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UK scientists grow super broccoli


October 28, 2011
By The Canadian Press

Topics

broccoliOctober
27, 2011 – Popeye might want to consider switching to broccoli. British
scientists recently unveiled a new breed of the vegetable that experts say
packs a big nutritional punch.

October
27, 2011 – Popeye might want to consider switching to broccoli. British
scientists recently unveiled a new breed of the vegetable that experts say
packs a big nutritional punch.

The
new broccoli was specially grown to contain two to three times the normal
amount of glucoraphanin, a nutrient believed to help ward off heart disease.

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“Vegetables
are a medicine cabinet already,” said Richard Mithen, who led the team of
scientists at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, England, that
developed the new broccoli. “When you eat this broccoli … you get a reduction
in cholesterol in your blood stream.”

Glucoraphanin
works by breaking fat down in the body, preventing it from clogging the
arteries. It is only found in broccoli in significant amounts.

To
create the vegetable, sold as “super broccoli,” Mithen and colleagues crossbred
a traditional British broccoli with a wild, bitter Sicilian variety that has no
flowery head, and a big dose of glucoraphanin. After 14 years, the enhanced
hybrid was produced, which has been granted a patent by European authorities.
No genetic modification was used.

It’s
been on sale as Beneforte in select stores in California and Texas for the last
year, and hit British shelves this month. Later this fall, the broccoli will be
rolled out across the U.S.

The
super vegetable is part of an increasing tendency among producers to inject
extra nutrients into foods, ranging from calcium-enriched orange juice to
fortified sugary cereals and milk with added omega 3 fatty acids. In Britain,
the new broccoli is sold as part of a line of vegetables that includes
mushrooms with extra vitamin D, and tomatoes and potatoes with added selenium.

Not
enough data exists to know if anyone could overdose on glucoraphanin, but
vitamin D and selenium in very high quantities can be toxic.

Mithen
and colleagues are conducting human trials comparing the heart health of people
eating the super broccoli to those who eat regular broccoli or no broccoli.
They plan to submit the data to the

European
Food Safety Agency
next year so they can claim in advertisements the broccoli
has proven health benefits.

“There’s
a lot of circumstantial evidence that points to (glucoraphanin and related
compounds) as the most important preventive agents for (heart attacks) and
certain cancers, so it’s a reasonable thing to do,” said Lars Ove Dragsted, a
professor in the department of human nutrition at the University of Copenhagen.
He previously sat on panels at the International Agency for Research on Cancer
examining the link between vegetables and cancer.

Dragsted
said glucoraphanin is a mildly toxic compound used by plants to fight insects.
In humans, glucoraphanin may stimulate our bodies’ natural chemical defences,
potentially making the body stronger at removing dangerous compounds.