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Plants of cabbage family may prevent cancer

Diets high in plants of the cabbage family may ward off bladder cancer say researchers

4 March 2008

An international team of researchers led by AgResearch senior scientist Dr Rex Munday has discovered that an extract of broccoli sprouts can decrease the incidence of bladder cancer in an animal model by more than 50 per cent.

Collaborating with Dr Munday on the project were researchers from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (USA), Johns Hopkins University (USA), Massey University and Crop & Food Research (NZ).

In an earlier study supported by the Waikato Medical Research Foundation, the researchers found that rats fed with vegetables of the cabbage family, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and watercress, showed an increase in tissue enzymes that protect against chemicals that cause cancer.

“The greatest effect was seen in the bladder, suggesting that such vegetables would protect against bladder cancer,” says Dr Munday.

The researchers’ latest experiment, the findings of which were recently published in the prestigious international journal Cancer Research, showed that this is indeed the case.

“This result is consistent with epidemiological studies showing that people who have a high dietary intake of plants of the cabbage family are less likely to develop bladder cancer than those who eat only small amounts of these vegetables,” he says.

Bladder cancer is a major problem, particularly in Western countries. It is diagnosed in more than 300,000 people every year worldwide, and is the fourth commonest cancer in men, and the eighth commonest in women. It appears that increased consumption of certain vegetables could reduce the incidence of this disease.

The researchers are now working on other vegetables and vegetable components to find even more effective materials for the prevention of bladder cancer.

Crop & Food Research nutritional biochemist Dr Carolyn Lister says scientific knowledge about the beneficial effects of vegetables and their components is increasing daily. "Hopefully these results will encourage people to eat more vegetables that are naturally rich in glucosinolates, particularly those of the cabbage family”.


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