Eating two and a half ounces of baby broccoli daily for two months may protect against a common stomach bug that is linked to gastritis, ulcers and even stomach cancer, a study in Japan has found.

Fresh broccoli sprouts contain plenty of sulforaphane, a natural biochemical that appears to trigger the production of enzymes in the gut that protect against oxygen radicals, DNA-damaging chemicals, and inflammation.

In an article published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, scientists found that eating two and a half ounces of baby broccoli daily may help stave off some serious health problems.

"We identified a food that, if eaten regularly, might potentially have an effect on the cause of a lot of gastric problems and perhaps even ultimately help prevent stomach cancer," wrote Jed Fahey, nutritional biochemist in the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Cancer Chemoprotection Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

It has long been known that sulforaphane is a potent antibiotic against Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that causes gastritis, ulcers and stomach cancer. But this is the first trial showing the effects of the compound on people.

"Broccoli sprouts have a much higher concentration of sulforaphane than mature heads (broccoli)," Fahey explained.

In their study, the researchers gave 25 people in Japan who were infected with Helicobacter pylori 70 grams per day of broccoli sprouts for two months.

Another 25 infected people consumed an equivalent amount of alfalfa sprouts which don't contain sulforaphane.

"We know that a dose of a couple ounces a day of broccoli sprouts is enough to elevate the body's protective enzymes," Fahey said. "That is the mechanism by which we think a lot of the chemoprotective effects are occurring."

"But the fact that the levels of infection and inflammation were reduced suggests the likelihood of getting gastritis and ulcers and cancer is probably reduced."

The World Health Organization classifies Helicobacter pylori as a carcinogen. It thrives in the lining of the stomach.

It afflicts several billion people, or half the world's population. Shaped like a corkscrew, it has long been associated with stomach ulcers, which are frequently cured by antibiotics.