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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004 Jan;13(1):125-31.

Hydrolysis of glucosinolates to isothiocyanates after ingestion of raw or microwaved cabbage by human volunteers.

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Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom.


Cabbage contains the glucosinolate sinigrin, which is hydrolyzed by myrosinase to allyl isothiocyanate. Isothiocyanates are thought to inhibit the development of cancer cells by a number of mechanisms. The effect of cooking cabbage on isothiocyanate production from glucosinolates during and after their ingestion was examined in human subjects. Each of 12 healthy human volunteers consumed three meals, at 48-h intervals, containing either raw cabbage, cooked cabbage, or mustard according to a cross-over design. At each meal, watercress juice, which is rich in phenethyl isothiocyanate, was also consumed to allow individual and temporal variation in postabsorptive isothiocyanate recovery to be measured. Volunteers recorded the time and volume of each urination for 24 h after each meal. Samples of each urination were analyzed for N-acetyl cysteine conjugates of isothiocyanates as a measure of entry of isothiocyanates into the peripheral circulation. Excretion of isothiocyanates was rapid and substantial after ingestion of mustard, a source of preformed allyl isothiocyanate. After raw cabbage consumption, allyl isothiocyanate was again rapidly excreted, although to a lesser extent than when mustard was consumed. On the cooked cabbage treatment, excretion of allyl isothiocyanate was considerably less than for raw cabbage, and the excretion was delayed. The results indicate that isothiocyanate production is more extensive after consumption of raw vegetables but that isothiocyanates still arise, albeit to a lesser degree, when cooked vegetables are consumed. The lag in excretion on the cooked cabbage treatment suggests that the colon microflora catalyze glucosinolate hydrolysis in this case.

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