, predictably, applies to YouTube accounts.

The rest of the social media sites are an assortment of responses to the death question. According to the investigations of blogger Dan Howe, Twitter will close an account upon request, but not pass it on to a loved one. According to NPR, Yahoo has a similar policy in place. All Things Considered ran an interesting segment on the topic last year and also a segment on the topic just days ago.

As mentioned in the NPR clip, there are companies which will help you manage your online data after you die by creating a sort of digital will. Legacy Locker and Asset Lock (among others) will help loved ones access your accounts in the case of your death. There’s a Facebook group that (humorously?) helps you plan for the occasion. E-obituary will keep a record of your life and death (which you can write before hand). Companies like GreatGoodbye take it a step further and give you the means to speak from beyond the grave in emails and farewell messages.

Digital Life as Life

These services may need to evolve in the years ahead. Our digital lives may be capable of carrying on long after we die. When Facebook profiles become memorials, sometimes they get more traffic than they ever did when their associated person is living. (Out of respect I will not link to an example profile, but a search in Facebook will yield quick results if you are interested). YouTube videos can become media sensations, whether or not the people featured are still alive. Twitter feeds are often picked up and rerun, increasingly often in Google search results, allowing them to propagate on indefinitely.

The importance of these little digital pieces of you may seem trivial now, but they are increasing in number and depth. We are spending an increasing amount of time on social media sites, sending thousands of emails, and much of our professional work is being archived and cross referenced online. Let’s also not forget that privacy mores are shifting, with people becoming increasingly comfortable with sharing personal thoughts and intimate experiences online. From status updates to blogs…it’s all adding to the digital you.

Some people, like futurist Ray Kurzweil, have big plans for the records of loved ones. As discussed in the documentary Transcendent Man, Kurzweil plans on using information about his father to eventually reconstruct a virtual copy of the man. His theory is that given the right understanding of psychology and brain chemistry we may be able to recreate a semblance someone from the memories they leave behind. Kurzweil’s father died years before we had online digital records – imagine the possibilities that could exist now.

Yet even if our digital lives are never used to create a literal digital afterlife as Kurzweil envisions, they will still grant a quasi-permanence to our existence. A hundred years ago someone might have had a photo of themselves that loved ones could remember them by. Now, some of us have thousands upon thousands of photos and images on Facebook and flickr. Add to that the videos, the emails (which are now archived instead of deleted), and the wall messages…so much of our lives are captured online. With storage of these recordings moving from individual computers to vast arrays of servers ‘in the cloud’, they may stick around forever. There’s an immortality in that, one that is greater in its own way than the immortality we enjoy in other people’s memories. Want to live forever? …Which you? Medical advancements may keep your physical form alive, but your digital self could shed mortality even easier. And who knows, maybe Kurzweil is right and we’ll all have the chance to be reborn from the recordings we leave behind.

Hmmm…I think there’s some photos I need to remove from my Facebook account.