Phytochemical Update

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Clare Hasler, Ph.D., heads the Functional Foods for Health Program at offices in Urbana and Chicago. It is devoted to the study of phytochemicals (naturally occuring chemicals found in plants) with a faculty of 75 working on different programs. She summarizes three of their most recent and ongoing studies:
Cruciferous vegetables are being analyzed to identify new compounds. Chinese cabbage has been found to contain brassinin which inhibits growth of breast cancer cells. Brussels sprouts, studied by the Urbana campus, contain cyanohydroxybutene (CHB) which detoxifies cancer-causing chemicals in the liver and pancreas. CHB is found exclusively in cruciferous vegetables and is being studied by Matthew Wallig, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Elizabeth Jeffery, Ph.D. They are now trying to determine how food processing affects CHB.
Rosemary has an extract called carnosol, an antioxidant, which inhibits tumor formation in animals with skin cancer and breast cancer. Keith Singletary, Ph.D., at the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Urbana campus, says this herb has a number of phytochemicals, some of which aren’t even known yet.
Mary Smith, Ph.D., at the Urbana Campus is studying lingonberries, bilberries and cranberries; these contain anthocyanin (a red pigment) and are in the cranberry family. There are two new types of phytochemicals found in these berries; one prevents the initiation of tumor growth and another inhibits growth once it is started.
Phytochemicals  act synergistically with each other to help prevent cancer. The specific amount to eat is unknown but your best bet is a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

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