Red Cabbage Microgreens Lower LDL Cholesterol

Red Cabbage Microgreens Lower LDL Cholesterol

Title: Red Cabbage Microgreens Lower Circulating Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), Liver Cholesterol, and Inflammatory Cytokines in Mice Fed a High-Fat Diet

Authors: Haiqiu Huang, Xiaojing Jiang, Zhenlei Xiao, Lu Yu, Quynhchi Pham, Jianghao Sun, Pei Chen, Wallace Yokoyama, Liangli Lucy Yu, Yaguang Sunny Luo, Thomas T. Y. Wang

  • Diet, Genomics and Immunology Laboratory, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, ARS, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Nutrition and Food Science Department, University of Maryland
  • Food Quality Laboratory, Beltsville Area Research Center, ARS, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Agriculture, Culinology and Hospitality Management, Southwest Minnesota State University
  • Food Composition and Methods Development Laboratory, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, ARS, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Healthy Processed Foods Research Unit, Western Regional Research Center, ARS, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Published: November 12, 2016


Chronic diseases account for about 70% of deaths and >75% of total healthcare costs in the United States in 2010.1 In 2012, close to half of the U.S. population was reported to have one or more chronic conditions,2 and cardiovascular disease (CVD), in particular, accounted for 30% of all U.S. deaths.3 Epidemiological studies indicate that individuals with higher intakes of fruits and vegetables tend to have a lower occurrence of CVD.4 Therefore, increased consumption of fruits and vegetables has been recommended as a key component of a healthy diet for the prevention of chronic diseases, including CVD.4,5 Moreover, there is growing evidence that certain groups of vegetables, such as cruciferous vegetables, may be particularly beneficial for human health. Cruciferous vegetables, such as red cabbage, have been reported to be protective against chronic diseases such as CVD and prostate cancer.

As part of the concerted strategy to promote health and prevent chronic diseases, the development of new foods with enhanced function, that is, functional foods, has received much attention. Microgreens, an exotic genre of edible greens (Figure 1), is one of those foods that has gained popularity in upscale
markets and restaurants over the past few years. Microgreens are tender immature plants produced from the seeds of vegetables (such as red cabbage) and herbs having two fully developed cotyledon leaves with or without the emergence of a rudimentary pair of first true leaves. Microgreens can provide a large array of intense flavors, vivid colors, and tender textures and can be served as an ingredient in salads, soups, and sandwiches, to enhance their color, texture, and/or flavor. Microgreens also serve as an edible garnish to brighten up a wide variety of main dishes. More importantly, previous studies found that microgreens possess higher nutritional densities when compared to their mature counterparts.10 For example, red cabbage microgreens contained approximately 260-fold more β-carotene, >40 times more vitamin E, and 2.4−6-fold higher vitamin C levels than previously published for mature red cabbage.

Although microgreens, such as those from red cabbage, have been reported to possess more nutrients and are perceived to be “healthier”, no known study has been conducted to evaluate whether consumption reduces CVD risk factors. Previous research has reported the potential health-promoting properties of red cabbage, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammation, and antibacterial effects and amelioration of dyslipidemia induced by excessive cholesterol.12−14 On the basis of the existing literature on the protective effects of cruciferous vegetables, we hypothesized that red cabbage microgreens (RCMG) would reduce CVD risk factors in a diet-induced obesity (DIO) mouse model. The current study tested this hypothesis, and our results supported that the consumption of RCMG, at physiologically achievable levels, attenuates several high-fat diet-induced risk factors, including hypercholesterolemia and liver inflammation. Elevated levels of circulating lipid and cholesterol are known risk factors for CVD; therefore, the DIO mouse model was employed to assess the effect of RCMG to ameliorate dyslipidemia and hypercholesterolemia induced by a high-fat diet.15−17 Additionally, possible molecular mechanisms for the health-promoting effects of RCMG were evaluated.


Microgreens are sprouting up everywhere from upscale restaurants to home gardens. They help spruce up old recipes with intense flavors and colors, and are packed with nutrients. Now testing has shown that for mice on a high-fat diet, red cabbage microgreens helped lower their risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease and reduce their weight gain.

Microgreens are tender, immature plants and herbs that take only a week or two to grow before they're ready for harvesting. A growing body of research suggests that microgreens could offer more health benefits than their mature counterparts. And since previous studies have shown that full-grown red cabbage can help guard against excessive cholesterol, Thomas T.Y. Wang and colleagues wanted to see if red cabbage microgreens might have a similar or even greater effect than their larger counterparts.

To test their hypothesis, the researchers used mice that were a model for obesity. These animals also tend to develop high cholesterol and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The team divided 60 of these mice into different diet groups. They received food low in fat or high in fat, and with or without either red cabbage microgreens or mature red cabbage. Both the microgreens and mature cabbage diets reduced weight gain and levels of liver cholesterol in the mice on high-fat diets. But the study also showed that microgreens contained more potentially cholesterol-lowering polyphenols and glucosinolates than mature cabbage. The baby plants also helped lower LDL, or "bad," cholesterol and liver triglyceride levels in the animals.

[For more journal articles & inspiration check out The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.]

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