Health benefits and possible risks of broccoli - an overview

Food Chem Toxicol. 2011 Dec;49(12):3287-309. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2011.08.019. Epub 2011 Aug 28.


Chemopreventive effects of broccoli, a highly valued vegetable, have been known for a long time. Several studies have demonstrated that broccoli might be beneficial by reducing the risk for the development of certain forms of cancer. These effects are generally attributed to glucosinolate-derived degradation products like isothiocyanates and indoles which are formed by the hydrolytic action of plant myrosinase and/or glucosidases deriving from the human microbial flora. However, recent in vitro and experimental animal studies indicate that broccoli, its extracts and the glucosinolate-derived degradation products might also have undesirable effects, especially genotoxic activities. However, the relevance of the genotoxic activities to human health is not known yet. This paper gives an overview on genotoxic, anti-genotoxic/chemopreventive, nutritive and antinutritive properties of broccoli, its ingredients and their degradation products. A qualitative comparison of the benefit and risk of broccoli consumption benefit-risk assessment shows that the benefit from intake in modest quantities and in processed form outweighs potential risks. For other preparations (fortified broccoli-based dietary supplements, diets with extraordinary high daily intake, consumption as a raw vegetable) further studies both for potential risks and beneficial effects are needed in order to assess the benefit and risk in the future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Ascorbic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Ascorbic Acid / metabolism
  • Brassica / chemistry*
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • Glucosinolates / administration & dosage
  • Glucosinolates / metabolism
  • Glucosinolates / toxicity
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Indoles / metabolism
  • Isothiocyanates / pharmacology
  • Models, Animal
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sulfoxides
  • Thiocyanates / metabolism
  • Vegetables*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Glucosinolates
  • Indoles
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Plant Extracts
  • Sulfoxides
  • Thiocyanates
  • neoglucobrassicin
  • isothiocyanic acid
  • ascorbigen
  • glucobrassicin
  • Glycoside Hydrolases
  • thioglucosidase
  • sulforaphane
  • Ascorbic Acid