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Health Benefits of Diindolylmethane

3 Health Benefits You May Not Know About

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Updated July 13, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Diindolylmethane is a natural substance produced when the body breaks down indole-3-carbinol (a compound found in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower). Sold in supplement form, diindolylmethane is said to offer a range of health benefits.

Health Benefits of Diindolylmethane:

Diindolylmethane is purported to produce changes in estrogen metabolism, a biological process thought to influence the development of certain hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast cancer. For instance, some supplement manufacturers claim that diindolylmethane can increase levels of 16-hydroxy estrogens (considered to be beneficial estrogens) while reducing levels of 2-hydroxy estrogens (potentially harmful estrogens).

To date, research on the health effects of diindolylmethane is fairly limited. However, some preliminary research suggests that diindolylmethane may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available studies:

1) Breast Cancer

In a small 2004 pilot study published in Nutrition and Cancer, researchers found that taking diindolylmethane supplements may provide some protection against hormone-dependent cancers by altering estrogen levels. The study involved 19 older women with a history of early-stage breast cancer.

In addition, laboratory studies suggest that diindolylmethane may help inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.

2) Cervical Cancer

Although some data has suggested that taking diindolylmethane supplements may slow the development of cervical cancer, a 2012 study published in the British Journal of Cancer failed to show any benefit. The study involved 551 women with newly diagnosed, low-grade abnormalities in cervical cells. For six months, participants took either diindolylmethane supplements or a placebo daily. Diindolylmethane supplements failed to have a significant beneficial effect on cervical cell changes or the presence of HPV.

3) Other Forms of Cancer

Preliminary findings from test-tube studies and animal-based research indicates that diindolylmethane may offer some protection against prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, and colon cancer. However, due to a lack of research, it's too soon to tell whether diindolylmethane may help fight these forms of cancer in humans.

4) Weight Loss

Although diindolylmethane supplements are sometimes touted as natural weight loss aids, there's no scientific evidence to support the claim that taking diindolylmethane promotes weight loss.

Common Uses for Diindolylmethane:

People use diindolylmethane supplements for a number of reasons, including:

  • cancer prevention
  • detox
  • weight loss
  • relief of premenstrual syndrome
  • treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy

Side Effects of Diindolylmethane:

To date, very little is known about the safety of using diindolylmethane supplements in the long term.

Due to diindolylmethane's potential to affect estrogen metabolism, there's some concern that taking diindolylmethane supplements could aggravate hormone-sensitive conditions (including hormone-dependent cancers, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids). Given these safety concerns, it's important to seek medical advice prior to using diindolylmethane supplements.

Sources of Diindolylmethane:

Diindolylmethane is produced when the body digests indole-3-carbinol, a compound found in the following vegetables:

  • broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • collard greens
  • kale
  • mustard greens
  • watercress

Where to Find Diindolylmethane Supplements:

Available for purchase online, diindolylmethane supplements are sold in many natural-food stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Should You Use Diindolylmethane for Health Purposes?

Due to a lack of scientific support, it's too soon to recommend diindolylmethane supplements as a standard principal treatment of any health condition. However, increasing your diindolylmethane levels by including indole-3-carbinol-containing cruciferous vegetables in your diet may help enhance your overall health. Cruciferous vegetables are rich in a number of health-promoting substances, including antioxidants.

If you're considering the use of diindolylmethane in treatment of a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician. It's important to note that self-treating a chronic condition with diindolylmethane and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Sources:

Castañon A, Tristram A, Mesher D, Powell N, Beer H, Ashman S, Rieck G, Fielder H, Fiander A, Sasieni P. "Effect of diindolylmethane supplementation on low-grade cervical cytological abnormalities: double-blind, randomised, controlled trial." Br J Cancer. 2012 Jan 3;106(1):45-52. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2011.496.

Dalessandri KM, Firestone GL, Fitch MD, Bradlow HL, Bjeldanes LF. "Pilot study: effect of 3,3'-diindolylmethane supplements on urinary hormone metabolites in postmenopausal women with a history of early-stage breast cancer." Nutr Cancer. 2004;50(2):161-7.

Firestone GL, Bjeldanes LF. "Indole-3-carbinol and 3-3'-diindolylmethane antiproliferative signaling pathways control cell-cycle gene transcription in human breast cancer cells by regulating promoter-Sp1 transcription factor interactions." J Nutr. 2003 Jul;133(7 Suppl):2448S-2455S.

Jin Y. "3,3'-Diindolylmethane inhibits breast cancer cell growth via miR-21-mediated Cdc25A degradation." Mol Cell Biochem. 2011 Dec;358(1-2):345-54.

Kandala PK, Srivastava SK. "Diindolylmethane suppresses ovarian cancer growth and potentiates the effect of cisplatin in tumor mouse model by targeting signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3)." BMC Med. 2012 Jan 26;10:9.

Nachshon-Kedmi M, Yannai S, Haj A, Fares FA. "Indole-3-carbinol and 3,3'-diindolylmethane induce apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells." Food Chem Toxicol. 2003 Jun;41(6):745-52.

Smith S, Sepkovic D, Bradlow HL, Auborn KJ. "3,3'-Diindolylmethane and genistein decrease the adverse effects of estrogen in LNCaP and PC-3 prostate cancer cells." J Nutr. 2008 Dec;138(12):2379-85.

Staub RE, Onisko B, Bjeldanes LF. "Fate of 3,3'-diindolylmethane in cultured MCF-7 human breast cancer cells." Chem Res Toxicol. 2006 Mar;19(3):436-42.

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