Selenium enrichment of broccoli: interactions between selenium and secondary plant compounds

J Nutr. 2005 May;135(5):1236-8. doi: 10.1093/jn/135.5.1236.


Multiple components of broccoli, such as sulforaphane (Sf) and phenolic acids, may inhibit cancer. Additionally, broccoli can accumulate selenium (Se), and Se has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of cancer. Studies were conducted to determine whether enhancement of broccoli with Se would produce a plant with superior health benefits. Although increasing the concentration of Se in broccoli from <1.0 to >800 microg/g resulted in inhibition of colon cancer in rats, it also decreased the Sf content by >80% and inhibited production of most phenolic acids. The inclusion of Se-enriched broccoli in the diet of rats induced the activity of the selenoprotein thioredoxin reductase beyond the maximum activity induced by Se alone. These results emphasize the complex interactions of bioactive chemicals in a food; attempts to maximize one component may affect accumulation of another, and consumption of high amounts of multiple bioactive compounds may result in unexpected metabolic interactions within the body.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / analysis
  • Brassica / chemistry
  • Brassica / metabolism*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Phenols / metabolism
  • Selenium / analysis*
  • Selenium / metabolism*
  • Sulfoxides
  • Thiocyanates / analysis


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Phenols
  • Sulfoxides
  • Thiocyanates
  • sulforaphane
  • Selenium