Chemicals released when vegetables, such as cabbage or Brussels sprouts are chopped, processed, cooked, chewed and digested cause the cancer cells to apoptosis, the process of cell suicide. The chemical is what gives these vegetables their bitter taste. This chemical is already used in many anti-cancer drugs, and a report in Carcinogenesis, showed that sinigrin, a chemical compound found in brassicas (cabbage family), is converted by processing or eating into allylisothiocyanate (AITC).
Professor Johnson, of the Institute of Food Research, said "We found that in laborotary experiments that AITC interrupts the division of colon cancer cells. Instead of going on dividing indefinitely, the cells float free and then go into apoptosis, the process of cell suicide."
Normal cells commit suicide at the end of their lives, tumours are formed when this process goes wrong and the cells continually divide unchecked. AITC restors this normal suicide in the cells thereby preventing cancer.
The idea that a diet high in fruit and vegetables helps combat cancer is well-known, but now proof that this is so, and how it happens is due to these chemicals in the green vegetables. This means that a diet, high in these vegetables can aid preventing cancer as well as many drugs.
The shorter the cooking time and the less water used to cook them, the larger the benefit. It was recommended that at least two to three helping of brassicas a week would be beneficial. to make these vegetables more popular, the breeders have been trying to reduce the normal bitter taste to make them more palatable, this may however, reduce the quantity of sinigrin in the food.
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Last Updated: 11th May 2004