Broccoli trend gains momentum

By Anita Awbi

- Last updated on GMT

Cyvex Nutrition is expanding its range of broccoli ingredients
after a series of studies revealing the cancer-fighting benefits of
the wonder veg has increased popularity.

The tissue of this cruciferous vegetable has been found to contain high levels of active plant chemicals called glucosinolates. These are metabolized by the body into isothiocynates, evidence suggests are powerful anti-carcinogens. The main isothiocynate from broccoli is sulphoraphane.

Cyvex's new offering, called BroccoPlus, combines six per cent glucosinolates with sulforaphane, delivering high doses of these compounds in powder form.

This may help supplement makers develop products that will be attractive to consumers who do not like the taste of the cruciferous vegetable or are unable to absorb its healthy compounds in their body.

A recent study by the British Institute of Food Research (IFR) found that many people fail to benefit from broccoli because they lack a specific gene (GSTM1) that helps retain the sulforaphane compound in the body.

"Eating a few portions of broccoli each week may help to reduce the risk of cancer. Some individuals, who lack a gene called GSMT1, appear to get less cancer protection from broccoli than those who have the gene,"​ said lead researcher Professor Richard Mithen.

"Our studies suggest that this may be because if you lack the gene you cannot retain any sulphoraphane inside your body - it is all excreted within a few hours."

He added that consuming larger portions of broccoli, or broccoli with higher levels of sulphoraphane, such as the 'super-broccoli' the IFR has developed, would allow those lacking this gene to retain as much sulphoraphane as those with the gene.

But many consumers cite the vegetable's bitter taste a turn off. Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that the ability to taste such bitterness is genetic and is sensed on the tongue by G protein-coupled receptors (GPCR).

The researchers quantified the participants' ability to taste this sensation using 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) and quinine solutions. And previous studies link aversion to PROP bitterness with a lower acceptance of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.

This may be encouraging news for companies making vegetable powders that deliver active properties without the same taste experience.

Cyvax claims its product "is a potent solution for fortifying the body's complex defense system to protect against pathogenic bacteria, harmful free radicals and carcinogenic compounds"​ - ticking a lot of boxes for those interested in nutraceutical ingredients and dietary supplements.

Broccoli has now become the most popular cruciferous vegetable in the US, though its cultivation is relatively new in North America having been introduced to the continent around 60 years ago from Italy.

According to USDA figures, four per cent more winter-season broccoli was grown in the 2005-06 period compared to the previous year. Imports of the fresh and processed vegetable from Mexico and Canada are rising steadily, indicating newfound status for the cancer-beating food.

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