Your mom was right, broccoli is great for you! A new study has given out more reasons to eat this vegetable.
The University of Illinois researchers have identified candidate genes controlling the accumulation of phenolic compounds in broccoli. Consumption of phenolic compounds — including certain flavonoids — is associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma and several types of cancer.
“Phenolic compounds have good antioxidant activity and there is increasing evidence that this antioxidant activity affects biochemical pathways affiliated with inflammation in mammals. We need inflammation because it’s a response to disease or damage, but it’s also associated with initiation of a number of degenerative diseases. People whose diets consist of a certain level of these compounds will have a lesser risk of contracting these diseases,” explained geneticist Jack Juvik.
The researchers crossed two broccoli lines and tested their progeny in terms of total phenolic content and their ability to neutralize oxygen radicals in cellular assays. They then used a genetic technique called quantitative trait locus analysis to search for the genes involved in generating phenolics in the most promising progeny.
By identifying the genes involved in accumulating these compounds, the researchers are one step closer to breeding broccoli and related Brassica vegetables like kale and cabbage with mega-doses of phenolic compounds.
“It’s going to take awhile,” Juvik notes. “This work is a step in that direction, but is not the final answer. We plan to take the candidate genes we identified here and use them in a breeding program to improve the health benefits of these vegetables. Meanwhile, we’ll have to make sure yield, appearance and taste are maintained as well.”
The study appears in Molecular Breeding.