Glucosinolates: Molecular structure, breakdown, genetic, bioavailability, properties and healthy and adverse effects

Adv Food Nutr Res. 2019:90:305-350. doi: 10.1016/bs.afnr.2019.02.008. Epub 2019 Mar 25.


Glucosinolates are a large group of plant secondary metabolites with nutritional effects and biologically active compounds. Glucosinolates are mainly found in cruciferous plants such as Brassicaceae family, including common edible plants such as broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica), cabbage (B. oleracea var. capitata f. alba), cauliflower (B. oleracea var. botrytis), rapeseed (Brassica napus), mustard (Brassica nigra), and horseradish (Armoracia rusticana). If cruciferous plants are consumed without processing, myrosinase enzyme will hydrolyze the glucosinolates to various metabolites, such as isothiocyanates, nitriles, oxazolidine-2-thiones, and indole-3-carbinols. On the other hand, when cruciferous are cooked before consumption, myrosinase is inactivated and glucosinolates could be partially absorbed in their intact form through the gastrointestinal mucosa. This review paper summarizes the glucosinolate molecular breakdown, their genetic aspects from biosynthesis to precursors, their bioavailability (assimilation, absorption, and elimination of these molecules), their sensory properties, identified healthy and adverse effects, as well as the impact of processing on their bioavailability.

Keywords: Bioavailability and metabolism; Genetic aspects; Healthy and adverse effects; Major regulators; Molecular structure; Processing fate; Sensorial properties.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Biological Availability
  • Brassicaceae / chemistry
  • Brassicaceae / metabolism
  • Food Handling / methods
  • Glucosinolates* / chemistry
  • Glucosinolates* / metabolism
  • Glucosinolates* / pharmacokinetics
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Molecular Structure
  • Taste


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Glucosinolates