A high consumption of vegetables belonging to the Brassicaceae family has been related to a lower incidence of chronic diseases including different kinds of cancer. These beneficial effects of, e.g., broccoli, cabbage or rocket (arugula) intake have been mainly dedicated to the sulfur-containing glucosinolates (GLSs)-secondary plant compounds nearly exclusively present in Brassicaceae-and in particular to their bioactive breakdown products including isothiocyanates (ITCs). Overall, the current literature indicate that selected Brassica-derived ITCs exhibit health-promoting effects in vitro, as well as in laboratory mice in vivo. Some studies suggest anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties for ITCs which may be communicated through an activation of the redox-sensitive transcription factor nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) that controls the expression of antioxidant and phase II enzymes. Furthermore, it has been shown that ITCs are able to significantly ameliorate a severe inflammatory phenotype in colitic mice in vivo. As there are studies available suggesting an epigenetic mode of action for Brassica-derived phytochemicals, the conduction of further studies would be recommendable to investigate if the beneficial effects of these compounds also persist during an irregular consumption pattern.
Keywords: Brassicaceae; NFκB; Nrf2; epigenetics; isothiocyanates; sulforaphane.