Updated: Oct 21, 2020
Sulforaphane has captivated the minds of scientists all over the world with institutes such as John Hopkins University being the flag bearer of cutting-edge research. The benefits of this compound are so immense that in the past 30 years some 3,000 research publications have been produced on sulforaphane. Fascinating, isn't it?
So, what is Sulforaphane, really? Sulforaphane is a sulfur-rich compound in an inactive state called glucoraphanin, a member of the glucosinolate family. An enzyme called myrosinase is required to convert glucoraphanin to sulforaphane. (Don’t worry, technical terms end here. Well almost! )More on this can be found in our blog on Broccoli Extract Powder. This compound has shown to have some great potential in treating chronic ailments from cancer to diabetes.
Sulforaphane is commonly found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts etc. Most of the research that’s currently done on sulforaphane has been from using broccoli sprouts possibly due to availability or cost point of view. However, eating other cruciferous vegetables or sprouts such as kale sprouts would give the same benefit too.
Why Consume Broccoli Sprouts or Sulforaphane? Medical Science does not yet know the true causes of the epidemic of chronic diseases that we have been facing in the past two centuries. On top of everything, the immune system is known to cause some 80 different kinds of problems, commonly known as the Autoimmune Diseases. When it comes to why these diseases are so prevalent, some claim that it is the modern lifestyle while others claim the environmental toxins found in plastics, cosmetics and our food. [1,2]Whatever might be the true cause, we can definitely call this an uncharted territory. These truly are new and unprecedented problems which need unprecedented solutions - and if you listen to us, one of them could be as simple as eating more broccoli sprouts! Easy, right?
How to Consume Broccoli Sprouts and Sulforaphane?
Broccoli sprouts contain the compound called Sulforaphane in 10x abundance compared to broccoli. Some studies have suggested a dose of 0.5mg Sulforaphane per Kg of body weight, meaning 30mg for a 60kg person. Of course, it is almost impractical to source, buy and sprout (takes 2-3 days) these microgreens every single day given our busy lives, not to mention potential food poisoning from eating raw sprouts as well as food waste issues. Hence, we have painstakingly converted these sprouts into an extract powder of the highest quality; 2 tablespoons of which in a day will open your world to the wide-ranging benefits of Sulforaphane. One can consume Sulforaphane in many more ways through our neutral tasting extract powder too: like blending in smoothies, sprinkling in yoghurts, topping in soups, mixing in salad dressings and even baking in delicious healthy bakes. Is it pancake day, yet?
Benefits of Sulforaphane
When we say wide-ranging, we really mean it! Below is a non-exhaustive list of the conditions which have benefitted in one or the other way from Sulforaphane administration.
● Cardiovascular Disease
● Cancer (Prostate, Breast, Skin, Stomach)
● Chronic Inflammation
● Irritable Bowel Syndrome Skin Problems
● Muscular Dystrophy
● Mild Cognitive Impairment
● Rheumatoid Arthritis
● Multiple Sclerosis
● Gastric Issues
Why does Sulforaphane have such wide-ranging benefits?
Before we delve deeper into some of these particular diseases and Sulforaphane effects on them, a natural question comes in mind. How is one compound able to show such a wide-ranging beneficial effect on the human body? It is perplexing because diseases like cancer, diabetes and cognitive dysfunction activate really different kinds of biological mechanisms and reactions. Dr Rhonda Patrick of Found My Fitness has done a deep analysis of the scientific research on Sulforaphane and explained why it has such a broad spectrum of benefits. The answer to this question lies in the NRF2 mechanism.
The NRF2 pathway is a regulator of about 200 different kinds of genes including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory genes. This pathway is activated in fighting against a lot of harmful infections, diseases and autoimmune problems. Sulforaphane is the most potent, naturally occurring compound to have ever been discovered that triggers this pathway and improves the ability of our cells to fight off various infections.
7 Benefits of Sulforaphane in detail
Now that we know the reason for the numerous benefits of Sulforaphane, let’s understand some of them in greater detail.
1. Sulforaphane and Cancer
Cancer is a deadly disease with no fixed cure. Research has been done since time immemorial towards finding one. Sulforaphane, too is one of the compounds that has been widely researched for its anti-cancer properties. A significant number of studies have found that it can be used to reduce the size and number of the tumour cells.
In one particular study, conducted during the early days of research in 1997, it was found that Sulforaphane induces certain enzymes that can reduce the rate of occurrence and spread of breast cancers. The study was first conducted in mice, but it paved the way for future human trials. Another study conducted in 2012, found that people who consumed cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, bokchoy, arugula etc. (all of which contain Sulforaphane) at least once a week were less prone to developing cancer than those who did not. It is important to note that this study does not directly test the efficacy of Sulforaphane in cancer. Nevertheless, it gives strong evidence of the anti-cancer properties of cruciferous vegetables.
2. Sulforaphane and Stomach Problems
As shocking as it sounds, 50% of the global population harbours H. pylori in their upper GI tracts. These notorious little bacteria might be responsible for stomach ulcers, inflammations, intestinal hang-ups or other gastric issues you might have experienced in life.
Sulforaphane seems to be beneficial against H. pylori infections. In several human studies, eating broccoli sprouts decreased H. pylori colonization and reduced stomach inflammation. [5,6]Also the values went back to their original levels 2 months after the treatment was discontinued, showing that the change induced in the short term study was not permanent but only when the participants were on a regular broccoli sprouts diet. This means that it is advisable to consume Sulforaphane regularly in one’s diet for maintaining good gut health.
Another study was conducted with 86 Type 2 diabetes patients having H. pylori infection, who were administered broccoli sprout powder, in addition to a standard treatment. Considerable improvement was found with respect to infection reduction.
Furthermore, H. Pylori causes oxidation of the stomach lining which decreases the ability of regeneration and repair which can spiral into a slow stirring gastric cancer too. Sulforaphane’s antioxidant properties prevent this lining damage and slow down the infection, thus aiding in gastric cancer treatment. As promising as this sounds, this study was conducted on isolated human cells and further investigation is required through clinical human trials to show clear evidence.
3. Sulforaphane and Air Pollutant Detoxification
Air pollution is one of the leading causes of breathing problems of our modern world. No one can escape the fumes of industries and automobiles and we need to take active measures to make sure the piling up of air toxins does not cause long term lung problems. This is where Sulforaphane comes to help.
In 2019, researchers from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health worked with Chinese officials and conducted a massive study in one of the most polluted cities in China by extracting sulforaphane from broccoli sprouts and administering to 300 men and women. The results of this research were a ray of hope as it was found that sulforaphane removed benzene and acrolein from the system in a fast and effective manner thus decreasing the chances of pulmonary issues.
Following this historic result, many other clinical trials were conducted in other polluted regions of China, each resulting in positive for benzene detoxification.
4. Sulforaphane and Brain Health
Brain health is the most important. Period. Cases of Alzhimer’s and Parkinson’s have been increasing at a rapid pace and not many compounds have shown promising results in improving the general cognitive health of patients. Sulforaphane has been found to show certain benefits in improving cognition.
According to a study conducted in 2018, Sulforaphane does this by activating the NRF2 pathway. The NRF2 pathway is an important element in the activation and expression of important antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties of a cell. So, with respect to brain health, Sulforaphane has been found to protect the Central Nervous System (CNS) from oxidative stress thereby improving the cognitive performance of individuals.
Other research studies conducted in animals have found similar effects of sulforaphane in preventing neurodegeneration and offering protection against brain diseases.
5. Sulforaphane and Autism
Autism is a developmental disorder found in children causing problems with communication and general social interaction. Sulforaphane has been found to help with some of the behavioural aspects of the disease. A small pilot study conducted on 29 young male subjects found that when administered a small dosage, daily for about 18 weeks, these men showed an increased understanding of social interaction. They also saw an increased ability to express thoughts and communication.
Experts say that this is a promising exploratory study which gives hope for use of broccoli sprouts in improving social skills for autistic patients. However, in order to truly make a strong correlation between the two, larger studies need to be conducted.
6. Sulforaphane and Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is an epidemic, one that has the potential to exacerbate other conditions such as neurodegenerative disorders, cardiovascular disease etc. Type 2 diabetes is caused due to insulin resistance.
Some animal studies have shown that consuming a concentrated amount of Sulforaphane aids in improving blood sugar control by the NRF2 pathway activation.
Sulforaphane has repeatedly been found to significantly manage the insulin response and glucose control metabolism. In another study, 97 people with type 2 diabetes were administered Sulforaphane through broccoli sprouts. They showed promising results in blood sugar management. The sugar levels decreased by 6.5% but the more promising evidence was found when haemoglobin A1c levels increased which indicate sugar control in a longer-term. 
Further research in the area can have ground-breaking consequences for the use of sulforaphane in managing long term blood sugar levels of diabetic patients.
7. Sulforaphane as an Antiviral
Sulforaphane has shown some potential in battling a viral infection. Cells that were directly exposed to the compound showed a decrease in their viral activity.
Some animal and in vitro studies have shown that Sulforaphane significantly decreases the viral load in influenza or flu-ridden cells.  It has also shown to work against certain viruses like the Epstein Barr Virus commonly known as EBV, the Hepatitis C virus and HIV.  In the case of an HIV infection, Macrophages, which are large cells found in our body, get infected and spread the infection throughout the body.
Sulforaphane was found to block HIV from entering the Macrophages and thus reducing the spread of infection.
It is important to note that the antiviral properties of the compound have not yet been validated in human studies.
Sulforaphane does not need to be consumed only when you are fighting a chronic illness, it is a compound with such immense benefits that its consumption has the capacity to significantly revitalize your metabolism, immunity and general well-being.
In this light, it is important to know if there can be any side effects of sulforaphane dosages. There has been no research indicating that Sulforaphane can cause any kind of serious side effects. It is a particularly safe compound to consume. But since the spectrum of those consuming is large, some people have experienced extremely mild side effects of the compound in the form of stomach discomfort like bloating or constipation. These gastric discomforts do not correlate to pre-existing gastric issues, meaning if you have pre-existing gastric issues, consuming Sulforaphane is going to benefit rather than harm. Research has yet not found a reason for these minor discomforts to occur in the first place. On a general note, the compound is deemed safe to consume on a regular basis.
Broccoli Sprouts and Sulforaphane have been widely researched for their many benefits. They are touted to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic properties and much more.
Even though most of the research has been done on isolated human cells or animals, with very few large-scale human studies, there is no denying that Sulforaphane is beneficial for maintaining a general state of well-being.
Introducing our Sprout powered Sulforaphane as part of your daily balanced diet will give your body the perfect boost it needs!
These blog posts are not intended to replace the advice or personalised information from a health professional. If you have further questions or require personalised advice, please seek guidance from your doctor or dietitian.