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British research leads to UK launch of Beneforté broccoli

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4 October 2011

A new variety of broccoli with higher levels of a key phytonutrient is now available in UK shops thanks to experts working on both the biology of plants and the link between human nutrition and health. The new broccoli, which will be known as Beneforté, was developed from publicly-funded research at two of the UK's world-leading biological research institutes: the Institute of Food Research and the John Innes Centre, which both receive strategic funding from BBSRC.

Copyright: Institute of Food Research

Copyright: Institute of Food Research

Scientists at the two institutes are working to develop our understanding of what it is about broccoli that makes it a particularly healthy food.

The researchers used conventional breeding techniques to develop the new broccoli, which contains two to three times the level of the phytonutrient glucoraphanin than standard broccoli. Glucoraphanin is a beneficial chemical that is found naturally in broccoli and is thought to help explain the link between eating broccoli and lower rates of heart disease and some forms of cancer. Glucoraphanin also leads to a boost in the body's antioxidant enzyme levels.

"Our research has given new insights into the role of broccoli and other similar vegetables in promoting health, and has shown how this understanding can lead to the development of potentially more nutritious varieties of our familiar vegetables", said Professor Richard Mithen, of the Institute of Food Research. "Now there will also be something brand new for consumers to eat as a result of the discoveries we have made."

British-grown Beneforté broccoli is now available in Marks and Spencer stores around the UK and will become more widely available in other supermarkets during summer 2012.

Science Minister David Willetts said: "This is a fantastic achievement and testament to the quality of research we have in this country and its ability to drive growth. This excellent work has led to the development of a highly commercial food product that will be both grown and sold in the UK, giving a real boost to agriculture, our personal health and the economy."

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said: "A body of evidence generated through years of independent public research has helped turn fundamental science into a new product. This is a great example of how our ever-improving understanding of biological processes in both plants and humans can lead, over time, to commercial innovation. What's really exciting about Beneforté is that it's something that comes from British scientific research and is available for anyone to buy in the shops and try for themselves"."

Research highlights - health benefits

Copyright: Institute of Food Research

Copyright: Institute of Food Research

Broccoli is the only commonly eaten vegetable that contains meaningful quantities of glucoraphanin. This naturally occurring compound is converted in the gut to the bioactive compound sulforaphane, which then circulates in the bloodstream. A large body of scientific evidence indicates that sulforaphane is likely to have beneficial effects such as reducing chronic inflammation, stopping uncontrolled cell division associated with early stages of cancer, and inducing antioxidant enzymes (ref 1).

This research on sulforaphane could explain why people who eat a few portions of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli every week, have a lower risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease (ref 2). Studies at IFR have already shown that eating the new broccoli results in two to four times the level of sulforaphane in the blood compared to normal broccoli (ref 3).

In collaboration with the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the IFR scientists found that men who ate a broccoli-rich diet experienced changes in the activity of genes associated with tumour survival and growth (ref 4). These changes were consistent with studies that suggest men who eat broccoli-rich diets have a reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer (ref 5). Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer for males in western countries.

  1. Juge at al (2007) Cell Molecular Life Sciences 64, 1105-27
  2. Jeffery and Araya (2009) Phytochem Rev 8:283-298
  3. Gasper et al (2005) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 82(6):1283-91.
  4. Traka et al (2008) PLoS One. 2008 Jul 2:3 (7):e2568.
  5. Kirsh et al (2007) Journal of the National Cancer Institute 99, 1200-9

ENDS

About the Institute of Food Research

The mission of the Institute of Food Research, www.ifr.ac.uk, is to undertake international quality scientific research relevant to food and human health and to work in partnership with others to provide underpinning science for consumers, policy makers, the food industry and academia. It is a company limited by guarantee, with charitable status.

IFR is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. IFR received a total of £13.4M investment from BBSRC in 2010-11.

The institutes deliver innovative, world class bioscience research and training, leading to wealth and job creation, generating high returns for the UK economy. They have strong links with business, industry and the wider community, and support policy development

The institutes' research underpins key sectors of the UK economy such as agriculture, bioenergy, biotechnology, food and drink and pharmaceuticals. In addition, the institutes maintain unique research facilities of national importance.

About the John Innes Centre

The John Innes Centre, www.jic.ac.uk, is a world-leading research centre based on the Norwich Research Park www.nrp.org.uk. The JIC's mission is to generate knowledge of plants and microbes through innovative research, to train scientists for the future, and to apply its knowledge to benefit agriculture, human health and well-being, and the environment. JIC delivers world class bioscience outcomes leading to wealth and job creation, and generating high returns for the UK economy.

JIC is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and received a total of £28.4M investment in 2010-11.

About PBL

PBL,  www.pbltechnology.com, is the JIC's technology transfer company and has built the development partnerships with the seeds, farming and grocery industries to bring Beneforté to market. PBL was formed in 1994, and is now jointly and equally owned by the John Innes Centre, The Sainsbury Laboratory and the BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council). PBL invests in and manages the transfer of new innovations for many public research organisations around the world.

About BBSRC

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £445M, we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk .
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes .

External contact

Zoe Dunford, IFR and JIC Press Office

tel: 01603 255111

Andrew Chapple, IFR and JIC Press Office

tel: 01603 251490