Cruciferous vegetables like Cabbage, water cress, garden cress, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, mustard seeds, Bok Choi horseradish, have been the focus of a lot of research recently. They all contain different types of a chemical called an isothiocyanate (we’ll call them ITCs. These ITCs all seem to have anti-cancer properties both in preventing cancer and in inhibiting the growth of existing cancers. There is also evidence that they can cause the death of cancer cells while not damaging healthy cells. The evidence for this comes mainly from work with cancer cells grown in tissue culture and from animal experiments.
However, in March 2007 this Newsletter reported a study in which 60 adults with the average age of 33 were recruited, half of whom were smokers. They were given 85 grams of raw watercress to include in their regular diets each day. Blood samples were taken before and after an 8 week period. Researchers measured markers in the blood related to cancer risk. The results were very clear showing that cancer risk had decreased as a result of the daily watercress intake and this was particularly true in the smokers who had low anti-oxidant levels in the pre-test blood samples.
More recent studies have shown that these ITCs actually affect the activity of genes that protect against cancer, reactivating tumor supressor genes while also initiating cancer cell death directly.