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Learn About Sulforaphane


Part 1 - Overview

Relax. If you haven't heard of sulforaphane, you're not living under a rock (well, maybe a little, but you're definitely not alone). Sulforaphane is a compound obtained from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, kale and especially broccoli sprouts.

Although it has gained popularity in recent years due to discoveries of its potential (and powerful) benefits, sulforaphane hasn't yet completely broken into the mainstream. The reason is probably that extensive research is still being conducted on exactly how helpful it actually is for the human body.

Despite this ongoing research, enough has been uncovered about the benefits of sulforaphane to justify getting it into your body. Furthermore, renowned natural health experts such as Dr Rhonda Patrick are strongly endorsing its consumption. 

As you read earlier, sulforaphane is a compound, which means it is comprised of two or more separate elements. These elements are the enzyme myrosinase and the glucosinolate glucoraphanin. In short, sulforaphane is created when these two elements mix together and react upon damage to the respective plant.

Amongst it's many studied-benefits, sulforaphane is one of the most potent, naturally-occurring activators of the Nrf2 pathway. The Nrf2 pathway is responsible for regulating the expression of over 200 genes including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory genes and genes that inactivate harmful compounds. 

"Nrf2 [Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2] is a powerful protein that is latent within each cell in the body, unable to move or operate until it is released by an Nrf2 activator. Once released it migrates into the cell nucleus and bonds to the DNA at the location of the Antioxidant Response Element (ARE) or also called hARE (Human Antioxidant Response Element) which is the master regulator of the total antioxidant system that is available in ALL human cells."
Source: https://www.nrf2.com

Sulforaphane first rose to prominence when, in 1992, a team of scientists led by renowned pharmacologist Paul Talalay from the Johns Hopkins University isolated it as a potential cancer-fighting compound.

The discovery gained worldwide media attention, with stories such as that seen in the New York Times' "Potent Chemical To Fight Cancer Seen In Broccoli."

Since then, scientific evidence has gone onto suggest some remarkable potential benefits, such as: 

  • cancer prevention
  • boosting immune response
  • reducing inflammation
  • slowing the ageing process
  • reducing certain symptoms of Autism
  • improving cognitive (brain) function
  • protecting against air pollution and cigarette smoke
  • anti-diabetic effects (type 2 diabetes)
  • protection against sun damage
  • improving bowel function

As mentioned above, there is a substantial amount of scientific research that points to numerous benefits from consuming sulforaphane. These are benefits that everyone can enjoy, not only those who are suffering from ailments. Sulforaphane has been shown to have absolutely no harmful effects. It is a natural vegetable product that is a regular part of many people's diet already. By ensuring we consume enough of it, we can enjoy the benefits of better health, both in mind and body. If you are suffering from certain ailments, sulforaphane may help to control or improve the condition. There is really no downside to having your regular dose of sulforaphane.

In the spotlight

Dr. Rhonda Patrick, PhD on Sulforaphane's power

Watch renowned biochemist and natural health expert Dr Rhonda Patrick speak to Joe Rogan about the extraordinary physical and mental health benefits of Sulforaphane.

*Views expressed in this video are unsolicited and not an endorsement for Sulfora®.

 
 

Part 2 - Further Reading

Want to dive deeper into the world of sulforaphane? This section provides deeper insight into the potential benefits of Sulforaphane and the research/studies behind them.

Research indicates that sulforaphane may have a wide range of health and wellbeing benefits. Sulforaphane is a powerful antioxidant, and there is a substantial amount of scientific research that suggests some remarkable practical benefits such as:

  • cancer prevention
  • boosting immune response
  • reducing inflammation
  • slowing the ageing process
  • reducing certain symptoms of Autism
  • improving cognitive (brain) function
  • protecting against air pollution and cigarette smoke
  • anti-diabetic effects (type 2 diabetes)
  • protection against sun damage
  • improving bowel function

This article provides a brief view of what sulforaphane is and an introduction to the benefits listed above. Where possible, links to scientific research have been referenced so you can dive deeper into the science and evidence.

What is Sulforaphane?

Sulforaphane is a compound (meaning composed of two or more separate elements) within the isothiocyanate group of organosulfur compounds. It is obtained from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbages. It is produced when the enzyme myrosinase transforms glucoraphanin, a glucosinolate, into sulforaphane upon damage to the plant (such as from chewing), which allows the two compounds to mix and react. Young sprouts of broccoli and cauliflower are particularly rich in glucoraphanin.1

In simple terms, sulforaphane is a chemical compound that we can get most easily from consuming broccoli sprouts.

Why would we want to eat sulforaphane?

As mentioned above, there is a substantial amount of scientific research that points to numerous benefits from consuming sulforaphane. These are benefits that everyone can enjoy, not only those who are suffering from ailments.  Sulforaphane has been shown to have absolutely no harmful effects. It is a natural vegetable product that is a regular part of many people's diet already. By ensuring we consume enough of it, we can enjoy the benefits of better health, both in mind and body. If you are suffering from certain ailments, sulforaphane may help to control or improve the condition. There is really no downside to having your regular dose of sulforaphane.

Possible benefits of sulforaphane

The following benefits of sulforaphane are summarised here along with references to the scientific research articles that suggest the benefits.

Cancer prevention

Cancer is one of the significant causes of morbidity and mortality in the world. Scientific research about sulforaphane has focused on various forms of cancer. Many of the research projects have been on tissue, but clinical trials on humans are becoming more frequent. Studies on women with breast cancer, men with recurrent prostate cancer and patients with lung cancer have shown positive effects. There are also positive results on melanoma (skin cancer)2, lung cancer3 and pancreatic cancer. Based on these studies and research, sulforaphane appears to have an effect on a wide range of cancers, and beneficial effects for post-treatment cancer patients. Other studies have also shown positive results in reducing the risk of cancer and increasing the efficacy of existing cancer treatments as well as effectively inhibiting tumour growth.4 Mainstream science has accepted sulforaphane as a valid cancer-fighting compound, and government-sponsored clinical trials are underway in the USA.5

Boosting immune response and as an anti-inflammatory

Another Sulforaphane strength is its ability to boost immune response6 and act as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.7 Several tests have shown positive results, and a clinical trial is underway in the USA to test the effects of sulforaphane on the influenza virus in humans.8

Slowing the ageing process, improving brain function and Autism

Multiple studies have shown the positive effects of sulforaphane against ageing and in particular, “brain ageing”.9 There are no validated pharmacologic treatments for the core symptoms of Autism, but a recent study showed in a small clinical trial that sulforaphane (SFN) from broccoli sprouts could significantly reduce the behavioural symptoms of Autism.10 Sulforaphane has also shown to improve cognitive function, improve brain function in brain-damaged patients, and slow or improve the effects of Alzheimer's disease.11

Protecting against air pollution and cigarette smoke

A study was done on about 300 participants in an area of China with substantial levels of airborne pollutants. Exposure to air pollution has been associated with lung cancer and cardiopulmonary diseases. Urinary excretion of the pollutants, benzene, acrolein, and crotonaldehyde, were measured before and during the study. Rapid and sustained, statistically-significant increases in the levels of excretion of benzene (61%) and acrolein (23%) were found in those receiving broccoli sprout beverage compared with placebo. Thus, taking broccoli sprouts enhances the detoxication of some airborne pollutants and may help to reduce their associated long-term health risks.12

Anti-diabetic effects (type 2 diabetes)

Type 2 diabetes is becoming increasingly common worldwide, and not all patients can be successfully treated with existing drugs. A study by Axelsson et al. showed that sulforaphane inhibits glucose production in cultured cells and improves glucose tolerance in rodents on high-fat or high-fructose diets. Moreover, in a clinical trial, sulforaphane-containing broccoli sprout extract was well tolerated and improved fasting glucose in human patients with obesity and dysregulated type 2 diabetes.13 Other studies have also shown that sulforaphane reduces hepatic glucose production and improves glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes.14

Protection against sun damage

UV radiation is the most abundant carcinogen in our environment. The incidence of skin cancer is rising, and skin cancers are now the most common types of cancer. This steady increase in prevalence is expected to continue because of depletion of stratospheric ozone, increased exposure to solar radiation, and longer life expectancy. Sulforaphane has shown to help reduce the effects of sun exposure and sun damage.15

Improving bowel function

Reports indicate that worldwide, a significant number of people have defecation problems in daily life. A recent study showed that chronic constipation was strongly associated with an unbalanced daily diet due to increased psychological stress. The persistence of chronic constipation frequently impairs the quality of life; therefore, it is essential to resolve these issues by implementing lifestyle changes. Sulforaphane has shown to suggest that daily intake of Broccoli Sprouts improves bowel habit in human subjects.16

Conclusion

Sulforaphane has substantial and wide-ranging benefits. Protection from the harmful sun's rays, pollution, ageing and brain decline are only a few of the benefits we can experience even as healthy people. Sulforaphane is also a miraculous treatment for a multitude of ailments and diseases. The research is ongoing and no doubt more and more benefits of this wonderful natural remedy will be discovered.

But there is no need for us to wait. There are no known ill effects from normal amounts of broccoli sprouts in our diets, so we can all begin to benefit right now. 

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References

1 Wikipedia (online at 14 October 2019) ‘Sulforaphane’ <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulforaphane>.

2 ‘Oral Broccoli Sprout Extract in Melanoma Patients’ <https://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/11/7/429>.

3 ‘Metastasis in Human Lung Cancer’<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5309754/>.

4 ‘Chemopreventive Activity of Sulforaphane’ <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6141106/>.

5 ‘Study to Evaluate the Effect of Sulforaphane in Broccoli Sprout Extract on Breast Tissue - Full Text View - ClinicalTrials.Gov’ <https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00982319>.

6 ‘Sulforaphane promotes immune responses’ <https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/mmr.2016.5028>.

7 ‘Broccoli May Help Boost Aging Immune System’, ScienceDaily <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080306133919.htm>.

8 ‘Effects of Sulforaphane (SFN) on Immune Response to Live Attenuated Influenza Virus ClinicalTrials.Gov’ <https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01269723>.

9  ‘Current Potential Health Benefits of Sulforaphane’ <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5225737/>.

10 ‘Broccoli Reduces Symptoms of Autism’ <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5672987/pdf/10.1177_2164957X17735826.pdf>.

11  ‘Sulforaphane Treatment in Alzheimer’s Disease <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5410605/>.

12 ‘Detoxication of Airborne Pollutants by Broccoli Sprout Beverage’ <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4125483/>.

13 ‘Sulforaphane Reduces Hepatic Glucose Production and Improves Glucose Control in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes’ < https://stm.sciencemag.org/content/9/394/eaah4477.full>.

14 ‘Sulforaphane Reduces Hepatic Glucose Production and Improves Glucose Control in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes. - PubMed - NCBI’ <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28615356>.

15 ‘Sulforaphane Mobilizes Cellular Defences That Protect Skin against Damage by UV Radiation’ <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077285/>

16 ‘Daily Intake of Broccoli Sprouts Normalizes Bowel Habits in Human Healthy Subjects’ <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5773831/>.