Broccoli-derived sulforaphane is one of the most promising phytochemicals for promoting good health and long life.
Broccoli has garnered increasing attention as a way to promote longevity. As a greens supplement, it may benefit your health through:
- Activating NRF-2. This genetic pathway may promote longevity and protect from chronic conditions by fighting oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Supplying nutrients. Broccoli is a good source of vitamin C, selenium, and many other vitamins and minerals.
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) is a cruciferous vegetable – a group that includes common dietary plants such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. Broccoli is considered a nutritious, health-promoting food, a reputation supported by a growing volume of medical research that has linked cruciferous vegetable consumption to reduced mortality and lower risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic health disorders.
Researchers attribute most of the health benefits of broccoli to a group of phytochemical compounds known as isothiocyanates, which are created from glucosinolates when broccoli is eaten.
Sulforaphane – the most important of these isothiocyanates – has undergone intense medical research and seems to offer much promise as an anti-aging, longevity-promoting phytochemical. Its levels are particularly high in broccoli sprouts – young stems and leaves that emerge from broccoli seeds.
How Broccoli Might Improve Your Health
Activation of NRF-2
The NRF-2 signalling pathway regulates the activity of genes that help counter aging, oxidative stress, and inflammation, effects which have led some researchers to dub it the “longevity-promoting” pathway. Sulforaphane has been consistently shown to activate this pathway, with one study reporting that it increased NRF-2 activation from a baseline of 129 minutes to only 80 minutes. 1
Broccoli contains a wide range of compounds – including selenium, sulforaphane, and polyphenols – that either act as antioxidants themselves or enhance the body’s inherent antioxidant system. Since oxidative stress is involved in a wide range of conditions including diabetes, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s, and even the process of aging itself, consumption of antioxidants can help promote longevity and fight specific health disorders. 3
Suppression of NF-κB
NF-κB is one of the major inflammatory pathways, meaning that its activation results in increase of inflammation. Isolated isothiocyanates (such as sulforaphane) and whole broccoli extract have been shown to suppress this pathway. 4 Much like oxidative stress, excessive inflammation can contribute to chronic health disorders such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes, and suppressing inflammation appears to be the most important factor for prolonging your lifespan to 100 and beyond. 5
Broccoli Uses & Benefits
Like other greens supplements, broccoli products are mostly taken to support overall good health. But unlike most green foods, broccoli actually shows substantial promise as a promoter of a long, healthy life in early animal and human research.
Indeed, research studies have has shown that sulforaphane – the main active ingredient in broccoli – activates a specific longevity-promoting pathway in the body, and can help fight oxidative stress, inflammation, and other factors implicated in aging, helping protect the body from cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, inflammatory, and other chronic health disorders.
Broccoli and isolated sulforaphane have been extensively examined in cell culture and animal studies. Some of the most significant findings indicate that:
- Beetles supplemented with broccoli extract had a 15% longer lifespan, an effect mediated by the same Nrf-2 and FOXO genetic pathways present in humans6
- Sulforaphane appears to have neuroprotective effects that can help with Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and other neurodegenerative disorders 7
- Sulforaphane may be a “novel agent to treat depression and anxiety disorders” as shown by efficacy in mice 8
- Sulforaphane promotes hair growth and protects against hair loss by acting on dehydrotestosterone (DHT) 9
- Sulforaphane may help “restore or delay the decline of cellular immunity with ageing” by supporting dendritic cell function 10
Clinical trials suggest that broccoli intake can promote longevity, reduce inflammation, and help with diabetes.
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the effects of broccoli sprout powder (BSP) were tested in 81 type 2 diabetics. They were given 1 of 3 treatments for 4 weeks: BSP) 5 g daily, BSP 10 g daily, or placebo. The 10 g BSP group experienced improvement of several blood lipid markers, including reduced blood triglycerides, OX-LDL/LDL ratio, and atherogenic index, as well as higher levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
- The researchers concluded that “BSP as supplementary treatment in type 2 diabetes could have favorable effects on lipid profiles and OX-LDL/LDL ratio, as risk factors for cardiovascular disease.” 11
This follow-up randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study tested the effects of broccoli sprouts in type 2 diabetes. A total of 81 type 2 diabetics were given 1 of 3 treatments for 4 weeks: broccoli sprouts powder (BSP) 5 g daily, BSP 10 g daily, or placebo. The BSP groups experienced a decrease in several markers of inflammation, including C reactive protein, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis α (TNF-α).
- The researchers concluded that “High-sulforaphane BSP had favorable effects on inflammatory markers in type 2 diabetic patients.” 12
This study explored the link between cruciferous vegetable consumption and health. A total of 134,796 Chinese adults were assessed for their vegetable intake and followed up over a period of 5 – 10 years. Most notably, the researchers discovered that the top 20% of consumers of cruciferous vegetables had a 22% reduction in all-cause mortality, which simply means that they were 22% less likely to die from any cause.
- The researchers concluded that “Our findings support recommendations to increase consumption of vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables, and fruit to promote cardiovascular health and overall longevity.”13
This study examined whether cruciferous vegetables have an anti-inflammatory effect. The researchers looked at the link between cruciferous vegetable intake and inflammatory and oxidative stress markers in 1,005 women. Their analysis found that women with higher intake of these vegetables had lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α, IL-1β, and IL-6.
- The researchers concluded that “the previously observed health benefits of cruciferous vegetable consumption may be partly associated with the anti-inflammatory effects of these vegetables.” 14
Broccoli Greens Dosage
- According to researcher Dr. Rhonda Patrick, 100 mg of broccoli sprouts (equivalent to about 40 mg sulforaphane) is the ideal dose
- Most broccoli supplements are sold as broccoli sprout extract capsules containing anywhere from 2 – 30 mg sulforaphane
- Most broccoli supplements come in the form of broccoli sprout extract that can be standardized to contain a certain amount of sulforaphane – typically 0.3 %
- Broccoli can also be sold as powder, and mixed with other green foods in multi-ingredient formulas.
Supplements in Review Says
- Broccoli sprout extract containing 40 mg sulforaphane daily.
We highly recommend trying out broccoli extract to support overall health. Broccoli-derived sulforaphane has shown great promise as a way to counter a wide range of chronic health disorders and even slow the process of aging itself. We agree with Dr. Rhonda Patrick that broccoli is worth adding to your daily regimen.
Take broccoli sprouts containing 40 mg sulforaphane. Dr. Rhonda Patrick recommends taking daily doses of broccoli sprouts (as food or in supplement form) that contain 40 mg of sulforaphane.
- Xue M et al. Frequency Modulated Translocational Oscillations of Nrf2 Mediate the Antioxidant Response Element Cytoprotective Transcriptional Response. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2015 Sep 1;23(7):613-29. ↩
- Latté KP et al. Health benefits and possible risks of broccoli – an overview. Food Chem Toxicol. 2011 Dec;49(12):3287-309. ↩
- Mahn A and Reyes A. An overview of health-promoting compounds of broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) and the effect of processing. Food Sci Technol Int. 2012 Dec;18(6):503-14. ↩
- Heiss E et al. Nuclear Factor κB Is a Molecular Target for Sulforaphane-mediated Anti-inflammatory Mechanisms. August 24, 2001 The Journal of Biological Chemistry276, 32008-32015. ↩
- Arai Y et al. Inflammation, But Not Telomere Length, Predicts Successful Ageing at Extreme Old Age: A Longitudinal Study of Semi-supercentenarians. EBioMedicine. 2015 Oct; 2(10): 1549–1558. ↩
- Grünwald S et al. Longevity in the red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum is enhanced by broccoli and depends on nrf-2, jnk-1 and foxo-1 homologous genes. Genes Nutr. 2013 Sep;8(5):439-48. ↩
- Liu Y et al. Sulforaphane enhances proteasomal and autophagic activities in mice and is a potential therapeutic reagent for Huntington’s disease. J Neurochem. 2014 May;129(3):539-47. ↩
- Wu S et al. Sulforaphane produces antidepressant- and anxiolytic-like effects in adult mice. Behav Brain Res. 2016 Mar 15;301:55-62. ↩
- Sasaki M et al. Sulforaphane promotes murine hair growth by accelerating the degradation of dihydrotestosterone. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2016 Mar 25;472(1):250-4. ↩
- Kim HJ et al. Nrf2 activation by sulforaphane restores the age-related decrease of T(H)1 immunity: role of dendritic cells. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008 May;121(5):1255-1261. ↩
- Bahadoran Z et al. Broccoli sprouts powder could improve serum triglyceride and oxidized LDL/LDL-cholesterol ratio in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2012 Jun;96(3):348-54. ↩
- Mirmiran P et al. Effects of broccoli sprout with high sulforaphane concentration on inflammatory markers in type 2 diabetic patients: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Functional Foods Volume 4, Issue 4, October 2012, Pages 837-841. ↩
- Zhang X et al. Cruciferous vegetable consumption is associated with a reduced risk of total and cardiovascular disease mortality. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Jul; 94(1): 240–246. ↩
- Jiang Y et al. Cruciferous vegetable intake is inversely correlated with circulating levels of proinflammatory markers in women. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014 May;114(5):700-8. ↩
- Conaway CC et al. Disposition of glucosinolates and sulforaphane in humans after ingestion of steamed and fresh broccoli. Nutr Cancer. 2000;38(2):168-78. ↩
- Bongoni R et al. Evaluation of different cooking conditions on broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) to improve the nutritional value and consumer acceptance. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2014 Sep;69(3):228-34. ↩
- Yuan GF et al. Effects of different cooking methods on health-promoting compounds of broccoli. J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. 2009 Aug;10(8):580-8. ↩