The Broccoli Sprout Story

Since 1992 discovery of Sulforaphane Glucosinate in Broccoli, there has been a ten fold increase in research publications on Sulforphane worldwide.

What’s all the fuss about? Here are just a few of the research findings:

One of the critical criteria that determines the capacity of a carcinogen is its ability to bind to DNA (a process called adduct formation). A paper published in Cancer Letters by the University of Illinois showed that Sulforaphane significantly reduces the formation of carcinogen-DNA adducts.

John Hopkins University research has shown that sulforaphane can protect against cancer and the mechanism for this protection is stimulation of the body’s own antioxidant system (made up of Phase 2 Enzymes) that eliminates carcinogens prior to causing DNA damage.

Researchers have found that three day old broccoli sprouts contain 10-100 times the levels of Sulforaphane than mature broccoli plants).

1 oz of these sprouts contains the equivalent amount of Sulforaphane as 1 and 1/2 lbs of broccoli.

Basically the Sulforaphane becomes diluted as the Broccoli plant gets bigger.

A French research team describes, in Cancer Research (Mar 2000), the ability of sulforaphane to cause cancer cells to self destruct (i.e apoptosis).

This discovery of Sulforaphane’s ability to remove carcinogens and kill cells with potential cancer causing mutation is a major breakthrough in our understanding of this chemoprotectant.

Scientists from John Hopkins University and the Qidong Liver Institute evaluated the efficacy of broccoli sprouts in increasing the bodies ability to detoxify carcinogens in an area of China with a very high incidence of liver cancer due to hepatitis and environmental toxins.

In a single blinded placebo controlled trial, the subjects drank a hot water extract of 3 day old broccoli sprouts or a placebo for two weeks.

The broccoli sprout test group showed a significant reduction in aflatoxin-DNA adduct levels with increasing levels of broccoli sprout consumption.

In another Japanese study broccoli sprouts were fed to patients infected with heliocobacter pylori bacteria. These bacteria can cause stomach ulcers and markedly increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.

After eating 100 gms of broccoli sprouts daily for 2 months’ measures of H.pylori infection were greatly reduced. Control subjects fed a vegetable with no sulforaphane showed no change.

Dr Yanaka of Tsukuba University said “these data strongly suggest that a diet rich in sulforaphane glucosinate may help protect against gastric cancer, presumably by activating gastric mucosal antioxidant enzymes that can protect the cells from H.pylori-induced DNA damage.”

Researchers at the American Health Foundation showed that sulforaphane significantly inhibited the formation of colon cancer in rats and provided the first evidence that sulforaphane plays an important role in preventing colon cancer.

This year, in a proof of principle pilot study, healthy women about to undergo reduction mammoplasty ingested Sulphoraphane extract from Broccoli sprouts 50 minutes before surgery.

Epithelial cells removed from breast tissue revealed the presence of Phase 2 enzymatic activity (the body’s own antioxidant system)

This demonstrated an uptake of sulforaphane in breast tissue after oral administration.

In my opinion this is a very significant outcome, particularly when the active compound shown to have an effect on in vitro worrk, actually has a similar effect in the body after consumption. In many cases the digestive tract denatures the compound ingested to basically change its properties.

A Japanese study showed that the daily consumption of 100gms of three day old broccoli sprouts for two months showed a significant change in DNA damage (and hence cancer) after only one month.


My summary of the above information was sourced from publications to be found in the NIH PubMed library online where there are many articles on Sulforaphane research if you are interested and are my take on them.