Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Postgraduate Symposium

Cruciferous vegetables and colo-rectal cancer

Anthony Lynna1, Andrew Collinsa2, Zoë Fullera3, Kevin Hillmana4 and Brian Ratcliffea1

a1 The Robert Gordon University, St Andrew Street, Aberdeen AB25 1HG, UK

a2 University of Oslo, Blindern, N-0316 Oslo, Norway

a3 The Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK

a4 The Scottish Agricultural College, Craibstone, Aberdeen AB21 9YA, UK


Cruciferous vegetables have been studied extensively for their chemoprotective effects. Although they contain many bioactive compounds, the anti-carcinogenic actions of cruciferous vegetables are commonly attributed to their content of glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are relatively biologically inert but can be hydrolysed to a range of bioactive compounds such as isothiocyanates (ITC) and indoles by the plant-based enzyme myrosinase, or less efficiently by the colonic microflora. A number of mechanisms whereby ITC and indoles may protect against colo-rectal cancer have been identified. In experimental animals cruciferous vegetables have been shown to inhibit chemically-induced colon cancer. However, the results of recent epidemiological cohort studies have been inconsistent and this disparity may reflect a lack of sensitivity of such studies. Possible explanations for the failure of epidemiological studies to detect an effect include: assessment of cruciferous vegetable intake by methods that are subject to large measurement errors; the interaction between diet and genotype has not been considered: the effect that post-harvest treatments may have on biological effects of cruciferous vegetables has not been taken into account.


c1 Corresponding author: Anthony Lynn fax +44 114 261 0112, email