Nutrition — Sulforaphane


  • Introduction.
  • Formation of Sulforaphane.
  • Three Active Pathways:
    • Pathway 1: Nrf2.
    • Pathway 2: NF-kappaB.
    • Pathway 3: heat shock response / proteins.
  • Other Relevant Functions.
  • Usage Considerations.
  • Sources.


  • Chemical compound produced by plants.
  • Not stable, highly reactive large molecule.
    • Not around for a long time after it is formed.
  • Formed when cruciferous vegetables are crushed, chopped or chewed.
    • Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels’ sprouts, and kale.
  • Broccoli yields the highest amount.
    • Broccoli sprouts have levels 50 to 100-times higher than mature broccoli florets.
  • Triggers number of gene pathways that lower inflammation and oxidative stress.
    • Hormetic response to stress when (unwanted) sulforaphane enters cell.

Formation of Sulforaphane

  • Plants contain the precursor compound: glucoraphanin (GRN)
  • As well as an enzyme called myrosinase (MYR).
  • When the plant cell ruptures, GRN and MYR come into contact and form sulforaphane.

Pathway 1: Nrf2.

  • Nrf2 is key modulator of the cell’s primary defense mechanism.
    • Up-regulates protective, anti-oxidant and detoxifying genes.
  • Nrf2 counters many harmful environmental toxins and carcinogens.
    • Shown to be effective in reduction of benzene (environmental pollution).
  • Sulforaphane is the most potent activator of Nrf2 in the natural world.
  • Nrf2 activation is more efficient than trying to boost anti-oxidant response through supplements.
    • Diseases brought on by oxidative stress more responsive to amplification of cellular defenses.
    • Plus: all the issues with anti-oxidants…

Pathway 2: NF-kappaB

  • One of the main inflammatory pathways in the body.
  • Inhibited by sulforaphane.
  • Related to cancer suppression / prevention.

Pathway 3: heat shock response / proteins

  • Neuro-degenerative diseases are partially diseases of protein aggregation.
  • Heat shock proteins play a role in repairing and preventing protein damage or mis-folding (see also Sauna write-up).
  • Sulforaphane activates heat shock response pathway.
  • Studies show symptom reduction via use of sulforaphane for autism, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s.

 Other Relevant Functions

  • Anti-biosis.
    • Control of certain bacteria in the gut to avoid chronic inflammation.
    • Demonstrated impact on controlling Heliobacter pylori population.
  • Anti-ageing
    • Reverse (accelerated) ageing.
    • Demonstrated impact on reversing Progeria disease phenotype.

Usage Considerations

  • Raw broccoli:
    • Breaks down partly into the non-active form of sulforaphane.
  • Cooked broccoli:
    • MYR is heat-sensitive.
    • Cooking may result in losing the MYR needed to form active form of sulforaphane.
    • Humans have MYR-producing bacteria in their gut, but the amount is volatile.
  • Supplements:
    • May be GRN-only and not include MYR (needed to form sulforaphane).
    • Supplements to consider: Crucera (Thorne; GRN only) and Avmacol (Nutramax; GRN and MYR).
  • Open air storage also reduces the amount of precursor compound GRN in broccoli.
  • May make sense to add MYR when consuming broccoli:
    • Mustard seed, daikon.


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