Cauliflower is a member of the Brassicaceae mustard/cabbage family that includes brussels sprouts and broccoli, and a raft of studies have already suggested these ubiquitous winter vegetables could be an important source of health benefiting compounds.
Investigating their chemoprotective effects, scientists at the University of Urbino claim to have discovered the mechanism of action by which Brassica oleracea (cauliflower) may offer protection against breast cancer.
"Cell growth inhibition was accompanied by significant cell death at the higher juice concentrations," they report in the June issue of The Journal of Nutrition.
The scientists stressed that they found all cauliflower varieties tested suppressed cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner.
And of significant interest, they revealed that the cauliflower compounds had a particular preference for targeting breast cancer cells, compared with other mammalian cell lines investigated.
These findings build on mounting evidence that suggests compounds found in fruit and vegetables, notably green leafy vegetables, could help the body fight a raft of diseases.
Benefiting from the research, the food industry is enjoying strong growth for food formulations that absorb health-fighting compounds, with a dynamic fruit and vegetable extracts market. The €819.9 million European and US fruit and vegetable extracts and powders market is on course to grow 4.5 per cent annually, reaching €1.07 billion by 2009, estimate market analysts Frost & Sullivan.
For the latest Italian study researchers investigated the anti-proliferative activity of juice obtained from leaves of several varieties of Brassica oleracea on both estrogen receptor (ER)-positive and ER-negative human breast cancer cell lines.
The effect of juice on cell proliferation was evaluated on DNA synthesis and on cell cycle-related proteins.
Juice markedly reduced DNA synthesis, starting from low concentrations (final concentration 5-15 mL/L), and this activity was independent of ER.
All cauliflower varieties tested suppressed cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner. Cell growth inhibition was accompanied by significant cell death at the higher juice concentrations, although no evidence of apoptosis (programmed cell death) was found, write the scientists.
"These results suggest that the edible part of Brassica oleracea contains substances that can markedly inhibit the growth of both ER+ and ER- human breast cancer cells, although through different mechanisms.
These results suggest that the widely available cruciferous vegetables are potential chemopreventive agents," conclude the researchers.