Researchers have found that antioxidant-rich watercress can alleviate the natural stress put on our body by a workout. And they found that participants with no watercress in their system who ate the leafy vegetable just two hours before high level exercise still experienced the same level of protection.
Though regular moderate exercise is known to be good for us, the increased demand on our bodies can cause damage to our DNA.
According to a new study from scientists at Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Ulster, eating watercress can prevent some of the damage caused by high intensity exercise and help maximise the benefits of a tough workout.
The study findings have now been published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Study leader Dr Mark Fogarty, from Edinburgh Napier's School of Life, Sport and Social Sciences, said: "Although we are all aware of how good exercise can be for our bodies, pounding the treadmill, lifting weights, or doing high-levels of training can take its toll. The increased demand on the body for energy can create a build-up of free radicals which can damage our DNA.
"What we've found is that consuming a relatively small amount of watercress each day can help raise the levels of important antioxidant vitamins which may help protect our bodies, and allow us to enjoy the rewards of keeping fit. It's an interesting step forward in sports nutrition development and research."
Ten healthy men, aged on average of 23 years, participated in the study. For eight weeks they were given 85 grams of watercress -- a small bag -- and asked to participate in high-level exercise on the treadmill. An eight week study with no watercress consumption was carried out to act as a control.
The scientists also tested whether the protection properties of watercress were affected by the regularity of consumption.
Dr Fogarty said: "We put participants through short bursts of intense exercise and found that those who had not eaten watercress were found to have more DNA damage than those that did not. What was also fascinating is that the effect of eating watercress was not reliant on an accumulative build-up in our bodies. Those that ate the vegetable just two hours before exercise experienced the same benefits as those who had consumed the vegetable for eight weeks."
The study was sponsored by Vitacress Salads, one of Europe's growers of watercress.
- Mark C. Fogarty, Ciara M. Hughes, George Burke, John C. Brown, Gareth W. Davison. Acute and chronic watercress supplementation attenuates exercise-induced peripheral mononuclear cell DNA damage and lipid peroxidation. British Journal of Nutrition, 2012; 1 DOI: 10.1017/S0007114512000992
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