Sulforaphane - Antioxidant , Anti-Cancer, Anti-Diabetic, Neuroprotective, Anti-Aging and more.

Updated: Aug 6

Sulforaphane is a natural plant compound found in cruciferous vegetables like Broccoli, Kohlrabi, Kale, Cress, Cabbage, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts.

Sulforaphane is activated when glucoraphanin comes into contact with myrosinase, a family of enzymes that play a role in the defense response of plants.

Myrosinase enzymes are only released and activated when a plant is damaged. Therefore, cruciferous vegetables must be cut, chopped, or chewed to release myrosinase and activate sulforaphane.

Numerous studies have been conducted surrounding the health benefits of Sulforaphane and have found that raw vegetables have the highest concentrations of glucoraphanin (up to 10x the concentration).

So what does Sulforaphane do for my health?

Anti-Cancer effects - Obviously, sulforaphane isn’t a miracle cure for cancer. It does, however, have anti-cancer properties. In studies, sulforaphane was found to reduce the size and amount of many types of cancerous cells. The antioxidants in sulforaphane can help protect the body against developing cancerous cells. That’s likely why populations who consume high levels of sulforaphane have lower cancer risks, on average.

Phytochemicals like sulforaphane are antioxidants that cancel out free radicals. Free radicals are tiny particles that weaken and damage healthy cells. They form in your body because of pollution, UV rays, food additives and preservatives, and even through natural processes like digestion.

Anti-Diabetic effects - In people with type 2 Diabetes sulforaphane has been shown to help regulate glucose overproduction. Researchers generated a disease signature based on diabetes-associated gene networks in liver tissue, the site of overproduction of glucose in T2D. In this new effort, the researchers sought to find a compound that could alleviate symptoms in a more natural way. They created a genetic signature for the disease based on 50 genes that have previously been linked to the disorder and fed the results into a database, which used the genetic signature to look for compounds specifically related to gene expression in liver cells - sulforaphane showed the strongest known effects.

Current treatment includes modifying the diet and taking drugs such as metformin. But because the drugs used to treat diabetes can cause other problems, such as liver damage, researchers continue to look for alternatives.

The researchers then cultured liver cells from rats with type 2 diabetes and applied sulforaphane to see what would happen - doing so caused the cells to produce less glucose. Optimistic about their results, the researchers next tested the compound on 97 obese human volunteers with type 2 diabetes over a 12-week period, this was possible because sulforaphane is a compound naturally occurring in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli microgreens. The researchers report that those given the compound showed a significant reduction in glucose levels (while fasting).

Anti-inflammatory effects - SFN is a potent activator of the endogenous anti-oxidant transcription factor nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2). Due to its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties SFN has been identified as a potential treatment for a number of diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD) and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

First, it blocks nucleotide factor NF-κB, which is a proinflammatory signaling pathway.  In fact, NF-κB has long been considered the “holy grail” of pathways to target for new anti-inflammatory drugs. 

To simplify this concept, think of NF-κB pathway as a water faucet.  When inflammation is “on”, the water is running.  Sulforaphane turns the knob towards "off" to stop the water from flowing.  (Source: the Journal of Medicinal Foods in 2013).

Second, sulforaphane promotes the anti-inflammatory pathway, nfr2.  Nfr2 is a protein that regulates the “on switch” of antioxidant proteins that protect against oxidative damage triggered by inflammation.   (Source: the Journal of Biological Chemistry in 2015).

In this study, mice were given 2 mg of sulforaphane per kg body weight.  As a reference point, a 150-pound person taking 2 mg per kg would take 136 mg of sulforaphane.  This amount of sulforaphane would be the equivalent to taking 9 capsules of BrocElite or 45 capsules of BroccoMax.

The take-home message from this research is that sulforaphane is great for chronic inflammation.  Inflammation can be thought of as your immune system engaging an area of your body to help it heal. For example, if you have an infection, your immune cells are deployed to clear it.

Neuroprotective Effects - A wide variety of acute and chronic neurodegenerative diseases, including ischemic/traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson's disease, share common characteristics such as oxidative stress, misfolded proteins, excitotoxicity, inflammation, and neuronal loss. As no drugs are available to prevent the progression of these neurological disorders, intervention strategies using phytochemicals have been proposed as an alternative form of treatment. Among phytochemicals, isothiocyanate sulforaphane, derived from the hydrolysis of the glucosinolate glucoraphanin mainly present in Brassica vegetables, has demonstrated neuroprotective effects in several in vitro and in vivo studies. In particular, evidence suggests that sulforaphane beneficial effects could be mainly ascribed to its peculiar ability to activate the Nrf2/ARE pathway. Therefore, sulforaphane appears to be a promising compound with neuroprotective properties that may play an important role in preventing neurodegeneration.

Anti Aging Effects - Sulforaphane activates heat-shock proteins in the body, especially HSP27. Heat-shock proteins can help slow aging and improve brain function. Sauna use also activates heat-shock proteins but chowing down on some broccoli sprouts is a good way to up levels of these proteins without the heat.

One study by the National Academy for the Sciences (U.S.) shows SFN mobilizes defenses that protect against cellular damage from UV light. This is why I increase my broccoli sprout consumption in the summer, so I can get the benefits of Vitamin D from the sun without worrying about aging more quickly from the sun exposure.

All in all there is literally no argument here, Sulforaphane is beneficial to human health and what better way to get it than through microgreens.