Broccoli: Cultivation, Nutritional Properties and Effects on Health

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Hippocrates said: “Let food be your medicine and medicine your food.” Until recently,  this phrase has been essentially a mantra with little scientific support. We are now just  beginning to understand how food and food constituents affect gene expression and thereby  health. This is the area of research known as nutrigenomics. This book is about  nutrigenomics, with a focus on some of the bioactive compounds found in broccoli. This  book presents some scientific background to readers interested in nutrigenomics.  Many decades ago, Professor Paul Talalay together with his students and colleagues  followed up on the observations of Lee Wattenberg that phytochemicals in our diet can  decrease the probability of cancer formation. He and his colleagues were instrumental in  discovering that many of these compounds were monofunctional inducers of phase 2  enzymes. They further played important roles in identifying the mechanisms whereby such  compounds activate the transcription factor nuclear factor (erythroid-derived-2)-like 2 (Nrf2)  resulting in the transcription of multiple genes, the protein products of most of these genes  increase the endogenous capacity of cells to inactivate oxidants (including many carcinogens)  or decrease the probability of producing strong oxidants. They also identified certain  isothiocyanates (especially sulforaphane) metabolites of glucosinolates found in crucifers as  potent activators of the Nrf2 signalling system. Paul Talalay and colleagues also identified the  sprouts (germinated seeds) of certain cultivars of broccoli as being very rich sources of  sulforaphane glucosinolate (glucoraphanin). This research has inspired other researchers such  as Professor Richard Mithen of the UK Institute of Food Research to develop broccoli  cultivars rich in sulforaphane glucosinolate. Furthermore, Professor Talalay and colleagues  have chemically characterized a wide variety of phytochemicals that activate the Nrf2  signalling system. As pointed out in Chapter One, Professor Talalay’s research has acted as a  catalyst and has had major impacts on numerous laboratories around the world—including  mine—in the area of nutrigenomics. This book is dedicated to Professor Paul Talalay to  acknowledge his contribution to the field of nutrigenomics.

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