The regular practice of physical exercise offers a host of benefits for our body, but when practiced intensely produces free radicals, which causes DNA damage and oxidative stress.
A new survey conducted at the University of Edinburgh showed that the consumption of watercress helps neutralize free radicals, and, by minimizing their damage, maximizes the benefits of an intense workout.
The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, evaluated ten healthy young men, mean age 23, for four months. During a period of eight weeks participants ingested 85 grams of watercress two hours before exercise. In the next eight weeks, they performed the exercises without the watercress.
The study showed that when the subjects consumed the watercress, they showed a significant reduction in free radical levels, with decreased markers of DNA damage. Blood samples also revealed that the levels of dangerous lipid peroxidation also decreased with the watercress.
The investigators also investigated if the good effects of watercress was cumulative over time. The results showed that this effect does not occur, because the consumption of the plant, two hours prior to exercise, provided the same benefits as those obtained after eight weeks of consumption.
The watercress contains a number of antioxidant nutrients including xanthophyll, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol (two forms of Vitamin E). These components combat the formation of free radicals, which are the cause of oxidative stress in the body.
The ability of watercress to reduce DNA damage confirms previous studies showing that watercress reduces the rate of cellular mutation, and inhibits the development of cancer. This previous research showed that watercress contains a unique component, phenethyl isothiocyanate, or PEITC, which inhibits the growth of cervical and breast cancer cells.
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