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Watercress could Suppress Breast Cancer Development

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

A study from University of Southampton shows watercress could help suppress the development of breast cancer. A chemical in the green vegetable, called phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), turns off signals in the body that promote cancer growth.

Cancer cells send out signals that help them grow. Normal cells pick up signals, sending oxygen and nutrients by way of new blood vessel growth. Watercress halts the function of a protein called Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF), in turn starving breast cancer tumors and suppressing their growth.

According to Professor Graham Packham of the University of Southampton who led the study, “The research takes an important step towards understanding the potential health benefits of this crop since it shows that eating watercress may interfere with a pathway that has already been tightly linked to cancer development.

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Knowing the risk factors for cancer is a key goal and studies on diet are an important part of this. However, relatively little work is being performed in the UK on the links between the foods we eat and cancer development."

Watercress Effect Measured in Blood of Breast Cancer Survivors

For the study, the researchers measured the effect of watercress in the bloodstream of a small group of breast cancer survivors. After fasting the women consumed a cereal bowl serving of the vegetable (80 grams), followed by blood testing. After eating the watercress, PEITC levels were detectable in the blood. The protein HIF was also affected by eating the vegetable, shown by blood test taken over a 24 hour period.

In addition to the new findings that eating watercress could stop breast cancer tumors from developing, the green leafy vegetable, correctly known as nasturtium officinale, has also been suggested to have aphrodisiac properties. Nutritional benefits include calcium, vitamin C, potassium, vitamins B1, B6, K, E, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin that promote eye health.

University of South Hamptom