The three year studies of the recently developed Beneforté broccoli shows that the commercially available hybrid consistently produces between two and three times the amount of glucoraphanin than other leading varieties of broccoli - without affecting yield, quality or the levels of other nutrients.
Such findings come after the UK publically funded a long term breeding programme to increase glucoraphanin levels by crossing standard broccoli with a wild relative derived from Sicily – which resulted in the commercial release of Beneforté broccoli.
Now genetic analysis has identified a single gene derived from the original wild relative that is responsible for the changes:
“All of the high-glucoraphanin hybrids possessed an introgressed B. villosa segment which contained a B. villosa Myb28 allele,” said the authors, led by Professor Richard Mithen from the UK’s Institute of Food Research.
“Through the introgression of a B. villosa Myb28 allele that enhanced sulphate assimilation and specifically channelled the additional sulphur to methionine-derived glucosinolates, we developed commercially viable broccoli F1 hybrids with increased concentrations of glucoraphanin, the precursor of sulforaphane,” they added – writing in New Phytologist.
Broccoli is the only commonly eaten vegetable that contains meaningful quantities of glucoraphanin – a naturally occurring compound that is converted into the bioactive compound sulforaphane by the gut.
Mithen explained that a large body of scientific evidence indicates that sulforaphane is likely to have beneficial effects such as reducing chronic inflammation implicated in cardiovascular disease, and halting uncontrolled cell division that is associated with early stages of cancer.
Previous studies have backed such an idea, finding that people who consume a few portions of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli every week have a lower risk of chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
Mithen is now leading on-going studies to understand how glucoraphanin in Beneforté exerts its effects on human health, with particular focus on the cardiovascular system and prostate cancer.
Speaking previously with NutraIngredients, Mithen said while Beneforté does not currently make any health claims on pack, there is substantial unpublished data relating to heart health benefits.
He suggested that there is a plan to submit a health claims dossier to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for claim substantiation on Beneforté’s cardiovascular and heart health benefits upon completion the next set of human studies.