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Aging: Broccoli fights arthritis?

(MCT) — The older I get, the more I resent reports about breakthrough scientific research that might ward off aging.

Because the reports always conclude that the research is far from over and it will be years before we find out if some sort of gene therapy or tree bark or artificial synthetic medicine will keep my joints from becoming arthritic.

Reality is some of those joints are already painfully arthritic and about the only relief I have is through ibuprofen tablets or acupuncture or laser treatment or broccoli.

Yes, broccoli.

George H.W. Bush banned it from the White House menu, but from now on, I'm up to my plates full of the stuff.

The Baltimore Sun reports new scientific evidence suggesting a chemical in broccoli might rejuvenate the immune system enough to ward off common diseases of aging.

Researchers at UCLA say sulforaphane, a phytonutrient in broccoli, activates antioxidant pathways at the cellular level.

So, the report says, injected into the dendritic cells (that's the immune cells in the skin) of old mice, the sulforaphane flipped on a set of antioxidant genes and enzymes sufficiently to fight free radicals of oxygen to a standstill.

Old mice became new mice. Broccoli might protect the immune system from such common aging miseries as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and degenerative joint disease (that's arthritis to me). And in the liver, it induces protection that detoxifies carcinogenic substances.

Is there anything broccoli can't do?

OK. Taste good. I'm with the 41st president on that one. There are some vegetables I've had enough of and broccoli is one of them.

Of course, I tend to feel the same way about cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

The fact that so many of us disdain these vegetables undoubtedly explains why most of us age, ache and grow old.

Food does indeed help forestall some symptoms and advancements of aging, as we've reported over the years.

Among those most beneficial are olive oil, yogurt, fish, nuts, grapes, blueberries.

Then there are the times when food can be your enemy, the one thing you should avoid. And I'm not just talking about obesity.

Honestly, of course it makes sense to watch what you eat. To stay within the good nutrition boundaries of low fat, chicken and fish, vegetables and fruit. Watch the red meat and the coffee.

It also makes sense to have some comfort foods — some flavors and textures that make eating all that broccoli worthwhile.

My bachelor uncle, Michael Glenn, knew about comfort foods.

He was 93 when he lay in a Florida hospital, potentially near death.

Everything he ate was deadly, the physicians said. He had pneumonia and they could not rid his body of the disease.

His time was limited, they acknowledged. If he ate anything, he would die in days. He might extend his life a few weeks if he was fed through a tube.

They explained all this to my uncle, leaving it up to him to make the decision.

"What would you like?" the doctors asked.

"A chocolate milkshake," my uncle said.

There are times when broccoli just doesn't do it.

Jane Glenn Haas writes for The Orange County (Calif.) Register. E-mail her at jghaas@cox.net.