Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and kale, are rich sources of sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates. Isothiocyanates are biologically active hydrolysis (breakdown) products of glucosinolates. Cruciferous vegetables contain a variety of different glucosinolates, each of which forms a different isothiocyanate when hydrolyzed (see Figure) (1). For example, broccoli is a good source of glucoraphanin, the glucosinolate precursor of sulforaphane (SFN), and sinigrin, the glucosinolate precursor of allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) (2). Watercress is a rich source of gluconasturtiin, the precursor of phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), while garden cress is rich in glucotropaeolin, the precursor of benzyl isothiocyanate (BITC). At present, scientists are interested in the cancer-preventive activities of vegetables that are rich in glucosinolates (see Cruciferous Vegetables), as well as individual isothiocyanates (3).
* Isothiocyanates are derived from the hydrolysis (breakdown) of glucosinolates—sulfur-containing compounds found in cruciferous vegetables.
* Cruciferous vegetables contain a variety of different glucosinolates, each of which forms a different isothiocyanate when hydrolyzed.
* Isothiocyanates, such as sulforaphane, may help prevent cancer by promoting the elimination of potential carcinogens from the body and enhancing the transcription of tumor suppressor proteins.
* Epidemiological studies provide some evidence that human exposure to isothiocyanates through cruciferous vegetable consumption may decrease cancer risk, but the protective effects may be influenced by individual genetic variation in the metabolism and elimination of isothiocyanates from the body.
* Glucosinolates are present in relatively high concentrations in cruciferous vegetables, but cooking, particularly boiling and microwaving at high power, may decrease the bioavailability of isothiocyanates.
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