Page last updated at 00:38 GMT, Friday, 12 February 2010

Baked South Yorkshire rhubarb may aid cancer fight

Researchers studied a variety of rhubarb grown in South Yorkshire

Eating baked rhubarb could help fight cancer, new research has shown.

Researchers at Sheffield Hallam University found baking British garden rhubarb for 20 minutes boosted its levels of anti-cancerous chemicals.

The findings showed the polyphenols could kill or prevent the growth of cancer cells and could be used to develop new, less toxic treatments.

It is the first study of the benefits of British rhubarb, specifically a variety grown in South Yorkshire.

Previous research focused on Oriental medicinal rhubarb, which has been recognised for its health benefits and used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

Special properties

Academics now hope to discover the best combination of rhubarb's polyphenols and chemotherapy agents needed to kill leukaemia cells.

It is thought the properties of South Yorkshire rhubarb could even be effective in cases where cancers had proved resistant to other treatments.

Dr Nikki Jordan-Mahy, of Sheffield Hallam University's biomedical research centre, said: "Our research has shown that British rhubarb is a potential source of pharmacological agents that may be used to develop new anti-cancerous drugs.

"Current treatments are not effective in all cancers and resistance is a common problem.

"Cancer affects one in three individuals in the UK so it's very important to discover novel, less toxic treatments, which can overcome resistance."

The research was funded by the Centre for Food Innovation at Sheffield Hallam University.

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