Breast Cancer Awareness month this October also symbolizes research on what some nutritionists refer to as anti-cancer plant foods such as broccoli. Remember all the rumors that our vegetables don’t contain the same amount of minerals as they did years ago? Well, they haven’t changed much in 35 years. But have they changed a lot in 200 years?
What has been tested is comparing broccoli grown 35 years ago to broccoli grown today….The mineral levels are similar to what they were 35 years ago, back in the 1970s. But that don’t tell us what they were at the turn of the century or before. Even though, broccoli still has pretty good health benefits when eaten in moderation.
Even the USDA currently is touting the health benefits of broccoli still rich in minerals after 35 years of testing for changes, according to a study published recently in the journal Crop Science. Locally, in the Sacramento and Davis regional areas, also recent U.C. Davis studies on the health effects of broccoli and Spirulina show specific health benefits. Eaten in moderation, are broccoli and spirulina superfoods?
Current research with broccoli at U.C. Davis suggests that consumption of broccoli is associated with a reduced risk of breast (1), prostate (2), bladder (3), lung, colon, thyroid, and stomach cancer in addition to cancer of the respiratory tract and reproductive organs (4). In light of this research, the American Cancer Society recommends consuming broccoli as part of a balanced diet that includes foods from a variety of plant sources.
Scientists at U.C. Davis also found that spirulina has health benefits. “We found that nutrient-rich spirulina is a potent inducer of interferon-gamma (13.6-fold increase) and a moderate stimulator of both interleukin-4 and interleukin-1beta (3.3-fold increase),” says Eric Gershwin, professor and chief of the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Clinical Immunology at UC Davis, according to the article, “Discover how stress causes cancer and how to heal within.”
“Together, increases in these cytokines suggest that spirulina is a strong proponent for protecting against intracellular pathogens and parasites and can potentially increase the expression of agents that stimulate inflammation, which also helps to protect the body against infectious and potentially harmful micro-organisms.”
[In the body, the preferential increase in the production of interferon-gamma over interleukin-4 would shift the immune system towards mounting a cell-mediated immune response instead of a humoral response. A cell-mediated response includes the activation of T-cells and antibodies that work with macrophages, another type of immune system cell, to engulf invading micro-organisms and cancer cells in the body.]
Broccoli’s super health benefits: Eat in moderation. Too much can overstimulate your thyroid
Broccoli has important health benefits, and minerals measured in broccoli florets have not declined in the past 35 years. New research shows that broccoli florets in the study were tested for levels of calcium, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, sodium, phosphorous, sulfur and zinc.
Results indicated significant cultivar differences in floret concentrations of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, sodium, phosphorous and zinc, but not of potassium, manganese, molybdenum or sulfur. There was no clear relationship between mineral concentration and the date of the release year in that new study.
According to an October 13, 2011 USDA news release by Sharon Durham, “USDA research demonstrates new breeds of broccoli remain packed with health benefits,” research performed by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and published recently in the journal Crop Science has demonstrated that mineral levels in new varieties of broccoli have not declined since 1975, and that the broccoli contains the same levels of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium and other minerals that have made the vegetable a healthy staple of American diets for decades.
“This research provides data on the nutritional content of broccoli for breeders to consider as they further improve this important vegetable,” said Edward B. Knipling, administrator of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency, according to the USDA news release. “The research demonstrates how ARS is helping to find answers to agricultural problems that impact Americans every day, from field to table.”
A team of three scientists evaluated the mineral content of 14 broccoli cultivars released over a span of more than 50 years: ARS geneticist and research leader Mark Farnham at the agency’s U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, S.C.; plant physiologist Michael Grusak at the USDA-ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center (CNRC) in Houston, Texas; and Clemson University scientist Anthony Keinath.
The researchers grew the 14 cultivars in two field trials in 2008 and 2009, and harvested florets for testing. “Our studies show that not much has changed in terms of mineral content in the last 35 years in a crop that has undergone significant improvement from a quality standpoint and that was not widely consumed in the United States before the 1960s,” said Farnham, according to the news release.
“For broccoli cultivars grown during the past 35 years, when hybrids became the standard cultivar, evidence indicates that mineral concentrations remain unchanged,” said Farnham, according to the USDA news release. “As broccoli breeders continue to improve this crop in the future, data from this study can serve as a very useful guide in helping breeders understand the variation in mineral concentrations they should expect among their breeding stocks and also provide a realistic baseline that should be maintained as other characteristics are manipulated in the future.”
As USDA’s chief scientific research agency, ARS is leading America toward a better future through agricultural research and information. ARS conducts research to develop and transfer solutions to help answer agricultural questions that impact Americans every day. ARS work helps to accomplish the following: ensure high-quality, safe food and other agricultural products, assess the nutritional needs of Americans, sustain a competitive agricultural economy, enhance the natural resource base and the environment, and provide economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities and society as a whole.
1. Ambrosone CB, et al. Breast cancer risk in premenopausal women is inversely associated with consumption of broccoli, a source of isothiocyanates, but is not modified by GST genotype. J Nutr;2004; 134: 1134-8.
2. Kirsh VA, et al. Prospective study of fruit and vegetable intake and risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst; 2007; 99: 1200-9.
3. Michaud DS, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of bladder cancer in a male prospective cohort. J Natl Cancer Inst; 1999; 91: 605-13.
4. Verhoeven DT, et al. Epidemiological studies on brassica vegetables and cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; 1996; 5: 733-48.