In 1992, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine scientist Dr. Paul Talalay, published his breakthrough research describing the potential link between cruciferous vegetable consumption and a reduction in the risk of cancer. His research focused on a compound called sulforaphane, which is found in broccoli. Since that initial publication, numerous papers have appeared in the scientific literature presenting evidence that sulforaphane has wide-reaching benefits for our health and longevity.
What is sulforaphane?
Sulforaphane is a powerful activator of what is known as the 'NRF2 pathway’. The NRF2 pathway is a cascade of events in which the body repairs damage to cells. It accomplishes this by flipping the switch on antioxidant genes. According to biochemist Dr. Rhonda Patrick, “this pathway affects the expression of over 200 genes including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory genes and genes that inactivate harmful components.”
Dr. Patrick released a highly informative YouTube video focusing on sulforaphane this past December. While the video gets a bit deep in the scientific weeds at times, Dr. Patrick does a wonderful job of keeping the details highly relevant for all of us.
Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease & Neurological Disorders
Researchers have demonstrated that subjects who ate cruciferous veggies were less likely to acquire various forms of cancer including prostate, bladder, lung and breast cancer. The studies also showed that those subjects who already had cancer expressed less tumor growth and were less likely to die from that cancer. When its comes to cardiovascular disease, research has demonstrated that cruciferous veggies also have the ability to suppress inflammatory activation of arteries. The researchers believe sulforaphane is the underlying reason for all of these outcomes.
Studies that have been conducted in the area of sulforaphane and neurological disorders have shown interesting results, as well. For example, clinically meaningful improvements were noted in patients with autism who supplemented with the compound. In addition, other studies in the area of schizophrenia, depression and various neurodegenerative diseases have expressed positive findings. Much of this research is early stage and there is more science to explore, but scientists believe that inflammation may play a role. If that is the case, the anti-inflammatory properties of sulforaphane would seem to be beneficial.
Longevity and Optimization
The focus for many of us is the concept of longevity and optimization of our life and work. Considering that sulforaphane has been shown to decrease inflammation, and inflammation is believed to be at the root of most diseases, incorporating sulforaphane to manage or eliminate inflammation would appear to be of significant benefit.
Keeping physiological inflammation low is not only critical for our longevity, it is also tied to improved cognition at later stages of life. The bottom line is that chronic inflammation accelerates aging and sulforaphane is believed to decrease inflammation by enhancing our body’s ability to defend and repair itself.
How To Incorporate Sulforaphane In Your Diet
In her video Dr. Patrick offers a hierarchy of cruciferous veggies that will help us begin to add this compound to our daily food intake. The top choice is 100-140 grams of home-grown broccoli sprouts, but other sources should be considered as well. Those include: brussel sprouts, garden cress, mustard greens, turnip, cabbage, kale and watercress.
For more information on sulforaphane and Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s work, please view the video referenced in this article here.