Monday, September 27, 2010

This weeks miracle food: Watercress

We get a new one of these most weeks. It's all theory, of course, including reference to that seemingly indestructible myth: anti-oxidants. There's no epidemiology and no use of even an animal model to demonstrate an effect on morbidity. But it apparently does everything except water your garden

Watercress is often placed to the side of a plate as a decorative garnish, but it has been revered for its health properties for centuries.

While these health claims may be debatable, watercress is packed with 15 essential vitamins and minerals. Now, scientists believe a daily dose may help combat breast cancer.

This month, researchers at Southampton University discovered that within hours of eating 3oz of watercress a day – about a full cereal bowl – a small group of breast cancer survivors had a higher level of cancer-fighting molecules in their blood.

They found the compound phenethyl isothiocyanate – which gives watercress its peppery taste – blocks the hypoxia-inducible factor protein which helps cancer tumours grow. They also found watercress helps ‘turn off’ the signals that cancer cells send out asking the body for more blood and oxygen.

Professor Graham Packham, who led the research, said: ‘I was surprised that eating one portion produced significant levels of this compound in the blood. It has the potential to have the same effect with other cancers.’

In fact, this is not the first time watercress – whose Latin name means ‘nose-twister’ – has been found to combat cancer. In 2007, Irish scientists revealed that a daily portion reduced DNA damage to blood cells, considered an important trigger in the development of cancer.

The trial involved 60 healthy men and women who ate 3oz of fresh watercress every day for eight weeks. They found that in addition to reducing DNA damage, the cress also increased the ability of cells to resist damage from free radicals.

But its cancer-preventative properties are not the only benefit. ‘Watercress is full of nutrients including iron, calcium and Vitamin A and C,’ says dietician Katie Peck. ‘It is low in sodium and high in water, so it is very low in calories.’

It is an excellent source of natural phytonutrients, substances in plants that have antioxidant properties such as isothiocyanates, flavonoids and carotenoids.

It also contains folate, which helps maintain normal blood levels of homocysteine (high levels are associated with an increased coronary heart disease risk) as well as decreasing the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Consultant dietician Sian Porter says: ‘Watercress also contains lutein, a carotenoid which is a plant component that provides the deep orange, yellow and red colours in fruit and vegetables. They have a role in helping to stay healthy and keep heart disease, cancer and macular degeneration at bay.’


Beware attention-seekers

Their mother probably didn't look when they were little and said to her "Look at me". There has never been any evidence of harm arising from the consumption of GM foods

Six female Greenpeace campaigners have been arrested for trespassing after staging a supermarket protest in Sydney's north on Monday over a Wyeth Nutrition baby formula they believe may be harmful.

The six were part of a 15-strong group who staged the sit-down inside a Neutral Bay Woolworths about 10am. They positioned themselves in front of the S-26 baby formula, made by the Pfizer-owned company Wyeth Nutrition, which they claim contains genetically modified (GM) ingredients.

A similar protest was held by Greenpeace at a Coles store in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy.

Police said the six women, aged between 20 and 30, were expected to be charged with trespassing later on Monday. ``Police spoke with the (Woolworths store) manager and then commenced negotiations with the group," a police spokeswoman said. ``They (the campaigners) left the store and then without warning went back inside."

Officers spoke with the manager again and the women were arrested a short time later when they refused to leave. The remainder of the group left of their own accord.

Greenpeace named the arrested six as Sarah Roberts, Melissa Freeburn, Rebecca Evenden, Anna Parente, Claire Parfitt and Olivia Rosenman, and said they would be assisted by a Greenpeace lawyer.

Greenpeace is angry over what it said was a lack of labelling on the S-26 baby formula and called on Woolworths and Coles to remove it from their shelves. Independent tests of the popular baby formula have found it contains traces of GM soy and corn which could be harmful to infants, Greenpeace Australia spokeswoman Laura Kelly told AAP at the supermarket on Monday. The formula is not labelled as containing GM ingredients.

Wyeth Nutrition said the company has had a strict policy of using only non-GM ingredients in all its infant formulas since 2001. ``It is important to note that trace amounts of GMO (genetically modified organisms) do not present a health or safety threat to infants," it said in a statement.

The company was concerned by the allegations made by Greenpeace and had requested a copy of the test results. ``Wyeth Nutrition would welcome the opportunity to work with Greenpeace and relevant authorities to address the matter in detail," it said.


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