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SULFORAPHANE SUPPLEMENTS: What are the benefits of sulforaphane?


Interested to know if sulforaphane supplements have health benefits?

Maybe you have read about the benefits of sulforaphane on gut and brain health, cancer, or autism.

In this blog, we will review sulforaphane, its potential health benefits, and how to obtain it from diet and supplements.

Keep reading to find out more!

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This information is for educational purposes only. As with any medical advice, always check with your doctor or healthcare professional for personal and age-appropriate recommendations.

What is Sulforaphane?

Sulforaphane (SFN) is a powerful sulfur containing compound found in cruciferous vegetables. It is a member of the isothiocyanates family. 

In the body, SFN activates NRF2 which regulates the expression of over 500 genes (think aging and detox).  It plays an important role in detoxification and reducing inflammation (1). 

What are Some Potential Sulforaphane Health Benefits?

There are many current studies on SFN and it benefits with autism, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis (2). 

Decrease Inflammation

SFN has been studied as a treatment for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers, Parkinsons, and Multiple Sclerosis because of its “antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-apoptotic properties”(3) .  

Scientists have also found benefits with fatigue, inflammation, and oxidative stress during exercise (4).

Helps to Improve Immune Health

SFN has shown to increase the body’s immune response to pathogens (5).  SFN boosts the production of enzymes in immune cells that result in an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. 

Optimize the Gut

A 2022 review looked at SFN and the reduction of intestinal inflammation in inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease as well as future health benefits of SFN (6). SFN  shows a promising benefit for intestinal health by preventing the intestinal wall from LPS (lipopolysaccharides) induced changes and injury (7).

SFN has also been shown to be protective against H Pylori and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDS) injury (8).

Improve Cardiovascular Risk

SFN has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which help reduce risk of cardiovascular disease (8).

May Help Reduce Cancer Risk 

Complementary natural treatments to cancer are popular due to their minimal side effects. Studies have shown SFN to be an adjuvant cancer therapy at different levels of cancer from development to progression (9, 10, 11, 12).

Clinicals cancer trials with SFN include prostate, breast, skin, and pancreas (13).

Improve Brain Health

Chronic brain disorders affect millions of people each year. Cognition is also important with the aging population. Recent studies have concluded SFN improves processing speed and working memory in older adults (14).  

SFN reduces oxidative stress which is the cause of many brain diseases. Studies are looking at the neuroprotective effects of SFN on Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), autism spectrum disorder, and schizophrenia (15, 16, 17).

Slow Aging

Can sulforaphane increase longevity?  SFN may slow the aging process with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (18). 

Potential Benefits of Sulforaphane
Potential Benefits of Sulforaphane

Which Foods are High in Sulforaphane?

The precursor to sulforaphane, glucoraphanin (a glucosinolate), is found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli sprouts, brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, and cabbage.

Broccoli sprouts contain about 73 mg glucoraphanin per 1/2 cup serving.

Here are some other amounts:

Food (raw) Serving Total Glucosinolates (mg)
Brussels Sprouts ½ cup 104
Mustard Greens ½ cup chopped 79
Cabbage, savoy ½ cup chopped 35
Kale 1 cup chopped 67
Red Cabbage ½ cup chopped 29
Broccoli ½ cup chopped 27
Horseradish 1 Tablespoon 24
Cauliflower ½ cup chopped 22
Bok Choy ½ cup chopped 19

Source: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/isothiocyanates

Myrosinase is an enzyme needed to break down glucoraphanin to sulforaphane.

When vegetables high in glucoraphanin are cut (or chewed), myrosinase is released. This activates sulforaphane and makes it available. 

Cooking deactivates myrosinase so a quick tip is to cut vegetables about 40 minutes before cooking to allow sulforaphane to fully activate. This is called the “hack and hold” method by Dr. Michael Greger (19).  You can also add mustard seed, horseradish or sauerkraut to supply the myrosinase (20).

What about Sulforaphane Supplements?

When looking for a sulforaphane supplement, you want to make sure it has both glucoraphanin and myrosinase (21). Sulforaphane supplements are often made from broccoli sprouts extracts.

A study completed in 2015 showed a 3-4 fold increase in bioavailability of SFH when myrosinase was in the preparation with glucoraphanin. They concluded “the presence of active myrosinase led to substantial and significant enhancement of sulforaphane bioavailability” (22).

There are many professional supplements available on the market.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, sulforaphane is a sulfur containing compound found in cruciferous vegetables especially high in broccoli sprouts. 

SFN activates NRF2 which regulates over 500 genes.

Some of the potential health benefits include:

  • Decrease inflammation
  • Improve immune health
  • Optimize the gut
  • Improve cardiovascular risk
  • Reduce cancer risk
  • Improve brain health
  • Slow aging

Broccoli sprouts contain high amounts of glucoraphanin.

With supplementation, make sure the supplement includes myrosinase with glucoraphanin to increase bioavailability of sulforaphane.

Remember, what you eat is important for health and disease prevention. 

What you absorb (breaking down the food) and assimilate (gets into the cells) is critical. 

Test don’t guess.

Contact me to schedule an appointment to review your personalized nutritional  health.

© Amy Archer RDN, CLT, CHWC



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