Rhonda Patrick Talks Broccoli Sprouts with Dr. Fahey from Johns Hopkins University

As a nice companion to Rhonda Patrick’s first video on broccoli sprouts and sulforaphane she interviews Jed W. Fahey who is the Director of the Cullman Chemoprotection Center at Johns Hopkins Medical School, where he’s actively involved in ongoing research on broccoli sprouts, sulforaphane, and other plant based chemicals.

You can tell by the way he talks that he has a deep understanding of everything broccoli sprout related, especially since he was literally involved in much of the research.  A quick search on PubMed shows that he has 79 publications with the earliest paper from 1980 to the most recent one published this past June 2017.

This guy is the real deal.

The interview itself ran for two and a half hours and is just full of these two totally geeking out on this everything broccoli sprout related.  Here’s the actual video if you feel inclined to watch it yourself.

I just have to warn you that Dr. Fahey has the type of voice and subdued energy that can lull you to sleep.  If you’re hoping for a dynamic, enthusiastic, energetic speaker like Tony Robbins or even Jocko Willinck, you’ll be sorely disappointed.  I had to break the interview up into 20 minute increments because I just couldn’t take it.

He definitely reminded me of many of the brilliant yet un-engaging professors I came across in college and med-school that would knock me out 5 minutes after they started talking, and before I knew it my eyes were opening because people were getting up to leave at the end of class.

If you don’t want to spend all 150 minutes watching this thing, you can feel free to scan through the notes I took below.


  • Myrosinase converts glucoraphanin which is stored in vacuoles of the broccoli sprout cells to sulforaphane.
  • This is a defense mechanism.  If an insect chews on the leaf of a broccoli plant, cells are broken which release glucoraphanin and myrosinase to form sulforaphane, which will be toxic to the insect and repel it.
  • Sulforaphane is a foreign compound for us and it in turn stimulates our protective mechanisms.
  • NRF2 is a gene regulator that is integral in protection against chronic diseases.
  • NRF2 controls 3-5% of our cellular proteins.
  • NRF2 recognizes molecules like sulforaphane as they enter cells. Sulforaphane binds to Keap1 which is a chaperone protein, which then migrates to the nucleus and stimulates transcription of genes encoding for protective enzymes.

Broccoli Seeds

Image found here

  • Broccoli seeds have highest amount of glucoraphanin, even higher than the sprouts.
  • Can blend broccoli seeds to release sulforaphane too!
  • Can this be a more efficient way?
  • Dr. Fahey says it’s very bitter.  If you bake them gently, they have a pleasant nutty taste, but you kill the myrosinase.
  • Seeds have much more glucoraphanin and they have plenty of active myrosinase.
  • Dr. Fahey has never blended seeds, but suspects a broccoli seed smoothie will be very bitter.

[I actually tried this hearing this and Dr. Fahey’s right… it tastes horrible.  I almost threw up.  Apparently this became a hot topic and was addressed in the FAQ on Dr. Fahey’s Chemoprotection Center:

Q:   Can I eat whole broccoli seeds?

A:   We are less prepared to answer this question because there may be complicating factors and because little research has been done to address this question.  Certainly eating various types of seeds is practice that has been common to humanity since early in evolution when we were hunter-gatherers.  Broccoli seeds are bitter if eaten raw, and they taste nutty and pleasant if lightly baked first.  Since broccoli seeds – or sprouts for that matter – were never consumed prior to our discovery published in 1997, we do not know how much is too much.  Broccoli seeds are loaded with GR (and with myrosinase, but that gets inactivated when you bake or cook the seeds).  They also have other oils and indoles and compounds that could be anti-nutritional and undesirable if eaten in large quantities.

Dr. Tanase asked Rhonda about this topic and this is how she responded:

Sprouting reduces the amount of anti-nutrient known as erucic acid.  This is mentioned in the FAQ at the Cullman Chemoprotection Center.  For that reason, I still sprout.  Consumption of the sprouts has been studied a lot more..

So there you have it.] 

Broccoli Sprout Alternatives

I got excited whenever Dr Fahey discussed these subjects because it meant that there was a convenient way to purchase and consume sulforaphane without having to go through the trouble of sprouting.

Ideally you want BOTH the glucosinolate AND the myrosinase enzyme in order to convert the glucosinolate into the isothyocyanate.

Dr. Fahey says that there are quite a few unscrupulous companies with products that don’t contain any active ingredients in them, so he advises consumers to be wary of who and where they buy from.

Thorne Crucera SGS – Supplement from a reputable company, but it only has glucoraphanin.

  • [I checked immediately and was happy that this is sold on Amazon.  Here’s the link.]

Moringa oleifera – A tropical relative of broccoli which has the glucosinolate, myrosinase, and isothyocyanate.

  • Moringa has an isothiocyanate that may be more powerful than sulforaphane!
  • The glucosinolate is called glucomoringin.  Myrosinase converts it to the isothiocyanate, moringin.
  • Kuli Kuli is a company Dr. Fahey is fond of for moringa. [Yes, this is on Amazon too!  Here’s the link.]
  • Moringa is harsh tasting, like horse radish.
  • Dry powdered leaves are easy to store and maintain a high protein content.
  • It was historically a famine food so many people think it’s low class, so people in the native regions don’t like to eat it.

Moringa oleifera tree. Image found here.

Ketonix - Breath Ketone Analyzer

Prostaphane – A French supplement company with a product that has the marketed amount of sulforaphane.

  • Helped in prostate cancer.
  • Needs to be refrigerated to prolong the life of sulforaphane.
  • Bioavailability identical to extracted sulforaphane in Dr. Fahey’s lab.
  • Unfortunately it’s currently not being sold in the US.

Avmacol – Another product that Dr. Fahey says is reputable, contains glucoraphanin and myrosinase.  [Quick check of Amazon shows that they stock it!!  Here’s the link.]

  • There have already been 4 trials using Avmacol.
  • It’s been used in autism trials.
  • It’s been through all sorts of QA.
  • We know that it works
  • Nutramax is the company that makes Avmacol to co-deliver myrosinase with glucoraphanin.
  • [This is the product I’m most excited about and will likely order.]

Other sources of myrosinase

  • Daikon (Japanese radish) in several studies has a particularly stable form of myrosinase, found in mustard powder.  Rhonda asks, “Can you sprinkle this on broccoli to increase the bioavailability?”  Dr. Fahey responds, “I think so.”
  • Daikon doesn’t have redirection to alternative products of glulocosinolate
  • Grated daikon or ground up daikon seeds on cooked broccoli to maximize sulforaphane benefit to facilitate conversion to sulforaphane.
  • Mustard seeds also has glucosinolate and isothiocyonates, sinigrin and allyl isothiocyanate, and also has myrosinase.  Depends on how long it’s been stored.


This is what daikon looks like. Image found here.

Other clinical applications of sulforaphane

  • Scientists observed that some autistic kids’ symptoms got better when they had fevers.
  • Sulforaphane improved autism symptoms.
  • Heat shock protein can be protective against ALS, Alzheimers, and Parkinson’s, and sulforaphane can activate heat shock protein which may be one mechanism of how it’s protective.
  • Exploring applications in schizophrenia and depression.
  • Interesting potential application to show that it could affect bladder cancer since sulforphane is excreted into bladder, where it stays around until you pee it out.
  • Direct application of sulforaphane of skin can protect against UV damage.

Freezing broccoli sprouts

  • If you take them out of freezer and put in blender immediately, myrosinase will be active in the liquid.
  • However if you let them thaw out, juice will run out, probably most of the myrosinase activity has already occurred and the sulforaphane will have already bound to other stuff.
  • When you thaw the plant tissue, you break down all of the plant cell, so the structure of the outside of the plant cell is still there but the cells are trashed because ice crystals are formed, so the enzyme comes into contact with the substrate to form sulforaphane.
  • This is why freezing increases the concentration of sulforaphane.
  • Important thing is to just throw it into the blender right away.
  • Can freeze dry broccoli sprouts as long as you quick freeze them and maintain them in the frozen state.

How often should we take it?

  • Enzymes and pathways activated by sulforaphane stay upregulated with half lives of days and weeks, so probably only need to take it every couple of days.

I definitely encourage you to watch the entire episode if you have time, although maybe the best way to do it is to break it down in chunks like I did.  And of course, please support Rhonda if you’ve found her material helpful.  She’s been doing such a wonderful job of putting out great content and the more support she receives, the more info she can share with us.

If you feel so inclined, you too can support her with a one time contribution or regular monthly subscription HERE.


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