I’m a regular subscriber to Rhonda Patrick’s Found My Fitness Podcast and was particularly impressed with her podcast on broccoli sprouts and sulforaphane. Since I mainly listen to podcasts when I commute and her material is extremely dense, I wasn’t able to retain much from her 50 minute lecture. I only walked away with the vague notion that broccoli sprouts are good for you… and a lot of the science-y stuff just went in one ear and out the other.
Since Rhonda also puts out youtube videos of her podcasts with graphics and texts, I made myself sit through the entire lecture, taking notes along the way so I have a better understanding of what all the fuss is with these sprouts.
And since I wanted to start growing them at home, I felt like I needed to know enough to at least explain to the BJJ Cavewife why the kitchen counters would soon be cluttered with sprouting paraphernalia and why many of our meals will also have a side of sulfur-y smelling sprouts.
Here’s the episode I’m referring to If you want to watch it for yourself, which I highly encourage:
Here are the notes I took:
- Sulforaphane – powerful natural activator of NRF2 pathway which affects expression of over 200 genes including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory genes and genes that inactivate harmful compounds.
- Cruciferous vegetable consumption associated with decreased cancer risk.
- In some folks with bladder cancer, they reduced mortality by 50%.
- Myrosinase is an enzyme that is activated when the cruciferous vegetables are crushed, chopped or chewed, but inactivated from sustained boiling or high heat.
- Myrosinase converts compounds called glucosinolates into isothiocynates.
- Sulforaphane is an isothiocyanate
- Glucoraphanin is the glucosinolate precursor to sulforaphane.
- Broccoli sprouts contain up to 100x as much glucoraphanin than mature broccoli.
- Each mason jar of sprouts contains 90-120 mg of sulforaphane.
- Sulforaphane can reduce cancer risk and kill cancer cells, one mechanism is deactivation of phase 1 biotransformation enzymes, which are responsible for converting procarcinogens into active carcinogens, which is one way sulforaphane can prevent DNA damage which leads to cancer.
- It also activates phase 2 detoxifaction enzymes, which helps remove carcinogens, mediated by NRF2 pathway.
- Sulforaphane is most potent naturally inducer of NRF2.
- NRF2 controls antioxidant response elements in genes to activate genes.
- Phase 2 detoxification enzymes (like glutathione s transferase aka GST) are important because they can deactivate procarcinogenic agents and transform them into less reactive water soluble compounds, increasing their excretion. Also lowers DNA damage by lowering inflammation and reactive oxygen species burden.
- Studies show increase in GST with increased consumption of cruciferous vegetables.
- Lower risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and stroke.
- 100 gm broccoli sprouts lower trigs and oxidized ldl. 20% drop in fasting blood sugar.
- NRF2 also deactivates inflammatory genes.
- Broccoli extract increased life span of the red beetle up to 30%. These beetles also have similar NRF2 and FOXO pathways in humans.
- Certain FOXO3 genotypes in humans are associated with a 2.7 fold increased likelihood of being a centenarian.
- Chronic inflammation can lead to accelerated aging, showing in mice with activation of the NFKappaB which is a regulator of the pro-inflammatory response.
- Sulforaphane has been shown to inactivate NFKappaB through the activation of NRF2.
- Many studies seem to use 100 gm of broccoli sprouts.
- NRF2 is activated every 129 minutes in normal conditions.
- When stimulated by sulforaphane, it’s activated every 80 minutes. 61% increase!
- NRF2 protects against cancer by
- Deactivating carcinogens and increasing their excretion
- Deactivating genes involved with inflammation
- Activating anti-oxidant genes
- Probably affects aging because inflammation leads to oxidative stress and DNA damage which leads to aging, and NRF2 reduces inflammation.
- Mouse study showing sulforaphane can help bald mice regrow hair!
- Sulforaphane crosses blood brain barrier in mice.
- Improved autism symptoms, schizophrenia, both disease have an oxidative stress component.
- Cruciferous vegetables can lower inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6, CRP, and TNF-alpha by up to 20%.
- Helped depression in mice after inducing depression with LPS. Inflammatory component in depression.
- Helped depression and anxiety in mice.
- Brain inflammation and reactive oxygen species play a role in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntingtons’.
- Injection of sulforaphane can improve mice with induced Alzheimers, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.
- Sulforaphane activates heat shock proteins which may be protective against neurodegenerative diseases.
- Can also protect against traumatic brain injury which is also related to oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Improves neuron repair and growing new neurons via NRF2.
- Duchenne muscular dystrophy – mouse model showed sulforaphane improved symptoms.
- Goes over epidemiological studies, animal studies, and some human studies.
- 1 gm fresh sprout -> 0.425 mg of sulforaphane
- 140 gm broccoli sprouts -> 60 mg sulforaphane
- 100 gm broccoli sprouts -> 40 mg sulforaphane
- Only 20% glucorahanin is bioavailable and converted to sulforaphane.
- Myrosinase, the enzyme that converts to sulforaphane is heat sensitive. Prolonged heating and boiling will inactivate myrosinase.
- We do have some gut bacteria that produce some myrosinase however.
- Mustard seed can be a supplemental source of myrosinase.
- 3-4 minute of light steaming of vegetables is best because it deactivates epithiospecifier protein which actually prevents formation of sulforaphane. This time limit will still preserve myrosinase.
- Some studies show isothiocyanates can compete with iodine uptake into thyroid gland, only seems to be a problem in severe iodine deficiency.
- Study showed that 70 gm of broccoli sprouts given to volunteers didn’t have any effect on thyroid.
So how many broccoli sprouts should we eat? To replicate the benefits found in many of the studies, Rhonda estimates that we need to eat anywhere from 100 – 140 gm. Here’s her slide showing this:
Dense right? Imagine trying to retain all of this stuff while sitting in traffic. I’ve never been an auditory learner, in fact when we’re eating out and the waiter starts to go into their spiel on the specials of the day my brain inexplicably turns off and I have no clue what they just said. I need to see it on a menu. My brain is all visual.
So now I know enough to tell the BJJ Cavewife that we need to start eating broccoli sprouts because they contain a potent chemical called sulforphane which can decrease inflammation, increase excretion of toxins, reduce cancer risk, potentially kill cancer cells, and possibly protect us from neurodegenerative disorders.
And before she dismisses this as one of the weird fringe-y things I’m always experimenting with, I can also state that these claims are all backed by scientific research published in peer reviewed journals like these ones pointed out by Rhonda Patrick:
Since Rhonda’s been putting out so much top notch content for FREE that I’ve benefited from, I was eager to donate to her site to support her work.
If you feel so inclined, you too can support her with a one time contribution or regular monthly subscription HERE.
After a couple months of trying to grow broccoli sprouts with a few bumps along the way and quite a bit of wasted sprouts, I’ve finally gotten my growing protocol straightened out. Check out here my preferred sprouting method here.