It is a well-known fact that broccoli has cancer fighting properties. But these properties of the vegetable are blunted in some individuals by the virtue of their genetic make-up, according to an Institute of Food Research study. In order to overcome this hurdle, scientists are now creating a "super-broccoli." This contains a bigger quantity of the cancer fighting compound sulforaphane and hence is available in increased amounts to the body.
The IFR scientists hope that this "super broccoli" will be ready for common consumption by the next three years, but say that eating a lot of green vegetables until then should help significantly in warding off cancer. Lead researcher Professor Richard Mithen said that a gene called GSTM1 was responsible for conferring cancer protection. "Some individuals, who lack the gene, appear to get less cancer protection from broccoli than those who have the gene," he said. "Our studies suggest that this may be because, if you lack the gene, you cannot retain any sulforaphane inside your body. It is all excreted within a few hours." He added that if people consumed a lot of broccoli or "super broccoli", which contained large amounts of sulforaphane, this hurdle could be overcome. "Eating larger portions may have additional benefits, since broccoli is also a rich source of other vitamins and minerals," he observed. But skeptics are not easily convinced, "The research backs current thinking that genetic differences may affect how we absorb nutrients from our food," said Josephine Querido, of Cancer Research UK. "When it comes to food, there is no one particular 'super' fruit or vegetable that will protect you from cancer. Experts have proven that the best way to reduce your risk of many cancers is to eat a healthy balanced diet."
Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables. These contain chemical elements called isothiocynates of which sulforaphane is a part. These chemical units are the most powerful anti-cancer agents available naturally. The "super-broccoli" contains about 3.4 times the isothiocynates as compared to the normal vegetable garden variety.