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Higher levels of healthy compound found in new broccoli variety.

Field trials and genetic studies indicate that a new variety of broccoli reliably yields higher levels of a health-promoting compound.

Broccoli contains glucoraphanin, which maintains cardiovascular health and possibly reduces the risk for cancer. Glucoraphanin occurs naturally in broccoli and is thought to help explain the link between consuming broccoli and lower rates of heart disease and some forms of cancer. Glucoraphanin also leads to a boost in the body's antioxidant enzyme levels.

A long-term breeding program to increase glucoraphanin levels led to the commercial release of Beneforte broccoli, which was launched in the UK in 2011. Scientists used conventional breeding techniques to develop the new broccoli. Essentially, Beneforte was developed by crossing standard broccoli with a wild relative.

Three years of field trials at more than 50 different sites in Europe and the US have shown that Beneforte broccoli consistently produces two to three times more glucoraphanin than other leading varieties of broccoli. This has been achieved without affecting yield, quality or the levels of other nutrients.

Glucoraphanin contains sulfur, which broccoli derives from the soil. New research shows that Beneforte increases the amount of sulfur it takes up from the soil, and also channels more of it into glucoraphanin. The research was published in New Phytologist: Genetic regulation of glucoraphanin accumulation in Beneforte broccoli, 2013, doi: 10.1111/nph.12232.

Genetic analysis identified a single gene derived from the original wild relative that is responsible for the increase in sulfur content. In standard broccoli varieties, different soils can cause variation in glucoraphanin levels. These findings explain how Beneforte consistently delivers more glucoraphanin than ordinary broccoli.

Scientists at the Institute of Food Research (IFR) are leading ongoing studies to understand how glucoraphanin in Beneforte exerts its effects on human health, with particular focus on the cardiovascular system and prostate cancer.

In collaboration with the UK's Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, IFR scientists found that men who ate a broccoli-rich diet experienced changes in the activity of genes associated with tumor survival and growth. These changes were consistent with studies that suggest men who eat broccoli-rich diets have a reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

Further information. Richard Mithen, Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich, NR4 7UA UK; phone: +44 1603 255259; fax: +44 1603 507723; email:
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Publication:Emerging Food R&D Report
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 1, 2013
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