What’s so super about ‘Superbroccoli’?

b9ea29fd-a2b7-46b2-b42f-27714e56d8ccSuperbroccoli is a vegetable that looks the same as normal broccoli, but contains boosted levels of a health-giving nutrient.  It is a hybrid of two types of broccoli — British broccoli and a wild, bitter Sicilian variety that contains large amounts of glucoraphanin.

How does super broccoli taste?

The bitter Sicilian variety isn’t very appealing to the taste buds, but when crossed with the British broccoli, the bitter taste disappears and the heart-healthiness remains.

Super broccoli contains no genetically modified organisms. Hybrid vegetables (and fruits) aren’t harmful. They’re created by cross-pollinating two closely related foods. It’s how you ended up with broccolini  (a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli) and pluots (a hybrid of plums and apricots). The seedless watermelons that you buy at farmers market are also hybrids. So while super broccoli sounds a bit suspicious, it could end up being beneficial.

Research suggests the plant chemical, glucoraphanin, may protect the body against heart disease and some types of cancer.

The new broccoli, called Beneforte, contains two to three times more glucoraphanin than standard broccoli. It will be sold at Marks & Spencer stores and will make an appearance on the shelves of other supermarkets soon.  .

Beneforte was developed by British scientists using conventional breeding techniques rather than genetic engineering.

Human trials are being conducted that compare “the heart health of people eating the super broccoli to those who eat regular broccoli or no broccoli.”

Work on the project began after a wild broccoli variety was discovered in 1983 with naturally raised levels of glucoraphanin. The nutrient is converted in the gut into the bioactive compound sulphoraphane, which circulates in the bloodstream.

Evidence indicates that sulphoraphane has beneficial effects such as reducing chronic inflammation, stopping uncontrolled cell division associated with early-stage cancer, and boosting the body’s antioxidants.

There’s a lot of circumstantial evidence that points to (glucoraphanin and related compounds) as the most important preventive agents for (heart attacks) and certain cancers, so it’s a reasonable thing to do,” said Lars Ove Dragsted, a nutrition professor at the University of Copenhagen.

Some experts downplayed super broccoli’s health benefits, saying it won’t fight habits like smoking or not exercising.

Compared with normal broccoli, eating Beneforte broccoli raises sulphoraphane levels two to four times.

Beneforte broccoli was developed at the Institute of Food Research (IFR) and John Innes Centre, both based in Norwich.

Science minister David Willetts praised the “fantastic achievement” of the scientists.”

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