Life Extension Magazine®

Broccoli contains sulforaphane

Optimize the Benefits of Broccoli

Mature broccoli contains relatively little sulforaphane. Cooking reduces it even more. A convenient solution is combining a sulforaphane precursor with an enzyme that converts the precursor to sulforaphane in the digestive tract.

Scientifically reviewed by: Amanda Martin, DC, in March 2024. Written by: Richard Waterman.

Most of us grew up being urged to "eat your broccoli."

Turns out that was excellent advice.

Broccoli is a source of a nutrient called sulforaphane.1,2

Sulforaphane consumption has been shown to offer wide-ranging health benefits, including protection against:

  • Cancer,
  • Cardiovascular disease,
  • Neurodegenerative diseases,
  • Diabetes,
  • And more.1-4

But getting enough of this nutrient can be difficult, particularly because cooking broccoli reduces the availability of sulforaphane.2,3,5

Scientists have discovered a way around this issue that mimics how nature delivers sulforaphane.

They combined a sulforaphane precursor with an enzyme that converts the precursor into sulforaphane in the digestive tract.

This enables more sulforaphane to be formed and distributed to cells throughout the body.

Broccoli’s Powerhouse Nutrient

Broccoli contains a sulforaphane precursor called glucoraphanin, and an enzyme called myrosinase, which converts glucoraphanin into sulforaphane.2

These two compounds are found in different parts of broccoli cells. They mix together to form sulforaphane only when the plant is cut or chewed.

Cooking broccoli, as most of us do before eating it, dramatically reduces the amount of sulforaphane it can provide.3,6,7

Chopped, raw broccoli sprouts are the best natural source of sulforaphane. But you would have to eat a massive amount daily to obtain desired levels.

Maximizing Delivery of Sulforaphane

Cruciferous vegetables are consumed cooked, which inactivates the plant enzyme myrosinase, required for activating sulforaphane inside the gut.6

Scientists have found a solution to maximize sulforaphane activation and absorption. They extract the sulforaphane precursor glucoraphanin from broccoli seeds. Then, they combine it with the enzyme myrosinase from mustard seed powder.

Mustard plants belong to the same family of cruciferous vegetables as broccoli. The mustard-seed version of myrosinase is more robust than myrosinase from broccoli.8

The sulforaphane precursor and the enzyme only combine during digestion, rapidly releasing sulforaphane in the gut.

This innovative method allows sulforaphane to be readily absorbed and circulated throughout the body while it is still active.

How Sulforaphane Protects Health

Sulforaphane has the ability to shield cells and tissues from threats. Think of it as a full-service detoxification nutrient.

One of its most crucial functions is to activate Nrf2, a protein that regulates over 250 genes that protect cells from oxidative damage and other stressors.2,3,9,10

Nrf2 also activates detoxification enzymes that protect against a wide range of threats. This includes neutralizing mutagens, toxins that can cause mutations that could lead to cancer.11

Sulforaphane also reduces harmful chronic inflammation by inhibiting NF-kB, a cellular complex that drives production of pro-inflammatory compounds.2,3,12

What You Need to Know

The Disease-Fighting Power of Broccoli

  • Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are associated with many health benefits, including reduced risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and type II diabetes.
  • Scientists attribute many of broccoli's benefits to a compound called sulforaphane.
  • When broccoli is cooked, its ability to produce sulforaphane is rapidly lost with processing and cooking.
  • A new formula has been developed that combines a sulforaphane precursor found in broccoli with an enzyme from mustard seeds. Consuming this combination produces sulforaphane in the digestive tract, where it can be rapidly absorbed into the body.
  • This formulation has the potential to maximize the benefits of sulforaphane to shield against metabolic and other chronic disorders.

Anti-Cancer Activity

Sulforaphane is one of the widely studied anti-cancer nutrients in the medical literature.3

It can help prevent cancer by favorably altering gene expression and reducing chronic inflammation. It has also been shown to fight against existing tumor cells and reduces tumor growth.4

In preclinical and clinical studies, sulforaphane has helped prevent the growth and spread of cancer in a few specific ways that include:2,3

  • Preventing adverse gene expression that can lead to cancer growth,
  • Blocking new tumor blood vessel growth,
  • Inhibiting cancer cells' ability to reproduce, and
  • Promoting the death (apoptosis) of cancer cells.

Many studies show that eating broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables is associated with a lower risk of different cancers in humans, including breast, prostate, colorectal, lung, and bladder cancers.4

Protection Against Other Disease

Sulforaphane has been found to be beneficial against additional illnesses, including:

Cardiovascular Disease. Consumption of cruciferous vegetables is associated with reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. Studies have shown that sulforaphane can improve lipid levels, reduce obesity, and slow the progression of atherosclerosis, all actions that reduce risk and progression of heart disease.13

Neurodegenerative Disease. Preclinical studies have shown that sulforaphane is a neuroprotectant, shielding the brain and spinal cord from injury and disease.13,14 It is able to cross the blood-brain barrier to exert its protective functions within the brain tissue itself14. It also has the potential to defend against neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.2,13,14

Type II Diabetes. Metabolic abnormalities like type II diabetes can lead to cardiovascular disease, dementia, kidney disease, fatty liver disease, eye disease, nerve damage, and more. Studies show that broccoli and sulforaphane have the potential to improve aspects of these metabolic diseases, including reducing blood sugar, improving blood lipid levels, and improving insulin sensitivity.12 In human trials, sulforaphane intake improves levels of fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a marker of long-term glucose control.15

Viral Infection. In cell studies and animal models, sulforaphane inhibits replication and reduces the impact of viruses that can cause respiratory infection in humans.16-19

Maximizing the intake of sulforaphane may help its ability to fight these pathologies and promote overall health.

Summary

Many of the health benefits of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables come from a nutrient called sulforaphane.

Sulforaphane has been shown to have activity against cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegeneration, type II diabetes, and more.

The enzyme that converts the precursor to sulforaphane gets degraded when broccoli is cooked.

Scientists have discovered how to formulate the precursor of sulforaphane with the enzyme (myrosinase) that converts to active sulforaphane in the gut.

It can then be easily circulated throughout the body.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

References

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  2. Mangla B, Javed S, Sultan MH, et al. Sulforaphane: A review of its therapeutic potentials, advances in its nanodelivery, recent patents, and clinical trials. Phytother Res. 2021 Oct;35(10):5440-58.
  3. Gasmi A, Gasmi Benahmed A, Shanaida M, et al. Anticancer activity of broccoli, its organosulfur and polyphenolic compounds. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2023 May 2:1-19.
  4. Kaiser AE, Baniasadi M, Giansiracusa D, et al. Sulforaphane: A Broccoli Bioactive Phytocompound with Cancer Preventive Potential. Cancers (Basel). 2021 Sep 25;13(19).
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  7. Okunade O, Niranjan K, Ghawi SK, et al. Supplementation of the Diet by Exogenous Myrosinase via Mustard Seeds to Increase the Bioavailability of Sulforaphane in Healthy Human Subjects after the Consumption of Cooked Broccoli. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2018 Sep;62(18):e1700980.
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  11. Boddupalli S, Mein JR, Lakkanna S, James DR. Induction of phase 2 antioxidant enzymes by broccoli sulforaphane: perspectives in maintaining the antioxidant activity of vitamins a, C, and e. Front Genet. 2012;3:7.
  12. Mohammed A, Mohammed HA. Beneficial role of broccoli and its active ingredient, sulforaphane in the treatment of diabetes. Phytomedicine Plus. 2023;3:100431.
  13. Kamal RM, Abdull Razis AF, Mohd Sukri NS, et al. Beneficial Health Effects of Glucosinolates-Derived Isothiocyanates on Cardiovascular and Neurodegenerative Diseases. Molecules. 2022 Jan 19;27(3).
  14. Jazwa A, Rojo AI, Innamorato NG, et al. Pharmacological targeting of the transcription factor Nrf2 at the basal ganglia provides disease modifying therapy for experimental parkinsonism. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011 Jun 15;14(12):2347-60.
  15. Wang M, Chen M, Guo R, et al. The improvement of sulforaphane in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and related complications: A review. Trends Food Sci Technol. 2022;129:397-407.
  16. Cho HY, Imani F, Miller-DeGraff L, et al. Antiviral activity of Nrf2 in a murine model of respiratory syncytial virus disease. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2009 Jan 15;179(2):138-50.
  17. Gasparello J, Marzaro G, Papi C, et al. Effects of Sulforaphane on SARS‑CoV‑2 infection and NF‑kappaB dependent expression of genes involved in the COVID‑19 'cytokine storm'. Int J Mol Med. 2023 Sep;52(3).
  18. Ordonez AA, Bullen CK, Villabona-Rueda AF, et al. Sulforaphane exhibits antiviral activity against pandemic SARS-CoV-2 and seasonal HCoV-OC43 coronaviruses in vitro and in mice. Commun Biol. 2022 Mar 18;5(1):242.
  19. Waqas FH, Shehata M, Elgaher WAM, et al. NRF2 activators inhibit influenza A virus replication by interfering with nucleo-cytoplasmic export of viral RNPs in an NRF2-independent manner. PLoS Pathog. 2023 Jul;19(7):e1011506.