Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Watercress may help prevent gym workout damage

Image caption Watercress is often labelled a super-food

Watercress can help alleviate the stress put on the body by a strenuous gym workout, according to Edinburgh researchers.

High intensity exercise can cause damage to the body's DNA.

A study by scientists at Edinburgh Napier University and Ulster University suggested that eating small amounts of watercress on a daily basis could help protect against that damage.

The findings have been published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

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 23, took part in the study.

For eight weeks they were given 85 grams of watercress and asked to participate in high-level exercise on the treadmill.

The results were compared to an eight-week study which was conducted without watercress consumption.

Dr Fogarty added: "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."

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