Sushi condiment may prevent cavities

December 13, 2000

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HONOLULU, Dec. 14 - Wasabi, the pungent green horseradish served with Japanese sushi, has been found to afford yet another health benefit: it could prevent tooth decay. The finding was presented here today at the 2000 International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies.

The weeklong scientific meeting, held once every five years, is hosted by the American Chemical Society in conjunction with its counterparts in Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand.

Hideki Masuda, Ph.D., director of the Material Research and Development Laboratories at Ogawa & Co., Ltd., in Japan, reported that isothiocyanates - chemical compounds found in wasabi - inhibited the growth of Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria that cause dental caries, during test-tube studies.

The effect comes from wasabi's ability to interfere with the sucrose-dependent adherence of the cells, Masuda says.

The isothiocyanate compounds, which are responsible for wasabi's pungent taste and smell, are similar to those that produce the characteristic flavors of broccoli and cabbage.

The isothiocyanates in wasabi are already known to have a variety of beneficial health effects. They have been implicated in cancer prevention, found to prevent harmful blood clots, and demonstrated anti-asthmatic properties. In addition, wasabi has antimicrobial properties - which may account for its popularity as an accompaniment to raw fish.

Wasabi, or Wasabia japonica, is a perennial plant from the Cruciferous family, which includes broccoli and cabbage. Wasabi's thick stems are ground into a pale-green paste that is served as a condiment, typically with sushi and sashimi (raw fish).

More than 8,000 research papers will be presented during this year's International Chemical Congress, which is sponsored jointly by the American Chemical Society, the Chemical Society of Japan, the Canadian Society of Chemistry, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute and the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry.
The paper on this research, AGRO 10, will be presented at 11:05 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 14, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Iolani Suite III/IV, 2nd floor, Tapa Conference Center, during the symposium, "Functional Food Ingredients: Trends and Prospects."

Hideki Masuda is the director of the Material R&D Laboratories at Ogawa & Co., Ltd., in Chiba, Japan.

American Chemical Society

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