British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Human and Clinical Nutrition

Acute and chronic watercress supplementation attenuates exercise-induced peripheral mononuclear cell DNA damage and lipid peroxidation

Mark C. Fogartya1, Ciara M. Hughesa2, George Burkea3, John C. Browna4 and Gareth W. Davisona4 c1

a1 Biomedicine and Sport Science Research Group, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh EH10 5DT, UK

a2 School of Health Science, University of Ulster, Jordanstown, County Antrim BT37 OQB, UK

a3 School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, University of Ulster, Jordanstown, County Antrim BT37 OQB, UK

a4 Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute, University of Ulster, Jordanstown, Newtownabbey, County Antrim BT37 OQB, UK


Pharmacological antioxidant vitamins have previously been investigated for a prophylactic effect against exercise-induced oxidative stress. However, large doses are often required and may lead to a state of pro-oxidation and oxidative damage. Watercress contains an array of nutritional compounds such as β-carotene and α-tocopherol which may increase protection against exercise-induced oxidative stress. The present randomised controlled investigation was designed to test the hypothesis that acute (consumption 2 h before exercise) and chronic (8 weeks consumption) watercress supplementation can attenuate exercise-induced oxidative stress. A total of ten apparently healthy male subjects (age 23 (sd 4) years, stature 179 (sd 10) cm and body mass 74 (sd 15) kg) were recruited to complete the 8-week chronic watercress intervention period (and then 8 weeks of control, with no ingestion) of the experiment before crossing over in order to compete the single-dose acute phase (with control, no ingestion). Blood samples were taken at baseline (pre-supplementation), at rest (pre-exercise) and following exercise. Each subject completed an incremental exercise test to volitional exhaustion following chronic and acute watercress supplementation or control. The main findings show an exercise-induced increase in DNA damage and lipid peroxidation over both acute and chronic control supplementation phases (P< 0·05 v. supplementation), while acute and chronic watercress attenuated DNA damage and lipid peroxidation and decreased H2O2 accumulation following exhaustive exercise (P< 0·05 v. control). A marked increase in the main lipid-soluble antioxidants (α-tocopherol, γ-tocopherol and xanthophyll) was observed following watercress supplementation (P< 0·05 v. control) in both experimental phases. These findings suggest that short- and long-term watercress ingestion has potential antioxidant effects against exercise-induced DNA damage and lipid peroxidation.

(Received July 21 2011)

(Revised February 01 2012)

(Accepted February 13 2012)

(Online publication April 05 2012)

Key Words:

  • Exhaustive exercise;
  • Watercress prophylaxis;
  • DNA damage;
  • Reactive oxygen species


c1 Corresponding author: Dr G. W. Davison, email


  Abbreviations: LOOH, lipid hydroperoxides; PC, protein carbonyls