Watercress May Cut Cancer Risk

Eating the raw green vegetable watercress may reduce DNA
damage and lower cancer risk, British researchers report.

The University of Ulster's Chris Gill and colleagues say their study
"supports the theory" that watercress, eaten raw, may cut cancer risk
by curbing DNA damage.

Gill's team studied 60 cancer-free adults, half of whom were smokers.


First, the researchers screened participants' blood samples for levels of
antioxidants (nutrients found in many plants, including watercress) and for
chemical signs of DNA damage, which may increase cancer risk.B

Next, participants were split into two groups.

For eight weeks, each person in the first group ate about 3 ounces of raw
watercress daily, supplied by the researchers, in addition to their usual
diet.

For comparison, participants in the other group weren't asked to eat
watercress.

Afterwards, participants provided more blood samples and took a seven-week
break from the study. During that time, they could eat whatever they
wanted.

The groups then gave more blood samples and switched their original diet
assignments: Those who had been in the comparison group were asked to eat
watercress for eight weeks; those who were previously assigned to eat
watercress were told to follow their normal diet, with no watercress
requirements.

Finally, the participants provided one last set of blood samples.

After sorting through the data, Gill's team found that participants had
higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of chemicals indicating DNA
damage in their blood after their eight-week watercress feasting.

That pattern was particularly strong in smokers, the study shows.

Curbing DNA damage might make cancer less likely.

But the watercress study only lasted six months, and cancer typically takes
much longer to develop.

So, the study doesn't actually prove watercress prevented cancer in any of
the participants.

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
B)2005-2006 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved