Glucosinolates are sulphur compounds that are prevalent in Brassica genus. This includes crops cultivated as vegetables, spices and sources of oil. Since 1970s glucosinolates and their breakdown products, have been widely studied by their beneficial and prejudicial biological effects on human and animal nutrition. They have also been found to be partly responsible for the characteristic flavor of Brassica vegetables. In recent years, considerable attention has been paid to cancer prevention by means of natural products. The cancer-protective properties of Brassica intake are mediated through glucosinolates. Isothyocianate and indole products formed from glucosinolates may regulate cancer cell development by regulating target enzymes, controlling apoptosis and blocking the cell cycle. Nevertheless, variation in content of both glucosinolates and their bioactive hydrolysis products depends on both genetics and the environment, including crop management practices, harvest and storage, processing and meal preparation. Here, we review the significance of glucosinolates as source of bioactive isothiocyanates for human nutrition and health and the influence of environmental conditions and processing mechanisms on the content of glucosinolate concentration in Brassica vegetables. Currently, this area is only partially understood. Further research is needed to understand the mechanisms by which the environment and processing affect glucosinolates content of Brassica vegetables. This will allow us to know the genetic control of these variables, what will result in the development of high quality Brassica products with a health-promoting activity. © 2007 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
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