In a study of more than 1,000 Chinese women, those who ate the most cruciferous vegetables had substantially less inflammation than those who ate the least amount.
Based on their findings, the study authors say the health benefits of these vegetables may be at least partly a result of its anti-inflammatory effects.
"Our group and others have found that eating fruits and vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables was associated with lower total mortality and lower mortality from cardiovascular disease - However, the possible mechanisms behind this association are not well understood," he Dr. Gong said Yang told Reuters Health by email.
Yang is a researcher at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, and lead author of the study.
"Chronic inflammation is implicated in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases - therefore, we examined whether intake of cruciferous vegetables may be related to inflammation," he said.
In animal studies, it has been found that a high intake of cruciferous vegetables, or certain compounds found in them, can reduce inflammation, according to what team wrote Yang in the journal of the Academy of Nutrition and dietary online on March 17.
To see if this also happens with human beings, Yang and his colleagues analyzed the signs of inflammation in the blood of 1,005 middle-aged Chinese women who completed questionnaires on their diets as part of the Women's Health Study of Shanghai.
The participants included in the new analysis were generally healthy, and had an average age of 58. Yang and his colleagues divided the women into five groups based on their daily intake of cruciferous vegetables.
The average intake of cruciferous vegetables was slightly less than one cup a day and women consuming the lowest amount eaten about half of that. Women who had the highest intake consumed about 1.5 cups of cruciferous vegetables each day.
Then the researchers measured levels of inflammatory markers in the blood of women. They found that levels of factor tumor alpha necrosis factor (TNF-a), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1B) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) were lower among women with the highest intake of vegetables cruciferous.
Women who consumed the most cruciferous vegetables had, on average, 13% less TNF-a, 18% less IL-1b, and 25% less IL-6 than women who consumed the least.
The researchers found a similar inverse relationship between markers of inflammation and combined intake of all vegetables, but not when examined only non cruciferous vegetables.
"The cruciferous vegetables may have health benefits through modulating inflammation," Yang said. "However, it is premature to make any dietary recommendations based on this single observational study."
"It's an important message - that we always hear people say" eat your vegetables ", but it is also important to know these vegetables are not only good in theory - we know that actually have important health effects," Dr. Neil Barnard told Reuters Health.
Barnard is president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and an advocate of diets based on plant foods. Barnard, who is also an associate professor of medicine at George Washington University in the District of Columbia, did not participate in the new study.
Inflammation is believed to be part of a cycle that promotes heart disease, heart disease and in turn promote more inflammation.
"In short, if you are eating many cruciferous vegetables their health is better, and in particular markers of inflammation are reduced," he said. "That means that you will have a healthy heart and will live longer."
Barnard said cruciferous vegetables are good in other ways beyond reducing inflammation.
"They become a source of highly available calcium - calcium absorption Brussels sprouts is something like 60%, while for cow's milk is only 30%," he said. "We also provide iron in very good shape, and provide some protein."