The genus and species Brassica oleracea contain some very popular “super foods” like kale, broccoli and mustard. Although these vegetables look quite different, their content of various phytochemicals and anti-cancer compounds are very similar. One similarity these vegetables all possess is a pungent odor during cutting and cooking, which is attributed to the high sulfur content in the Brassica family.
Brassica are abundant in compounds known as isothiocyanates, sulfur-containing chemicals that are able to stop carcinogens from damaging our DNA. Additionally, isothiocyanates convert dangerous chemicals, whether ingested toxins like cigarette smoke or those generated within the body like electrophiles, into compounds that are safely eliminated.
How Does the Compound Work to Alleviate Cancer?
One of these compounds found in cruciferous vegetables, Allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) is an ester. One study looked past eating broccoli, though, and focused on AITC-rich mustard seed powder.
In untreated control subjects with bladder cancer, researchers found that tumors invaded the surrounding muscles 71 percent of the time. In subjects treated with AITC, bladder cancer growth was reduced by 34.5 percent. AITC also blocked muscle invasion by 100 percent.
A similar conclusion was found by Dr. Anthony Di Pasqua, a bioinorganic chemist at the University of North Carolina and his colleague Dr. Fung-Lung Chung from Georgetown University. Their studies support Bhattacharya’s conclusions about AITC being present in mustard seeds.
“Our studies have shown that, once inside the cell, ITCs bind to proteins and that protein binding affinities are closely associated with the ability to induce apoptosis (cell suicide).”
This is fantastic considering that cancerous bladder tumors usually spread quickly and usually are only able to be treated with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Often, removal of the entire bladder is recommended, but with the consumption of AITC-rich mustard seed, the need for these invasive procedures could be reduced.
The Brassica vegetables were associated with an observed 51% decrease in the development of bladder cancer in 47,909 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study published in 2001.
Other population-based studies have demonstrated a reduction in the risk of prostate cancer, breast cancer, and lymphoma in women. Brassicas in general may decrease the risk of stomach colon, ovary, and uterus cancer which is why I include it in our spice blends.