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Why should I take Sulforaphane?

Sulforaphane has been found to have several potential health benefits.

  • It may protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's diseases by activating heat shock proteins and reducing oxidative stress .
  • Sulforaphane's anti-inflammatory properties could potentially help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety .
  • It has been shown to have positive effects on brain function and behavior, including improvement in autistic behavior and cognitive impairment .
  • Sulforaphane can promote cardiovascular health by reducing inflammation and improving biomarkers .
  • It has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer and shown to slow down the growth of cancer cells, including prostate and breast cancer .
  • Sulforaphane may increase the excretion of carcinogens and toxins from the body, such as benzene .
  • It has antioxidant and detoxification properties that help protect against oxidative stress and support overall health and longevity .
  • Sulforaphane from broccoli sprouts is most bioavailable, and growing sprouts at home can provide a cheap and accessible source .

Please note that these benefits have been observed in studies conducted on animal models and limited human research. It is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement or treatment regimen.

For more detailed information on sulforaphane, you can listen to the podcast episode "#028 Sulforaphane and Its Effects on Cancer, Mortality, Aging, Brain and Behavior, Heart Disease & More" by Dr. Rhonda Patrick .

Rhonda Patrick: in the brains of animals. I was a little surprised, however, to find that sulforaphane activates many heat shock proteins by increasing the levels of heat shock factor 1, known as HSF1, which is a major regulator of many different heat shock proteins. The induction of heat shock proteins may be an additional mechanism the body has against the aggregation of proteins. which have been shown to confer some protection against Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease. Putting aside heat shock proteins for a moment, sulforaphane's activation of Nrf2 may, in addition to protecting against neurodegenerative diseases and potentially delaying brain aging, also have a special relevance for traumatic brain injury as well, which also has a very important inflammatory and oxidative stress component because of the post-injury production of reactive oxygen and reactive nitrogen species, the latter of which comes about as a consequence of activation of the immune system. There have been several studies showing that sulforaphane can protect against traumatic brain injury, or TBI, in animals. For example, when administered by injection following TBI, sulforaphane has been demonstrated to attenuate blood-brain barrier permeability, which means the body is better able to control what is and is not allowed to enter the brain. as well as a reduction in cerebral edema, regardless of how soon after the injury the sulforaphane was given. Additionally, enhanced learning and working memory was improved, but only if sulforaphane was administered within one hour post-injury.
Rhonda Patrick: If you've been paying attention up until now, then you know where I'm going with this already. A little while ago, we talked about inflammation in the context of aging, but it's similarly valid here. If, for example, sulforaphane can lower important inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-6, upwards of 20% in humans, on top of it being able to cross the blood-brain barrier, maybe we have a chance of it being helpful in depression as well. As a plausible mechanism for being helpful for depression, we see promise in animal studies. Mice given lipopolysaccharide to induce an inflammatory response experience depressive symptoms. just like humans do. However, taking these same mice and giving them a whopping one milligram per kilogram of body weight a day of sulforaphane reverses these depressive symptoms. This paper I'm referring to is interesting in part for reasons of what it states right in the abstract, and that is that NRF2 may be a good target for novel antidepressant drugs, but also because they're inducing depression through inflammation. Tricking the immune system into thinking it's under attack, however, isn't the only way to induce a depression phenotype. A variety of stressors can do that. Social stress, messing with the circadian rhythm, water deprivation. In 10 different models of stress-induced depression, sulforaphane alleviated depressive symptoms and anxiety as well as the antidepressant Prozac in mice. Sulforaphane also decreased stress hormones and the inflammatory response
Rhonda Patrick: But the one thing we didn't talk about is dose. If a person wanted to get the benefits of sulforaphane in their diet and they choose to get them in their more concentrated source, namely broccoli sprouts, how many sprouts would one have to eat? For this, I used a conservative estimate that each gram of fresh uncooked broccoli sprouts yields around 2.4 micromoles of sulforaphane or about 0.25 milligrams of sulforaphane. Using this number, However, it might suggest that if a person wanted to get 60mg of sulforaphane per day, which was shown to reduce the doubling rate of a marker for prostate cancer by 86%, then they would probably have to consume around 140g fresh weight of broccoli sprouts. Or they could try to mimic the study done in people with type 2 diabetes, which showed a reduction in triglycerides of around 18.7% and a reduction of oxidized LDL by around 13.5% with a daily dose of an extract that was equivalent to around 40mg of sulforaphane, or what you might get from about 100g of fresh broccoli sprouts. Or maybe our hypothetical individual is somewhat more concerned with general inflammation, In which case, 40 mg of sulforaphane showed promise in yet another study when it reduced TNF-alpha, a marker of inflammation, by 11%, and it lowered C-reactive protein, another marker of inflammation, by 16%. The point is, your guess is as good as mine. I only have the doses used in some of these human studies to go off of.
Rhonda Patrick: The effect from the injected sulforaphane was pretty strong, somewhere on the order of around a 50% increase in hair regrowth, accompanied by a pretty robust decrease in dihydrotestosterone levels. Okay, you guys know I love to talk about the brain. If I can find a way to tie in the brain into something I'm talking about, I will. Here too, sulforaphane, our favorite and most notable isothiocyanate, does not let us down. Sulforaphate can indeed cross the blood-brain barrier, at least in mice. This is the first criteria that a substance must meet in order for there to be a compelling argument that it somehow exerts effects on the brain, though immunological effects can also qualify since we know the immune system and inflammatory mediators interact directly with the brain. The Nrf2 pathway, the same pathway that keeps coming up again and again in our discussion, is the body's strongest defense against oxidative stress. In fact, oxidative stress itself activates this pathway. For this reason, perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised to find that sulforaphane seems to also affect conditions of the brain for which we know oxidative challenge is a part of the etiology of. In a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study, treatment with sulforaphane extracted from broccoli sprouts at doses ranging from around 9 milligrams to 25 milligrams, which is an amount found in probably around 65 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts on the high end, was able to improve autistic behavior checklist scores by 34% and significantly improved social interaction, abnormal behavior, and verbal communication in young men with autism spectrum disorder.
Rhonda Patrick: In 10 different models of stress-induced depression, sulforaphane alleviated depressive symptoms and anxiety as well as the antidepressant Prozac in mice. Sulforaphane also decreased stress hormones and the inflammatory response in response to various social stressors, indicating that the neuroprotective effects on depression and anxiety may be associated with lower inflammation and lower stress hormones in this case as well. Mice that are repeatedly subjected to social defeat causes depression-like symptoms, including avoiding social situations. Sulforaphane prevented this avoidance behavior when animals were given sulforaphane. And even more interestingly, administration of the precursor to sulforaphane, glucoraphanin, during early development and adolescence prevented the social defeat during adulthood. While the positive effects of sulforaphane in depression have only been shown in animal studies, this is enticing. We already have some evidence that sulforaphane has positive effects in other conditions of the brain in humans, such as autism. And we also have some evidence in humans that sulforaphane lowers many different biomarkers of inflammation, which also have a link to depression. For all of the aforementioned reasons, it seems very plausible that sulforaphane may have a similar effect on depression and anxiety in people. But the best we can hope for for now is that future studies will come out that can further illuminate this for us. Any discussion of inflammation in the brain would not be complete if we didn't briefly talk about neurodegenerative diseases, often considered themselves to be diseases of aging, and also traumatic brain injury, for which chronic inflammation plays a central role in later outcomes.
Rhonda Patrick: increased glutathione S-transferase circulating in their blood plasma by about 1.4 fold, while overall oxidative DNA damage went down by about 28%. Drops in DNA damage are a very good thing since these are ultimately what initiate cancer and are fundamental to the process of aging itself. But when it comes to showing off the ability of sulforaphane to help trigger systems that boost the excretion of carcinogens, there's really one study that stands out. This study demonstrated that sulforaphane and its precursor, glucoraphanin, can actually significantly increase the excretion of benzene. Participants that were given a daily broccoli sprout beverage containing around 262.5 milligrams of glucoraphanin and about 7.1 milligrams of sulforaphane, which is about probably an effective dose of something like 135 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts per day. increase the rate of excretion of benzene by 61% beginning on the first day of consuming the drink and continuing throughout the entire 12 week period of the trial. For those of you that don't know, benzene is a nasty carcinogen that is known to cause cancer in humans and animals. particularly leukemia. Some of the major sources of benzene that people are exposed to are from automobile exhaust fumes and air pollution in general, and cigarette smoke, even secondhand. Air pollution is the major benzene source for nonsmokers, and cigarette smoke really is the big culprit for smokers. In the US, cigarette smoke accounts for about half of the population's high exposure to benzene, with the typical cigarette smoker inhaling around 10 times as much benzene per day as a nonsmoker,
Rhonda Patrick: Thank you so much for listening If you're pumped up and you can't wait for the next podcast You can be a part of my posse giving me the resources to bring it all together and to make it happen By pledging a few bucks a month learn more about that at forward slash crowd sponsor. That's c r o w d s p o n s o r Don't forget to go get on my newsletter so that I can send you extra information when I release podcasts, including summaries, other relevant links, and much more. Get that on my website, that's once again found at You can also go check out the corresponding sulforaphane video where I cite everything, add helpful definitions, et cetera. You can find that at forward slash foundmyfitness, or by searching foundmyfitness youtube on Google. Finally last but not least hit me up on Twitter Instagram Facebook All of which I post on several times a week under the username found my fitness I don't respond to absolutely everything but I try my best and I do read a whole heck of a lot of it Until next time dr. Rhonda Patrick over and out
Rhonda Patrick: Wow, this was a long one. Let's have a quick recap of the things we talked about. We started by talking about some of the epidemiological data showing associations between eating cruciferous vegetables and reduced all-cause mortality in general, but also mortality from many different types of cancer, including prostate, bladder, breast, and lung. We talked about how there's a good chance that isothiocyanates, a group of compounds that notably include sulforaphane, are likely what is driving these associations and how we know this because of human studies where people that have already had different types of cancer and were given sulforaphane have a significant reduction in cancer death. We also know this from a variety of animal studies that cause cancer in animals and then go on to prevent it with sulforaphane or combinations of isothiocyanates and sulforaphane or broccoli sprouts. We talked about how broccoli sprouts are the very best source of sulforaphane, having as much as 100 times more of the precursor to sulforaphane, glucoraphanin, than mature broccoli. We talked about the evidence that sulforaphane may be able to help us reduce DNA damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation, how it lowers biomarkers of inflammation, which are central to cancer aging. Neurodegenerative diseases and so much more we talked about how broccoli sprout beverage was shown to help people substantially increase their excretion rate of benzene by up to 61% Which is a cancer-causing chemical that we can take in from our environment from a variety of different sources And how it also causes humans to excrete many more harmful compounds. We talked about how cardiovascular health and how cruciferous vegetable consumption has been shown to lower risk of cardiovascular disease
Rhonda Patrick: Today, I have some great stuff for you. We're going to talk about cruciferous vegetables as a group. In other words, we're going to be talking about broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, turnips, horseradish, radish, mustard, rutabaga, watercress, landcress, garden cress, bok choy, pak choy, daikon, mizuna, maca, tatsoi, and wasabi. Yes, wasabi, who knew? We'll also be talking about broccoli sprouts, so much about broccoli sprouts, and more importantly, sulforaphane. We're going to talk about how sulforaphane is the most potent naturally occurring dietary activator of a genetic pathway called NRF2 that controls over 200 genes, many of which are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and inactivate potentially harmful compounds we are exposed to on a daily basis. We're going to be talking about the cancer preventative properties of sulforaphane. We're going to be talking about the positive effects of sulforaphane on behavior in humans and the potential, based on animal research, that it may later be shown to have for depression and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. How sulforaphane has a positive effect on biomarkers of cardiovascular disease and lowers inflammatory markers in people. We're going to talk about the role of sulforaphane in the aging process in general. How sulforaphane causes people to increase the excretion of carcinogens like benzene and acrolein.
Rhonda Patrick: We're going to talk about the role of sulforaphane in the aging process in general. How sulforaphane causes people to increase the excretion of carcinogens like benzene and acrolein. We're going to talk about the bioavailability and dose and how I'm able to sustain my 40 to 60 milligram per day sulforaphane habit cheaply through bulk sprouting and so much more. But before we get going, stop what you're doing, hit pause, go to my website at, enter your email in the newsletter subscription box and click submit. This podcast has been baking in the oven for nearly four months. We're not done here. I need to be able to communicate with you supplementary information that you don't want to miss. And if you're not on my list, I can't get it to you. That address is foundmyfitness, It's free and it's awesome. And hey, over 50,000 people can't be wrong. When you're done doing that, go to forward slash found my fitness or just Google found my fitness YouTube. Most of my podcasts come out as highly annotated videos that give extra definitions and facilitate better understanding as well as citations. And by subscribing, you're helping me achieve a personal milestone I'm working towards this year for subscribership over there.
Rhonda Patrick: It appears as though this robust effect of sulforaphane on slowing the growth of prostate cancer may be dose dependent. In another study, when 35 mg of sulforaphane was used instead of 60 mg, and while it theoretically still slowed the growth of prostate cancer, it only increased the average PSA doubling time by 57%, which, while impressive, isn't quite as jaw-dropping as the 86% from the previous study. And breast cancer, again, interesting things going back to the sulforaphane, in this case, bioaccumulation of the isothiocyanate. In 2007, a pilot study found that after receiving broccoli sprout extract containing about 37 milligrams of sulforaphane, or the amount you might get from consuming about 85 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts, The accumulation of sulforaphane was detected in actual human breast tissue, around 1.45 picomole per milligram for the right breast and 2 picomole per milligram for the left. Don't bother looking up what a pico is. It's extremely small. This is, however, interesting in the sense that we're seeing the molecule itself actually making its way to the breasts. Additionally, breast tissue also displayed increased levels of a gene called NQO1. This gene makes an enzyme that has many protective functions, including detoxification of certain compounds, preventing them from damaging cells, and even more interestingly, protecting a very important tumor suppressor gene called p53 from being degraded. All of this is happening within one hour after consuming broccoli sprout extract. P53 is itself so important to cancer biology that over 50% of all adult cancers have a mutated or broken p53 gene.
Rhonda Patrick: These are some pretty powerful associations. But before we begin to establish causality, we have to establish a plausible mechanism. Our most likely candidate, isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates are produced from compounds known as glucosinolates by an enzyme called myrosinase, which becomes activated when the cruciferous plant is chopped, crushed, or chewed, but deactivated when subjected to prolonged high temperatures, such as sustained boiling. One isothiocyanate, sulforaphane, stands out from all the rest because of its potency and the sheer amount of scientific scrutiny it's been subjected to. Remember how we said isothiocyanates are made from glucosinolates? Sulforaphane is no exception. The glucosinolate sulforaphane is made from is known as glucoraphanin, but it's often simply referred to as sulforaphane glucosinolate. The single best source of glucoraphanin and thus sulforaphane are most likely broccoli sprouts, which contain up to 100 times more glucoraphanin than their mature counterpart, broccoli. Moreover, broccoli sprouts are something that anyone can very, very cheaply produce at home in bulk, All it takes is around six glass jars, sprouting seeds, and continuous rotation to yield about eight ounces every single day. This is something truly accessible to absolutely everyone, since around 20 bucks will buy you a couple pounds of seeds, which is enough to sustain production for months.
Rhonda Patrick: And it is now believed that suppression of inflammation is the single most important driver of successful longevity and that this actually increases importance with advancing age. And we're not just talking about survival either, but also a strong association with capability in terms of being able to more adequately perform activities of daily living, as well as cognition in all major age groups, including elderly, centenarians, semi-supercentenarians, which are 105 to 109 years old, and supercentenarians, which are 110 years old and older. In fact, inflammation has been shown to be the single most important predictor of cognitive ability, surpassed in its predictive ability only by a person's chronological age itself. And this relationship isn't surprising. We know that if we take mice, for example, and induce chronic low-level activation of a master regulator of the pro-inflammatory response known as NF-kappa B, it can actually accelerate aging by 30% in mice. Again, suggesting that chronic enhancement of pro-inflammatory mediators really is not just a bystander, but an actual driver of aging. Sulforaphane has been shown in mice to inhibit NF-kappa B through the activation of NRF2. NF-kappa B activates a multitude of inflammatory pathways and induces cytokines that regulate the immune response. One such example is IL-6, which is often activated downstream of NF-kappa B. Higher circulating levels of IL-6 are associated with increased risk for cancers and other age-related diseases. Here we see a benefit in humans. Healthy individuals given 14 grams of cruciferous vegetables per kilogram body weight daily decrease their circulating levels of IL-6 by 20%.
(someone): Yeah, another great question, and to the firefighter that asked that, thank you for your service. It's been a rough year for firefighters out West, that's for sure. So my best guess is that taking them regularly or taking a supplement in order to prime your system and get your antioxidant and detoxification system ready for the regular assaults that you're laying on your body, it would probably be wise. I think this is a case where you should remember that you If we're talking about carcinogens or toxins or oxidant chemicals, you never really know when you're being attacked by those vicious chemicals. And I'm actually not exaggerating. I mean, there are a lot of nasty chemicals in smoke, certainly from home fires and even from wildfires. So if you look at the analogy to wearing seat belts, you wear a seat belt. not because you plan on getting in an accident, but it's prophylactic. And I think you could make a similar argument if you know you're regularly blasting your lungs and your body with the components of smoke. You could make an argument that priming your system to get that response maximally geared up would be a good thing. One thing we do know from our work in China with study of air pollution and the effects of sulforaphane on that, is that you don't fatigue, and this is fortunate, but you don't fatigue the biochemical response system. So we gave, for 12 weeks, we gave daily glucoraphanin and sulforaphane and monitored the upregulation of this protective response and did not really see any fatiguing of the response of that system. So,
Rhonda Patrick: In a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study, treatment with sulforaphane extracted from broccoli sprouts at doses ranging from around 9 milligrams to 25 milligrams, which is an amount found in probably around 65 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts on the high end, was able to improve autistic behavior checklist scores by 34% and significantly improved social interaction, abnormal behavior, and verbal communication in young men with autism spectrum disorder. Another trial found supplementation with 30 mg per day of glucoraphanin, in other words, just the precursor to sulforaphane by itself, for 8 weeks, was effective in improving certain scores of cognitive impairment in a very small group of medicated patients with schizophrenia. It's worth noting that schizophrenia, like autism, does seem to have an oxidative stress component, the degree of which may even be an indicator for the acute severity of symptoms. Let's talk depression. Depression is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in the world. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 350 million individuals of all ages have depression. According to the NIH, 10% of American adults are taking some form of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, a broad category that includes drugs like fluoxetine, also known as Prozac. Mounting evidence suggests that nutrition plays a huge role in depression, more directly by impacting neurotransmitter production, which can be modulated by micronutrients, but also by affecting levels of systemic inflammation, which is now known to play a major role in depression.
Rhonda Patrick: Sulfurafane is not a very stable molecule. It's very unstable and it's difficult to get it, you know, in a supplement form. There's been two supplements that are really, I would say, have been clinically validated and have been used in randomized controlled trials that have been peer-reviewed and published. One is Avmacol. Avmacol is... By the way, I have no affiliation with any of these supplements or supplement companies at all.
(someone): You don't have any... Yeah, I was gonna say, you don't have any affiliation with any supplement company.
Rhonda Patrick: I don't, but I just have to say that because people don't know that.
(someone): No, I get it. Yeah.
Rhonda Patrick: I don't have affiliates marketing. I don't have any of that. And neither do I. Yeah. Good to mention. I've been taking... There's two supplements. One's called Abmacol. I think Abmacol has around 3.5 milligrams of sulforaphane in each tablet. And the recommended dose on their bottle is two tablets. So that would be about 7 milligrams of sulforaphane. The other supplement is called Prostafane. Prostafane is unfortunately not available in the US. I shouldn't say that. It's made in France.
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