Two superfoods show promise for protecting people from radiation damage—cruciferous vegetables and miso, a food paste made from fermented soybeans. Scientists have identified a specific chemical byproduct, 3,3’diindolylmethane (DIM), derived from the digestion of cruciferous vegetables and especially concentrated in broccoli, that is responsible for the defensive effect. The source of miso’s beneficial properties needs further investigation but appears to stem from the fermentation process.
Research led by Gary Firestone, Ph.D., of the University of California-Berkley, and physician Eliot Rosen, Ph.D., of Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., concluded that administering supplemental DIM before or immediately following lethal levels of radiation exposure protected rats from immediate death. If clinical trials with humans are successful, the compound could be used to minimize acute radiation sickness. Past research suggests that DIM may also prevent cancer.
A comprehensive research review published in the Journal of Toxicologic Pathology lends credence to miso’s shielding power. Mice that ate miso a week before irradiation appeared to be protected from radiation injury. Consuming miso also significantly suppressed colon, lung and breast tumors in rats, as well as liver tumors in mice. One large study found lower rates of breast and liver cancer among Japanese women that consume miso. Another tracked Japanese men and women, finding a correlation between miso consumption and lower rates of stomach cancer. Miso fermented 180 days or longer tended to provide the most significant benefits, leading researchers to suspect that compounds produced or changed through fermentation could be responsible.