12 January - 20 June 2016

Broccoli - anti-cancer benefits and improved shelf life

26 Feb 14

Researchers may have discovered how to maximise the cancer-fighting power of broccoli, according to a study at the University of Illinois. The researchers first used methyl jasmonate (MeJA), a non-toxic plant-signal compound (produced naturally in plants) to increase the broccoli's anti-cancer potential, which they sprayed on the broccoli about four days before harvest. When applied, MeJA initiates a gene activity associated with the biosynthesis of glucosinolates (GS), which are compounds found in the tissue of broccoli and other brassica vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. Glucosinolates have been identified as potent cancer-preventative agents because of their ability to induce detoxification enzymes that detoxify and eliminate carcinogens from the body.

However, the researchers found that MeJA may also lead to plant decay and reduction of shelf life after harvest; they therefore tried using the recently developed compound 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP). They applied the compound after harvesting the same broccoli that had already been treated with MeJA before harvest, which stopped or dramatically slowed down the decay process. Like MeJA, 1-MCP is a non-toxic compound naturally produced in plants, although synthetic forms can be produced.

The researchers stressed that both MeJA and 1-MCP treatments required very small amounts of the compounds. The use of these treatments could make a great impact on global dilemmas such as food security issues and health costs, with the treatments providing a preventative approach to medical costs associated with degenerative diseases. They could also help prolong food stability, resulting in less waste. Finally, any mechanism to improve people's health, especially later in life, is a benefit to food security. [Eurekalert]

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