Watercress extract can be a potent detoxifier for smokers, according to a recent study. If taken multiple times a day, it has the ability to detoxify carcinogens produced in the body due to prolonged cigarette use. Watercress is an aquatic or semi-aquatic perennial plant that is one of the oldest leafy vegetables consumed by humans.
In a phase-II clinical trial presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting in New Orleans in April 2016, researchers of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and UPMC Cancer Center stated that watercress hinders the activation of a tobacco-derived carcinogen in smokers.
The trial also showed that all the environmental toxicants and carcinogens found in cigarette smoke can be detoxified by using the watercress extract. The effect of the extract is particularly stronger in people who lack the genes engaged in processing carcinogens.
Cigarette smokers are more prone to develop lung cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking is linked with about 90 percent of lung cancer cases in the United States. Moreover, people who smoke 15 to 30 cigarettes are more susceptible to developing lung cancer in comparison to non-smokers. Even smoking a few cigarettes occasionally increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
Watercress extracts reduce activation of carcinogen in smokers
The researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial among 82 cigarette smokers who were divided into two groups. One group was administered 10 milligrams of watercress extract mixed in 1 milliliter of olive oil four times a day for a week and the other group received a placebo. After this, each of the two groups had a one-week “wash-out” period where they did not take anything. After a week, the groups replaced their intakes so that those getting placebo took the watercress extract and vice versa. However, all the participants continued with their smoking habits throughout the trial.
The researchers noticed that within a week of the administration of watercress extract, there was a 7.7 percent decrease in the activation of a carcinogen called nicotine-derived nitrosamine ketone. Moreover, it also increased detoxification of benzene by 24.6 percent and acrolein by 15.1 percent. The researchers, however, noted that there was no effect on crotonaldehyde. All these elements are actively found in cigarette smoke.
Smokers who lacked the two genes involved in processing carcinogens saw an even bigger benefit of taking the watercress extract for detoxification. Benzene was detoxified by 95.4 percent, acrolein by 32.7 percent and crotonaldehyde by 29.8 percent.
Watercress extract can help prevent lung cancer among smokers
Jian-Min Yuan, M.D., Ph.D., associate director of the UPCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Science and an epidemiologist with the Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, said, “Nicotine is very addictive, and quitting can take time and multiple relapses. Having a tolerable, nontoxic treatment, like watercress extract, that can protect smokers against cancer would be an incredibly valuable tool in our cancer-fighting arsenal.”
However, he and his team recommended a phase-III trial among a larger group of people so that it can be recommended for smokers. He also said that consuming cruciferous vegetables, such as watercress and broccoli, were good for health but they were unlikely to have the same impact as the extract.