A heart disease and cancer-fighting “superbroccoli” developed by British scientists has gone on sale in the UK.
The vegetable looks the same as normal broccoli but contains boosted levels of a health-giving nutrient. Research suggests the plant chemical, glucoraphanin, may protect the body against heart disease and some types of cancer.
The new broccoli, called Beneforte, contains two to three times more glucoraphanin than standard broccoli. It will be sold at Marks & Spencer stores and make an appearance on the shelves of other supermarkets next year. Beneforte was developed by British scientists using conventional breeding techniques rather than genetic engineering.
Work on the project began after a wild broccoli variety was discovered in 1983 with naturally raised levels of glucoraphanin. The nutrient is converted in the gut into the bioactive compound sulphoraphane, which circulates in the bloodstream.
Evidence indicates that sulphoraphane has beneficial effects such as reducing chronic inflammation, stopping uncontrolled cell division associated with early-stage cancer and boosting the body’s antioxidants.
Compared with normal broccoli, eating Beneforte broccoli raises sulphoraphane levels two to four times.
Broccoli is believed to protect against some cancers, especially bowel and prostate. Studies have shown that men with broccoli-rich diets have a reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
Other research suggests broccoli can help prevent heart attacks and strokes by reducing inflammation and keeping blood flowing freely through arteries. Beneforte broccoli was developed at the Institute of Food Research (IFR) and John Innes Centre, both based in Norwich.
“Our research has given new insights into the role of broccoli and other similar vegetables in promoting health, and has shown how this understanding can lead to the development of potentially more nutritious varieties of our familiar vegetables,” says Professor Richard Mithen from the IFR.
“Now there will also be something brand new for consumers to eat as a result of the discoveries we have made.” Science minister David Willetts praised the “fantastic achievement” of the scientists. “This excellent work has led to the development of a highly commercial food product that will be both grown and sold in the UK, giving a real boost to agriculture, our personal health and the economy,” he says.
Beneforte was created by cross-breeding a high-glucoraphanin wild variety of Sicilian broccoli with a common variety. It is going on sale at STG1.49 ($A2.43) per pack.
“We know that eating five a day is important for health but the reality is people are still struggling to do it. Even when they do, they often eat more fruit rather than vegetables,” says M&S nutritionist, Claire Hughes.
“Green leafy vegetables like broccoli are really good for us as they contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, but there is still lots to learn about the health benefits of phytonutrients.
“Glucoraphanin has been studied for a number of years and has been shown to be health boosting. We’re pleased to offer this as part of our Simply More range.”