Dereham scientist ‘amazed’ after developing health-boosting broccoli

A scientist is 'chuffed' after she helped develop a cancer and heart disease-busting broccoli which is on now on sale.

Dr Kathy Faulkner, 45, who works as a chief science technician at Dereham's Neatherd High School, became involved in the research in 1996 as part of her PHD and postdoctoral qualifications.

The mother-of-one helped create the vegetable, Benefort�, at the John Innes Centre and the Institute of Food Research (IFR), which are based in Norwich, until 2002.

As reported in the EDP last week, the vegetable is available from 300 Marks and Spencer stores – the first time it has been sold in Britain.

Research into Benefort�, which looks exactly the same as normal broccoli, started in 1995 and results revealed the vegetable may protect the body against heart disease and some types of cancer.

Dr Faulkner, from Scarning, near Dereham, said: 'I have always wanted to do something which would have a benefit. This has just taken off and it is amazing. I'm chuffed. My nine-year-old son James loves it.'

The vegetable contains two to three times more glucoraphanin – a plant chemical – compared to normal broccoli.

Most Read

The nutrient is converted in the gut into the bioactive compound sulphoraphane, which circulates in the bloodstream.

Scientific evidence indicates that sulforaphane is likely to have beneficial effects such as reducing chronic inflammation, stopping uncontrolled cell division associated with early stages of cancer, and boosting the body's antioxidants.

Compared with normal broccoli, eating Benefort� broccoli raises sulphoraphane levels two to four times.

Dr Faulkner, who has a degree in biochemistry from the Aberystwyth University, said she has always been interested in human and plant genetics.

Her PHD and postdoctoral qualifications, which both took three years to complete, were done through the University of East Anglia and focused on the anti-carcinogenic effects of broccoli.

Dr Faulkner's supervisor was professor Richard Mithen, who she described as 'inspiring', and research assistant Ruth MacCormack.

Talking about the research, she added: 'It was great fun because one day I was in a field with my wellies on planting 2,000 broccoli seeds, then I was in the lab doing some analysis.'

The vegetable, which is a cross of wild broccoli and conventional broccoli, started life in glass houses at the John Innes Centre and then moved to fields next to the site.

Since going on sale, Benefort� is now grown in parts of Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Scotland in the summer. During winter the vegetable will be imported from Spain.

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.