Irmela Kruse

Development of a realistic food model describing the fate of glucosinolates during food processing

Irmela Kruse



Dr. Matthijs Dekker
Dr. Ruud Verkerk

Prof. Dr. M.A.J.S. van Boekel

Project term:

Dec 2009 – Dec 2013




Epidemiologic studies, prospective cohort studies as well as case control studies have been carried out on the correlation between a diet high in Brassica vegetables which contain glucosinolates, and the formation and development of cancer. Even if the metabolism is not entirely understood it is assumed that degradation products of glucosinolates, especially isothiocyanates, have the potential to reduce the risk of cancer. 


Figure 1: Mechanisms during processing of Brassica tissue


The aim of this project is to design and develop a realistic food model of the fate of glucosinolates while processing food. With the aid of mathematical modelling the changes in the concentration and availability of glucosinolates during processing can be described and the content in the ready produced food predicted. These predictions can be used as a tool to determine the intake of glucosinolates in scientific studies. By this the statistical power of studies about the correlation between intake of Brassica vegetables and reduction of cancer risk may be increased. It should be possible to use the mathematical model not only for foods containing Brassica vegetables, but also for other plant-based foods, with limited additional effort. Therefore it would be a useful tool for food producing companies to estimate the content of e.g. phytonutrients for health claims as well as for researchers to estimate the actual content in prepared foods of phytonutrients in their studies.

My research is embedded in a EU FP7 project called DREAM. Models of a wide range of foods such as plant-based foods, meat, dairy and bakery products are built to assess safety risks and nutritional quality.


Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, white cabbage and red cabbage were processed with different time/temperature profiles and the remaining content of glucosinolates and isothiocyanates determined in vegetable tissue as well as in cooking water. Based on this experimental studies, empirical mathematical models could be built of the thermal degradation of each glucosinolate in vegetable tissue and cooking water as well as of the leaching behaviour of the different plant tissues into the processing water.

Future research

Furthermore these Brassicas will be characterised in terms of enzyme activity and stability, morphology/microstructure and cell wall characteristics. Bioaccessibility and bioavailability of isothiocyanates will be determined with an in vitro gastro-intestinal tract model, an in vitro cell study and an in vivo animal study with minipigs.