The health benefits of Brussels sprouts

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Merry Christmas everybody. In case you are visiting this site on Christmas day, let me reassure you that I didn’t get up especially early this morning to get this blog post written before the festivities could begin for me. There are limits! Through the wonders of technology I was able to write this entry a couple of days ago and then programme it to appear today automatically.

Today’s blog concerns the health benefits of Brussels sprouts. This is a vegetable traditionally eaten on Christmas day in the UK. Though I am not so introspective to imagine that it’s a festive food wherever you happen to be reading this. However, the Brussels sprout belongs to a class of vegetables known as the ‘brassicas’ which include broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. This means glad tidings as the benefits of Brussels sprouts are believed to extend to other, more commonly eaten brassicas too.

Brussels sprouts are rich in a group of substances known as glucosinolates. In the body, glucosinolates have the capacity to transform into other chemical entities called isothiocyanates and indoles. One of the effects of these substances is to boost the liver’s ability to deal with potentially toxic substances. Interestingly, compounds derived from Brussels sprouts seem to help the liver disarm chemicals known to have cancer-inducing potential in the body [1].

More evidence that suggests Brussels sprouts mat help keep the body free from cancer comes from studies examining their effects on DNA. DNA controls the division of each cell in the body. Damage to the DNA in a cell may cause it to replicate much more rapidly than normal, and it is this change that is integral to the cancer-causing process. Several studies show that extracts of Brussels sprouts have the ability to help protect DNA from damage.

This effect, coupled with their ability to quell potentially cancer-causing substances in the body, means that Brussels sprouts have at least a theoretical ability to keep cancer at bay. Many studies have shown that higher consumption of brassica vegetables is linked to reduced cancer risk [2]. Bitter though they may be, Brussels sprouts have benefits for us that seem to be very sweet indeed. My suggestion is to have your fill of them this Christmas.


1. Lampe JW, et al. Brassica, biotransformation and cancer risk: genetic polymorphisms alter the preventive effects of cruciferous vegetables. J Nutr. 2002;132(10):2991-4

2. van Poppel G, et al Brassica vegetables and cancer prevention. Epidemiology and mechanisms Adv Exp Med Biol. 1999;472:159-68.

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