Field trials confirm reliability of ‘super broccoli’

Professor Richard Mithen of the Institute of Food Research in Norwich is leading the studies to unde

Professor Richard Mithen of the Institute of Food Research in Norwich is leading the studies to understand the health benefits of Benefort broccoli. - Credit: Submitted

A type of 'super broccoli' pioneered by Norwich scientists has been found to yield 'reliably higher levels' of a health-boosting compound than ordinary varieties of the vegetable.

The Beneforté variety was produced following a publicly-funded research programme led by the Institute of Food Research (IFR) and the John Innes Centre, on the Norwich Research Park at Colney.

Extensive field trials at 50 sites across Europe, the USA and Mexico have now concluded that the broccoli consistently produces two to three times the amount of glucoraphanin than other varieties – a compound believed to aid cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of some cancers.

The research, published in the journal New Phytologist, shows that Beneforté increases the amount of sulphur it takes up from the soil, and channels more of it into glucoraphanin.

Prof Richard Mithen of the IFR is now leading ongoing studies to understand how the compound exerts its effects on human health, with particular focus on the cardiovascular system and prostate cancer.


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'What this paper shows is that the levels produced are reliable, and not particularly influenced by factors like where it is grown, or the season, so the retailer and the consumer can have confidence on what they are buying.

'We are now accumulating evidence that it will benefit cardiovascular health and we will soon be starting a study looking at the effects on men at risk of prostate cancer.'

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The specific properties of Beneforté were developed by crossing standard cultivated broccoli with a wild-growing relative from Sicily. The resulting strain was achieved through conventional breeding rather than genetic modification.

By growing sample plants across global sites, the field study showed glucoraphanin levels were largely unaffected by varying soil types, geography, climate, temperatures and seasons.

Beneforté was commercially launched in UK supermarkets in 2011.

The IFR is looking to recruit volunteers for a study into the effects which broccoli in people's diets will have on their risk of developing heart disease.

Participants need to be aged 50 or older, both smokers and non-smokers, who are willing to eat extra portions of broccoli provided for 12 weeks. Three blood samples will be taken and there will be other simple tests such as blood pressure measurements. The IFR will reimburse expenses and recompense participants.

For more information contact Charlotte Armah on 01603 255360 or charlotte.armah@ifr.ac.uk, or Joanne Doleman on 01603 251477 or joanne.doleman@ifr.ac.uk.

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