Watercress Extract Detoxed Smokers’ Carcinogen by 95 Percent

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By April McCarthy

Watercress Acts To Detox Carcinogens In The Body

Watercress, an often-overlooked, leafy green food source that is a close cousin of mustard greens, cabbage, and arugula, is also a powerful anti-carcinogen. The ‘super food’ can help starve tumours of essential blood and oxygen significantly inhibiting the activation of carcinogens.

When foods are scored by their content of potassium, fibre, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K, watercress comes out on top above broccoli and kale.

See: Smoking Alters Bacteria Balance In The Mouth And Gut Microbiome

It is considered one of the top 36 foods that help cleanse the entire body. You can give your liver a big boost with cleansing action of watercress. It helps to release enzymes in the liver that clean it out and help rid it of toxic buildup. It contains glucosinolate compounds, which have been found to have anti-cancer properties.

A phase II clinical trial demonstrated and presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) showed that watercress extract taken multiple times a day can significantly inhibit cancer.

The trial specifically showed that the extract detoxifies environmental carcinogens and toxicants found in cigarette smoke, and that the effect is stronger in people who lack certain genes involved in processing carcinogens.

The research found that the compound, phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), which gives the salad leaf a peppery taste, is able to interfere with the function of a protein that plays a critical role in cancer development.

“Cigarette smokers are at far greater risk than the general public for developing lung cancer, and helping smokers quit should be our top cancer prevention priority in these people,” said Jian-Min Yuan, M.D., Ph.D., associate director of the UPCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Science and an epidemiologist with Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health. “But nicotine is very addictive, and quitting can take time and multiple relapses. Having a tolerable, nontoxic treatment, like watercress extract, that can protect smokers against cancer would be an incredibly valuable tool in our cancer-fighting arsenal.”

Dr. Yuan, who also is Pitt’s Arnold Palmer Endowed Chair in Cancer Prevention, and his colleagues enrolled 82 cigarette smokers in the randomized clinical trial. The participants either took 10 milligrams of watercress extract mixed in 1 milliliter of olive oil four times a day for a week or they took a placebo. Each group of participants then had a one week “wash-out” period where they didn’t take anything and then switched so that those getting the placebo now received the extract. They all continued their regular smoking habits throughout the trial.

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In one week, the watercress extract reduced activation of the carcinogen known as nicotine-derived nitrosamine ketone in the smokers by an average of 7.7 percent. It increased detoxification of benzene by 24.6 percent and acrolein by 15.1 percent, but had no effect on crotonaldehyde. All the substances are found in cigarette smoke.

See: Study: Eating White Bread & Bagels Can Be Worse Than Smoking – 49% Increase In Lung Cancer

Participants who lacked two genes involved in a genetic pathway that helps the antioxidant glutathione remove carcinogens and toxicants from the body saw an even bigger benefit to taking the watercress extract, which increased their detoxification of benzene by 95.4 percent, acrolein by 32.7 percent and crotonaldehyde by 29.8 percent.

A phase III clinical trial in hundreds of people must be performed before the treatment could be recommended for smokers, and Dr. Yuan warned that while eating cruciferous vegetables, such as watercress and broccoli, are good for people, they are unlikely to have the same pronounced effect as the extract.

Photo credit: jamieanne via Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

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