What a small bowl of watercress can do…

My visit to the U.S. is about to end. Holy cats, how time flies! I will be back in Florence on Wednesday (afternoon). Stefano, who has confessed to feeling lonely and missing me a lot 🙂 , is picking me up at the airport, so we can spend the afternoon together.

The cats have missed me, too. Stefano told me that they have been a bit lethargic and don’t want to play at night, the way they usually do. Cute story: the other day I left a message on our answering machine, and when Stefano pressed the button to listen to it, an excited Pinga came running and began looking for me everywhere. Awww! Sweetie pie! And yesterday morning, while Stefano and I were chatting on the phone, he put the phone next to Pinga’s ear for a few moments, and I cooed to her…at the sound of my voice, Stefano reported that she began purring madly. Double awww!

But this cute stuff isn’t really the point of my post today. The point is that yesterday I read an interesting Science Daily article (http://tinyurl.com/237dlgw) about watercress…or rather, about an ingredient in watercress (and in broccoli and other Brassicaceae family members, by the way) called PEITC, which stands for phenethyl isothiocyanate…quite a mouthful, ain’t it?

This isn’t the first time we have discussed PEITC, an important anticancer substance, and I am sure it won’t be the last. It was, e.g., the focus of a post I wrote in July 2007…and, if you scroll down on the right-hand side of my blog, you will find a “Page” on broccoli, which, of course, discusses PEITC. Oh, here is a titbit: PEITC and curcumin apparently work well together (so don’t forget to add a bit of turmeric to your plate of steamed broccoli with garlic…).

But let’s get back to watercress. A recent study carried out by a University of Southampton team shows that PEITC can turn off a protein called HIF, or Hypoxia Inducible Factor, which is important in the development of breast cancer. As soon as I read the acronym HIF, I knew that I had already written about it in connection with myeloma. I don’t have the time right now to look up this information on my blog, but I did quickly check PubMed where I found a series of studies, including a July 2010 one (http://tinyurl.com/265c79l) confirming that HIF and VEGF are best buddies. That, by the way, is good news for cancer cells but very bad news for cancer patients! Hmmm, in case you were wondering, yes, curcumin inhibits HIF…

The actual experiment carried out by the University of Southampton team is interesting mainly because it goes beyond test tubes. The team measured how PEITC affected actual cancer patients. Fabulous! You can read about it in the SD article…but, in a nutshell, after eating a bowl (80 grams) of watercress, a small group of breast cancer survivors had significant levels of PEITC in their bloodstream AND, even more importantly, considerably lower levels of HIF. Super duper.

If you read the abstract (http://tinyurl.com/2dx872u), you will notice that this effect was measured 6 to 8 hours after the watercress was ingested…I say, this is excellent news. And it really seems to prove (even though larger studies are needed) that what we eat could have an impact, perhaps even a significant impact, on our cancer…I find this very exciting.

Anyway…another point scored by the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family…!!!

1 Comment

  1. I tried watercress, lots of watercress, with exactly zero results. I read the same article you probably have, and was excited.

    I asked by CLL guru about PEITC, and he said the results in vitro were excellent, but the results in vivo were basically non-existant.

    Too bad. The watercress has an interesting flavor when you eat three bunches, one right after the other. Blech!

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