Our Technology

Our inventor and lead scientist, Professor Richard Mithen, has developed a broccoli, using traditional breeding techniques, to contain significantly higher amounts of glucoraphanin compared to standard broccoli varieties. In clinical research, led by Professor Mithen, volunteers were fed once weekly with a soup incorporating broccoli that has high levels of glucoraphanin. In subjects that were pre-diabetic (with elevated blood glucose) there was a significant reduction in blood glucose in all cohort members when compared with controls. This study was researching the impact of glucoraphanin on early stage prostate cancer and a large proportion of the trial subjects also had elevated blood glucose[i]

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a huge public health issue and is growing in frequency across the developed and developing world. Large swathes of the population are clinically overweight and at risk of developing T2D. This global population, commonly referred to as pre-diabetic, represents an enormous societal health risk impacting individuals and health services across the world. If untreated, prediabetes can develop into type 2 diabetes; which, whilst treatable, is currently not fully reversible.

Prediabetes is characterised by the presence of blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be classed as diabetes. Prediabetes may be referred to as impaired fasting glucose (IFT), if you have higher than normal sugar levels after a period of fasting, or an impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), if you have higher than normal sugar levels following eating.

The increasing number of new cases of prediabetes presents a global concern as it carries large scale implications towards the future burden on healthcare. Between 2003 and 2011, the prevalence of prediabetes in England alone more than tripled, with 35.3% of the adult population, or 1 in every 3 people having prediabetes.

 

Reference

[I] Traka MH, Melchini A, Coode-Bate J, Al Kadhi O, Saha S, Defernez M, Troncoso-Rey P, Kibblewhite H, O’Neill CM, Bernuzzi F, Mythen L, Hughes J, Needs PW, Dainty JR, Savva GM, Mills RD, Ball RY, Cooper CS, Mithen RF. Transcriptional changes in prostate of men on active surveillance after a 12-mo glucoraphanin-rich broccoli intervention-results from the Effect of Sulforaphane on prostate CAncer PrEvention (ESCAPE) randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Apr 1;109(4):1133-1144. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz012.

Broccoli is a member of a group of vegetables called the crucifers. Broccoli is thought to be derived from a cabbage-like relative in pre-Roman times by selective breeding. Broccoli comes from the Mediterranean region (its name derives from ‘little sprouts’ in Italian) and was eaten by the Romans.

Broccoli is a member of a group of vegetables called the crucifers

The same common ancestor is behind cabbages, cauliflowers, Brussels sprouts and Kohlrabi, and botanically all of these cruciferous vegetables are the same – they were just selectively bred hundreds of years ago to accentuate different characteristics. In the case of broccoli, the flower stalks don’t develop fully, but instead produce a proliferation of flower buds that group onto ‘spears.’

Crucifers also have characteristically strong aroma and taste, which has been behind their popularity in use in Mediterranean cuisine and subsequent spread around the world. And now we think that the compounds that are behind these tastes are what might be responsible for the observations from dietary studies that diets high in crucifers reduce risk of developing chronic disease.

These compounds are called glucosinolates and are used by the plants as a form of natural defence. The plant stockpiles glucosinolates inside its cells. When these cells are damaged, for example by insects biting into them, the glucosinolates mix with special enzymes kept separately within in the cell, breaking them down into other compounds called isothiocyanates. These deter the insects, but give broccoli and other crucifers their distinctive taste.

In broccoli, the predominant glucosinolate is called glucoraphanin, and the isothiocyanate is called sulphoraphane. In fact, broccoli is the only crucifer to have any significant quantity of glucoraphanin.

The work of our inventor and lead scientist, Professor Richard Mithen, has focussed on developing a broccoli, using traditional breeding techniques, to contain significantly higher amounts of glucoraphanin compared to standard broccoli varieties. Studies on glucoraphanin have shown it may reduce elevated blood glucose, lower cholesterol and reduce risk of chronic diseases. This has been done whilst maintaining the taste of broccoli, in fact many people prefer the taste of the hybrid lines.

As well as the increased levels of glucoraphanin, the broccoli also contains all of the nutrients found in standard broccoli varieties. Broccoli is high in fibre and a good source of vitamins A, C K, as well as folate and calcium.

Many epidemiological studies have shown that diets rich in cruciferous vegetables reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases including some forms of cancer and heart disease. Some studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables may reduce the risk of prostate cancer [i], bladder cancer [ii], breast cancer [iii] and other conditions.

Cohort studies have shown some protection against cardiovascular disease from cruciferous vegetables [iv] as well as prostate cancer [v] [vi] and others.  In addition, a number of ‘meta-analyses’ have attempted to combine many of the different studies undertaken by different research groups around the world to give an overview.  Meta-analyses have provided evidence that cruciferous vegetables reduce the risk of colon cancer [vii] , prostate cancer [viii] and breast cancer [ix]

The strongest evidence for health-protecting effects of eating certain foods comes from Human Intervention Trials.  Professor Mithen has conducted a small-scale human intervention trial to fill in gaps between observational studies [x] in men at risk of developing prostate cancer and showed there were more positive changes in gene expression amongst men who were on the broccoli-rich diet, and these changes may be associated with the reduction in the risk of developing prostate cancer.  Additionally he has conducted a much larger study, funded by the Prostate Cancer Foundation looking at the protective effects of broccoli consumption against prostate cancer [xi].

This research using high glucoraphanin broccoli has shown that it ‘re-tunes’ metabolic processes in our cells linked to health outcomes. In further studies, published in 2015, show that a diet rich in high glucoraphanin broccoli reduced blood LDL cholesterol levels. Two independent dietary intervention trials showed that people eating 400g of high glucoraphanin broccoli saw an average reduction of 6% in the LDL cholesterol after 12 weeks [xii].

List of References

[i] Joseph, M. A., K. B. Moysich, J. L. Freudenheim, P. G. Shields, E. D. Bowman, Y. Zhang, J. R. Marshall, and C. B. Ambrosone. “Cruciferous Vegetables, Genetic Polymorphisms in Glutathione S-Transferases M1 and T1, and Prostate Cancer Risk.” Nutr Cancer 50, no. 2 (2004): 206-13.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15327914nc5002_11

[ii] Lin, J., A. Kamat, J. Gu, M. Chen, C. P. Dinney, M. R. Forman, and X. Wu. “Dietary Intake of Vegetables and Fruits and the Modification Effects of Gstm1 and Nat2 Genotypes on Bladder Cancer Risk.” Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 18, no. 7 (Jul 2009): 2090-7. http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-1174

[iii] Fowke, J. H., Chung, F. L., Jin, F., Qi, D., Cai, Q., Conaway, C., Cheng, J. R., Shu, X. O., Gao, Y. T. and Zheng, W. (2003)  “Urinary Isothiocyanate Levels, Brassica, and Human Breast Cancer ” http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/63/14/3980.full

[iv] Joshipura, K. J., A. Ascherio, J. E. Manson, M. J. Stampfer, E. B. Rimm, F. E. Speizer, C. H. Hennekens, D. Spiegelman, and W. C. Willett. “Fruit and Vegetable Intake in Relation to Risk of Ischemic Stroke.” JAMA 282, no. 13 (Oct 6 1999): 1233-9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.282.13.1233

[v] Kirsh, V. A., U. Peters, S. T. Mayne, A. F. Subar, N. Chatterjee, C. C. Johnson, R. B. Hayes, Lung Colorectal Prostate, and Trial Ovarian Cancer Screening. “Prospective Study of Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Risk of Prostate Cancer.” J Natl Cancer Inst 99, no. 15 (Aug 1 2007): 1200-9. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djm065

[vi] Richman, E. L., P. R. Carroll, and J. M. Chan. “Vegetable and Fruit Intake after Diagnosis and Risk of Prostate Cancer Progression.” Int J Cancer 131, no. 1 (Jul 1 2012): 201-10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ijc.26348

[vii] Wu, Q. J., Y. Yang, E. Vogtmann, J. Wang, L. H. Han, H. L. Li, and Y. B. Xiang. “Cruciferous Vegetables Intake and the Risk of Colorectal Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies.” Ann Oncol 24, no. 4 (Apr 2013): 1079-87. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/annonc/mds601

[viii] Liu, B., Q. Mao, M. Cao, and L. Xie. “Cruciferous Vegetables Intake and Risk of Prostate Cancer: A Meta-Analysis.” Int J Urol 19, no. 2 (Feb 2012): 134-41. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1442-2042.2011.02906.x

[ix] Liu, X., and K. Lv. “Cruciferous Vegetables Intake Is Inversely Associated with Risk of Breast Cancer: A Meta-Analysis.” Breast 22, no. 3 (Jun 2013): 309-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.breast.2012.07.013

[x] Armah, C. N., Traka, M.H., Dainty, J.R., Defernez, M., Astrid Janssens, Leung, W., Doleman,  J., Potter, J.F., and Mithen, R.F.  A diet rich in high glucoraphanin broccoli interacts with genotype to reduce discordance in plasma metabolite profiles through modulating mitochondrial disfunction, Am J Clin Nutr 2013 98: 712-722 doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.065235

[xi] Traka MH, Melchini A, Coode-Bate J, Al Kadhi O, Saha S, Defernez M, Troncoso-Rey P, Kibblewhite H, O’Neill CM, Bernuzzi F, Mythen L, Hughes J, Needs PW, Dainty JR, Savva GM, Mills RD, Ball RY, Cooper CS, Mithen RF. Transcriptional changes in prostate of men on active surveillance after a 12-mo glucoraphanin-rich broccoli intervention-results from the Effect of Sulforaphane on prostate CAncer PrEvention (ESCAPE) randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Apr 1;109(4):1133-1144. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz012.

[xii] Armah, C.N. et al A diet rich in high glucoraphanin broccoli reduces plasma LDL cholesterol: evidence from randomised controlled trials”, Molecular Nutrition and Food Research DOI 10.1002/mnfr.201400863