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Glucosinolates and Isothiocyanates against Cancer


Glucosinolates – also known as sulphur-containing glucosides or thioglucosides – are a group of glucosides composed of a sugar part linked, via a sulfur atom, to the aglycone part, derived from amino acids such as methionine, phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan.

As long as they remain sequestered in the sub-cellular compartments of plant tissues, glucosinolates are chemically stable and biologically inactive. Conversely, tissue damage caused by parasites or any other factor that leads to tissue laceration, determines the contact of glucosides with endogenous enzymes called myrosinases. An enzymatic hydrolysis process (mediated by myrosinases) of glucosinolates is thus activated, with breaking of the b-thioglucosidic bond and formation of unstable intermediaries which spontaneously rearrange into isothiocyanates, thiocyanates or nitriles.

The isothiocyanates they are particularly known in the phytotherapeutic field for their lachrymatory, revulsive, rubefacient and vesicant action; for this reason, some drugs particularly rich in glucosinolates, such as mustard, are traditionally used in the form of poultices and ointments against catarrhal diseases, neuralgia and myalgia.

Isothiocyanates are also responsible for the pungent odor and spicy taste of the drugs that contain them, particularly the creuciferous or brassicaceae (turnip, cabbage, cabbage, horseradish, horseradish, Brussels sprouts, mustard, mustard). If in nature glucosinolates discourage the aggression of the plant by insects and herbivores, in humans they seem to have the same activity against tumor cells, as they inhibit some phases of carcinogenesis and induce the apoptosis of numerous cell lines.

To date, more than 130 glucosinolates are known, the concentration of which varies in various vegetables and in the same vegetable in relation to the age of the plant, the fertility of the soil, any diseases and the use of growth regulators.

Preserve the anti-tumor properties of foods rich in isothiocyanates

Among the isothiocyanates most studied for their anti-tumor properties we remember the sulforafanowhich – concentrated mainly in broccoli sprouts – it has been shown to be active against neuroblastoma (a malignant embryonic tumor characteristic of children) and carcinomas of the breast, colon and prostate. The phenylisothiocyanateoriginating from gluconasturzine, an aromatic glucosinolate, has shown similar properties, especially in the prevention of lung cancer in smokers.

From indole glucosinolates, such as those contained in mustard, unstable isothiocyanates are released which rapidly depose giving rise, among other things, toindole-3-carbinolwhich according to several studies appears to have marked anti-tumor properties.

Glucosinolates, their hydrolysis products and myrosinases come easily inactivated by heat (it is no coincidence that the smell of cabbage becomes more intense the longer it is cooked, indicating the release of sulphur), which justifies the use of fresh foods or those subjected to simple steam cooking. As anticipated, the myrosinase enzyme is released from cellular vacuoles following wounds or shredding of the various parts of the plant (importance of correct chewing and avoiding excessive chopping of vegetables). We also remember the presence of myrosinase at the level of the intestinal microflora, which contributes to making isothiocyanates of food origin further available.

Isothiocyanates and the thyroid

The high concentration of isothiocyanates in some vegetables has earned them the qualification of “goitrogenic” foods; in fact, these substances inhibit the incorporation of iodine and the formation of thyroxine, slowing down thyroid function. In any case, if the dietary intake of iodine is sufficient, there is no reason to exclude these foods from the diet, the consumption of which should rather be encouraged. In fact, due to the presence of certain glucosinolates, broccoli and cabbage are fully functional foods, considered useful in the prevention of some forms of cancer, such as bladder or breast cancer, based on the correlation found in recent studies between the consumption of Brassicacae and reduced cancer risk.

Spicy pasta rings with clams and Roman cabbage – Alice's Recipes

If it is true that “cancer hates cabbage”, even for many people the relationship with this vegetable is not exactly idyllic. To make you appreciate this precious food, it is important to find the right recipe. Alice, the official personal cooker of MypersonaltrainerTv, guides you step by step in preparing a tasty first course rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fats.

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