Anticancer Properties of Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is a variety of cabbage. It is a veritable weapon against cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative disorders. As a nutritionist likes to say, “Kohlrabi deserves to be in every plate of people who want to become or stay healthy.”

High in fiber, this nutritious vegetable facilitates intestinal transit. Among other health elements it contains included Sulforaphane, which has a destructive effect against H. Pylori bacteria present in the stomach and can lead to ulcers and cancers. Sulforaphane, along with indoles, is also implicated in the destruction of cancerous cells in the entire body.

Health Benefits of Kohlrabi

Several epidemiological studies have shown high consumption of vegetables and fruit reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and other chronic medical conditions. It is believed the presence of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables may play a role in this protection. But some plants are more powerful in fighting cancer than others; kohlrabi is one of them.

Kohlrabi and Cancer Prevention

Several studies have shown that regular consumption of kohlrabi, as well as other cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts…), may prevent certain cancers, such as lung, ovary and kidney.  Although recent researches report that vegetables from the cruciferous family have preventive effect on almost all cancers, current epidemiological evidence suggests they are mainly effective in decreasing the risk of malignant tumor in the lung, prostate, breast, and the organs of the digestive system.

Kohlrabi and Cancers of Prostate and Breast

In vitro studies and in animals, it is shown that two active compounds in kohlrabi, the sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, could prevent tumor formation, decrease the growth of cancer cells and promote their self-destruction. Although these studies were mostly focus on cancer associated with hormone system (breast cancer, prostate cancer), other results in animals also show a beneficial effect against cervical cancer.

In addition, it was observed that sulforaphane in Kohlrabi has the ability to kill or reduce overgrowth of H. pylori, a bacterium which can infect and cause stomach ulcer and cancer in humans. Further research is needed before confirming these results in humans. Considering the currently available medical data, it appears that frequent consumption of vegetables from the cruciferous family reduces the risk of metastasis in people who were diagnosed with malignant tumor.


Irritable bowel syndrome. Some people with irritable bowel syndrome may experience intolerance to crucifers, such as kohlrabi. It is therefore important to limit the intake of the vegetable in case of abdominal pain, bloating, and/or diarrhea. When the symptoms are mild or insignificant you can gradually reintegrate these foods, based on your body tolerance.

Interaction between cruciferous and certain medications. Indoles, compounds found naturally in cruciferous vegetables may reduce in particular the action of some analgesics such as products containing acetaminophen (Tylenol®, Atasol®, Tempra®) and other drugs like BENYLIN®, Contac®, and Robaxacet®.



  1. Lampe JW.Health effects of vegetables and fruit: assessing mechanisms of action in human experimental studies.Am J Clin Nutr1999 September;70(3 Suppl):475S-90S.
    2. Brennan P, Hsu CC, et alEffect of cruciferous vegetables on lung cancer in patients stratified by genetic status: a mendelian randomisation approachLancet 2005 October 29;366(9496):1558-60.
    3. Hu J, Mao Y, White K. Diet and vitamin or mineral supplements and risk of renal cell carcinoma in CanadaCancer Causes Control 2003 October;14(8):705-14.
    4. Pan SY, Ugnat AM, et alA case-control study of diet and the risk of ovarian cancerCancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev2004 September;13(9):1521-7.
    5. Zhang Y. Cancer-preventive isothiocyanates: measurement of human exposure and mechanism of actionMutat Res 2004 November 2;555(1-2):173-90.
    6. Johnson IT. Glucosinolates: bioavailability and importance to healthInt J Vitam Nutr Res 2002 January;72(1):26-31.
    7. Conaway CC, Yang YM, Chung FL. Isothiocyanates as cancer chemopreventive agents: their biological activities and metabolism in rodents and humansCurr Drug Metab 2002 June;3(3):233-55.
    8. Jeffery EH, Jarrell V. Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention. In: Wildman REC, editor. Handbook of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods.Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2001. p. 169-91.
    9. Hu R, Khor TO, et alCancer chemoprevention of intestinal polyposis in ApcMin/+ mice by sulforaphane, a natural product derived from cruciferous vegetableCarcinogenesis 2006 May 4.
    10. Hwang ES, Jeffery EH. Induction of quinone reductase by sulforaphane and sulforaphane N-acetylcysteine conjugate in murine hepatoma cellsJ Med Food 2005;8(2):198-203.
    11. Myzak MC, Dashwood RH. Chemoprotection by sulforaphane: keep one eye beyond Keap1Cancer Lett 2006 February 28;233(2):208-18.
    12. Moreno DA, Carvajal M, et alChemical and biological characterisation of nutraceutical compounds of broccoliJ Pharm Biomed Anal 2006 May 17.
    13. Brew CT, Aronchik I, et alIndole-3-carbinol activates the ATM signaling pathway independent of DNA damage to stabilize p53 and induce G1 arrest of human mammary epithelial cellsInt J Cancer 2006 February 15;118(4):857-68.
    14. Firestone GL, Bjeldanes LF. Indole-3-carbinol and 3-3′-diindolylmethane antiproliferative signaling pathways control cell-cycle gene transcription in human breast cancer cells by regulating promoter-Sp1 transcription factor interactionsJ Nutr 2003 July;133(7 Suppl):2448S-55S.
    15. Gong Y, Sohn H, et al3,3′-Diindolylmethane is a novel mitochondrial H(+)-ATP synthase inhibitor that can induce p21(Cip1/Waf1) expression by induction of oxidative stress in human breast cancer cellsCancer Res 2006 May 1;66(9):4880-7.
    16. Hsu JC, Zhang J, et alIndole-3-carbinol inhibition of androgen receptor expression and downregulation of androgen responsiveness in human prostate cancer cellsCarcinogenesis 2005 November;26(11):1896-904.
    17. Qi M, Anderson AE, et alIndole-3-carbinol prevents PTEN loss in cervical cancer in vivoMol Med 2005 January;11(1-12):59-63.
    18. Dashwood RH. Indole-3-carbinol: anticarcinogen or tumor promoter in brassica vegetables?Chem Biol Interact 1998 March 12;110(1-2):1-5.
    19. Soerjomataram I, Oomen D, et alIncreased consumption of fruit and vegetables and future cancer incidence in selected European countriesEur J Cancer 2010;46:2563-80.
    20. Harding AH, Wareham NJ, et alPlasma vitamin C level, fruit and vegetable consumption, and the risk of new-onset type 2 diabetes mellitus: the European prospective investigation of cancer–Norfolk prospective studyArch Intern Med 2008;168:1493-9.
    21. Kim MK, Park JH. Conference on “Multidisciplinary approaches to nutritional problems”. Symposium on “Nutrition and health”. Cruciferous vegetable intake and the risk of human cancer: epidemiological evidence. Proc Nutr Soc 2009; 68: 103-110.
    22. Herr I, Buchler MW. Dietary constituents of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables: implications for prevention and therapy of cancer. Cancer Treat Rev 2010; 36: 377-383.
  2. Bosetti C, Negri E,et al.A pooled analysis of case-control studies of thyroid cancer. VII. Cruciferous and other vegetables (International)Cancer Causes Control 2002 October;13(8):765-75.
    24. He FJ, Nowson CA, et alIncreased consumption of fruit and vegetables is related to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: meta-analysis of cohort studies. J Hum Hypertens 2007;21:717-28.

Leave a Reply