Cruciferous vegetables have variable effects on biomarkers of systemic inflammation in a randomized controlled trial in healthy young adults

J Nutr. 2014 Nov;144(11):1850-7. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.197434. Epub 2014 Aug 27.


Background: Isothiocyanates in cruciferous vegetables modulate signaling pathways critical to carcinogenesis, including nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB), a central regulator of inflammation. Glutathione S-transferase (GST) M1 and GSTT1 metabolize isothiocyanates; genetic variants may result in differences in biologic response.

Objective: The objective of this study was to test whether consumption of cruciferous or cruciferous plus apiaceous vegetables altered serum concentrations of interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, C-reactive protein (CRP), tumor necrosis factor (TNF) α, and soluble TNF receptor (sTNFR) I and II, and whether this response was GSTM1/GSTT1 genotype dependent.

Methods: In a randomized crossover trial, healthy men (n = 32) and women (n = 31) aged 20-40 y consumed 4 14-d controlled diets: basal (vegetable-free), single-dose cruciferous (1xC) [7 g vegetables/kg body weight (BW)], double-dose cruciferous (2xC) (14 g/kg BW), and cruciferous plus apiaceous (carrot family) (1xC+A) vegetables (7 and 4 g/kg BW, respectively), with a 21-d washout period between each intervention. Urinary isothiocyanate excretion was also evaluated as a marker of systemic isothiocyanate exposure. Fasting morning blood and urine samples were collected on days 0 and 14 and analyzed.

Results: IL-6 concentrations were significantly lower on day 14 of the 2xC and 1xC+A diets than with the basal diet [-19% (95% CI: -30%, -0.1%) and -20% (95% CI: -31%, -0.7%), respectively]. IL-8 concentrations were higher after the 1xC+A diet (+16%; 95% CI: 4.2%, 35.2%) than after the basal diet. There were no effects of diet on CRP, TNF-α, or sTNFRI or II. There were significant differences between GSTM1-null/GSTT1+ individuals for several biomarkers in response to 1xC+A compared with basal diets (CRP: -37.8%; 95% CI: -58.0%, -7.4%; IL-6: -48.6%; 95% CI: -49.6%, -12.0%; IL-8: 16.3%; 95% CI: 6.7%, 57.7%) and with the 2xC diet compared with the basal diet (IL-8: -33.2%; 95% CI: -43.0%, -1.4%; sTNFRI: -7.5%; 95% CI: -12.7%, -2.3%). There were no significant reductions in biomarker concentrations in response to diet among GSTM1+/GSTT1+ or GSTM1-null/GSTT1-null individuals. Twenty-four-hour urinary isothiocyanate excretion was not associated with any of the inflammation markers overall; however, IL-6 was inversely associated with total isothiocyanate excretion in GSTM1-null/GSTT1-null individuals (β = -0.12; 95% CI: -0.19, -0.05).

Conclusions: In this young, healthy population, consumption of cruciferous and apiaceous vegetables reduced circulating IL-6; however, results for other biomarkers of inflammation were not consistent.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers
  • Brassicaceae*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glutathione Transferase / genetics
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Vegetables*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • glutathione S-transferase T1
  • Glutathione Transferase
  • glutathione S-transferase M1