Indole-3-carbinol is formed from a substance called glucobrassicin found in vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, turnips, and rutabagas. Indole-3-carbinol is formed when these vegetables are cut, chewed or cooked. It can also be produced in the laboratory.
People use indole-3-carbinol for conditions such as cancer prevention, systemic lupus erythematosus, tumors inside the respiratory tract, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.
How does it work?
Researchers are interested in indole-3-carbinol for cancer prevention, particularly breast, cervical and endometrial, and colorectal cancer. Their reason is that diets with higher amounts of fruit and vegetable consumption are associated with a decreased risk of developing cancer. Researchers suspect indole-3-carbinol is one of several vegetable components that might protect against cancer.
Health Benefits of Indole-3-Carbinol
Indole-3-carbinol and its main metabolite diindoylmethane modulates several nuclear transcription factors resulting in a variety of biological and biochemical effects. Indole-3-carbinol works as a strong antioxidant, thereby protecting the DNA and other cell structures.
Indole-3-carbinol has chemopreventive activity and stimulates the production of detoxifying enzymes. The phytochemical protects against carcinogenic effect of pesticides and other toxins.
The anticancer effects of indole-3-carbinol and its metabolite diindoylmethane are the result of specific activities: inducing enzymes that metabolize carcinogens, enhancing DNA repair, inducing G1 cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Indole-3-carbinol blocks estrogen receptor sites on the membranes of breast and other cells, thereby reducing the risk of cervical and breast cancer. Indole-3-carbinol increases the ratio of 2-hydroxyestrone to 16 alpha-hydroxyestrone and inhibits the 4-hydroxylation of estradiol. This is a favourable action of indole-3-carbinol because 16 alpha-hydroxyestrone and 4-hydroxyestrone have carcinogenic action. The estrogen metabolite 2-hydroxyestrone has protective against several types of cancer.
Indole-3-carbinol is also used for fibromyalgia, tumors inside the voice box (laryngeal papillomatosis) caused by a virus, tumors inside the respiratory tract (respiratory papillomatosis) caused by a virus, abnormal cell growth in the cervix (cervical dysplasia), and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Some people use indole-3-carbinol to balance hormone levels, "detoxify" the intestines and liver, and to support the immune system.
A few studies demonstrate the beneficial effects of indole-3-carbinol on lipid synthesis and platelet aggregation, suggesting that this phytochemical could help to improve heart health.
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