A plant-based compound, indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is naturally present in a number of cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, turnips, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and watercress. Studies undertaken on animals have revealed that I3C works to inhibit development of various forms of cancer including colon, breast, stomach, liver and lung. If it can be established that this plant-based compound works equally well in humans, then it would certainly be a very useful addition to cancer treatment.

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Indole-3-carbinol is also a very powerful antioxidant. It is believed that this compound offers several health benefits, including anti-aging as well as metabolic. Hence, indole-3-carbinol is generally synthesized to produce a dietary supplement. This compound is formed due to the disintegration of glucosinolate glucobrassicin and its chemical formula is C9H9NO. While it is considered to be highly beneficial for our general health, it is not considered an "essential" nutrient. From a realistic point of view, it denotes that people should not be concerned about the deficiency of indole-3-carbinol despite the fact that all health experts advise taking a diet that is rich in vegetables for various other reasons.

In fact, people who keenly look for this plant-based compound generally do it because they wish to prevent development of specific ailments, especially cancer. Many health experts have associated presence of elevated levels of indole-3-carbinol in the body with reduced incidences of specific forms of cancers. However, much of it is subject to the form of cancer and also an individual's body chemistry. This compound can also be used for treating specific people suffering from lupus. In most instances one can take excess of this compound and people who use indole-3-carbinol (I3C) pills or capsules as supplements are generally told to monitor the levels of different hormones in their body with a view to avoid development of other health issues.

As discussed above, indole-3-carbinol (I3C) naturally occurs in almost all cruciferous vegetables, which includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. In majority of instances, the concentration of this compound is highest in raw vegetables and they are at highest maturity. On the other hand, some cooking methods may lower the power and also the general efficiency of its absorption by the body. The concentration of indole-3-carbinol is not always constant, but it may vary from one plant to another. The concentration of I3C in plants may be subject to various things such as the quality of soil and also their nutrient profile during their growth period.

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Therefore, those who are worried about getting specific amounts of indole-3-carbinol usually prefer supplements containing this compound. Usually, these supplements synthesized artificially in laboratories. However, most studies undertaken on the health benefits of indole-3-carbinol suggest that both the compound obtained directly from plants and the supplements offer equal health benefits. The standard daily dosage of this compound is anything between 400 mg and 800 mg. However, the maximum dosage may be increased if a physician recommends doing so. Generally, pregnant women are advised not to use these supplements. Indole-3-carbinol also has some side effects, which include nausea and skin rashes. However, such side effects occur only when anyone takes the supplements in very high doses.

As of today, studies undertaken on humans indicate that when taken orally, indole-3-carbinol may be capable of preventing the occurrence of or even reverse precancerous alterations in the cervix. However, further studies are necessary to establish this health benefit of the compound. Studies on whether this compound possesses the ability to have an impact on metabolism of estrogen and activity of this hormone, thereby put off development of breast cancer, which is estrogen-sensitive, indicate that I3C does offer benefit, but further studies are necessary to corroborate the initial findings.

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Various population studies have revealed that people consuming plenty of broccoli as well as other cruciferous vegetables usually have suffer from lower incidences of cancer compared to those who do not consume these vegetables. However, it is unfortunate that we are still not certain about the specific constituents of the cruciferous vegetables that help to protect us from some forms of cancer. It is possible that indole-3-carbinol, vitamin C, the carotenoid pigments present in these vegetables or sulforaphane - a compound believed to hold back cancer, is responsible for such protective action. Alternatively, the compound's cancer protective actions may possibly be owing to the combined action of two or more constituents of the cruciferous vegetables.

Health benefits

It has been found that indole-3-carbinol (I3C) works as a catalyst to reduce the load of unhealthy estrogens in our body and, at the same time, decrease estrogen dominance. This plant-based compound works like a phytoestrogen (which attaches itself to harmful estrogen and gets rid of it from our body), thereby obstructing the carcinogenic cells' ability to replicate. Various studies have shown that I3C not only helps to hold back division of carcinogenic cells in the case of specific breast cancer cells by encouraging apoptosis (programmed cell death), but it also does not cause such action on the normal cells of the breast. This may possibly be one reason why intake of high amounts of cruciferous vegetables throughout one's lifetime is associated with considerable decrease in the rate of breast cancer. Such findings indicate that women suffering from breast cancer may be recommended to consume plenty of cruciferous vegetables. At the same time, they should be told to incorporate indole-3-carbinol (I3C) supplements in their diet.

It has been found that intake of diets rich in cruciferous vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, beets, Brussels sprouts, spinach, celery, cauliflower, cabbage, collard, kale, parsley, turnip, radish, mustard greens and others promotes "good" estrogen production.

It is worth mentioning here that cruciferous vegetables are different from other vegetable as they are highly loaded with compounds containing sulfur - which are called glucosinolates. Indole-3-carbinol acts like a potent antioxidant and, in this way, it protects the DNA as well as other structures of the cells from damage.

The most valuable characteristic of I3C is perhaps the compounds antioxidant nature. Simply speaking, anti-oxidants are especial compounds that can neutralize as well as eliminate the detrimental compounds called free radicals from our body. This particular characteristic of indole-3-carbinol has been associated with its ability to reduce the chances of developing cancer. This compound may particularly decrease the risks of developing reproductive cancer by diminishing what is called "G1 growth rate" of the reproductive cells. In fact, the G1 growth phase of the reproductive cells happens in the early phase of a cell. Therefore, stopping the G1 growth phase early may possibly help to reduce tumour growth considerably.

In addition, indole-3-carbinol may work like a supplement that helps to inhibit the aging process. This attribute of the compound may also help in diminishing the harms caused by the detrimental free radicals in our body and, at the same time, promote healthy functioning of the cells. Some researchers have also indicated that this ability of I3C may possibly reduce the chances of developing heart disease also, because this compound encourages promotion of platelet aggregation. Consequently, it also helps to decrease apolipoprotein B secretion. Apolipoprotien is a compound that has been associated with the dilapidation of the walls of the arteries.

A group of scientists have also proposed that indole-3-carbinol may possibly be useful as far as promoting the metabolism of the body is concerned. At the same time, it may also reduce the consequences of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). In addition, this compound may enhance glutathione production. Glutathione is basically an antioxidant that has a vital role in our metabolic process. Moreover, glutathione also reinforces the immune system of our body and assists in repairing the damaged cells.

Taking high doses of indole-3-carbinol may also prove to be beneficial for people suffering from lupus, which is a permanent autoimmune disease. This condition inflicts various parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, joints and even the skin. Many experts have suggested that I3C may be helpful in reducing the symptoms associated with lupus. However, more studies on this topic are required - some are already underway, to corroborate this claim.

If you are supplementing with indole-3-carbinol, it is absolutely necessary to monitor your hormone levels on a regular basis. This is because intake of this compound may affect specific hormones like estrogen. Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) has the capability to alter the metabolism of estrogen in our body and may also cause considerable rise in the levels of estrogen that is excreted via urination. Moreover, its affect on testosterone metabolism may also be similar. While short-term use of this compound may not create any major problem, using indole-3-carbinol (I3C) for a prolonged period may result in an imbalance of any of these two hormones (estrogen or testosterone) and also result in several other health issues.

However, for people who are taking this compound by consuming only cruciferous vegetables generally may not require monitoring their hormone levels. This is because one usually cannot eat enough of these vegetables regularly so that they have an excess intake of this compound. The risks are only associated with people who take this compound via capsules or pills on a regular basis.


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