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Discover the health benefits of sulforaphane

May 13, 2020
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What is sulforaphane and how is it formed?

Broccoli is a vegetable that you either love or hate, but due to its high nutritional value it has entered our diet habits with increasing popularity. Its impressive nutritional profile includes sulforaphane, a bioactive compound that belongs to the isothiocyanate class of phytochemicals and is found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

Sulforaphane [1-Isothiocyanato-4-(methanesulfinyl)butane] is present in these plants, as its precursor, glucoraphanin, which belongs to the glucosinolate family of natural compounds.

Sulforaphane is produced when glucoraphanin comes into contact with myrosinase, an enzyme involved in plant defence against herbivores. Glucoraphanin and myrosinase are kept separate in the plant’s cells and interact only when the cells are damaged in order to activate the production of sulforaphane. Therefore, sulforaphane can be created only when cruciferous vegetables are cut, chopped, or chewed. When cooked, the myrosinase enzyme is deactivated, and this results to lower amount of sulforaphane. Especially Βroccoli contains higher concentrations of glucoraphanin and sulforaphane than the mature plants.

For those with a busy everyday schedule a supplement would be an alternative.

Health benefits of sulforaphane

What does sulforaphane do when it enters our body? Sulforaphane is a small molecule that is easily taken up by human cells. Once there, it stimulates the production of important enzymes that contribute to the protection of cells from oxidative injury [4].

The growing awareness of the mechanisms by which phytochemicals can influence the cellular defence system has led to intensified research into their potential relevance in the prevention and treatment of diseases [3]. Sulforaphane shows a range of biological activities and health benefits in humans and is one of the most frequently studied plant-derived isothiocyanate organosulfur compounds [1].

Research indicates that sulforaphane exhibits anticancer properties by contributing into the reduction both of size and number of different types of cancer cells. Epidemiological studies show also that people who eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables have reduced probability of developing cancer.

Other studies have shown that it can enhance heart health in various ways, as it can have beneficial effect on blood glucose levels.

Sulforaphane may affect the good health of the digestive system and it has shown in vitro activity against Helicobacter pylori [2].

Additionally, it is linked with a plethora of benefits concerning skin damage, liver function, asthma, bacterial and fungal infections, immune function, inflammation, depression and anxiety, brain function, pain management, osteoporosis, eye health, wound healing, bladder dysfunction and even autism.



  1. Glade, Michael & Meguid, Michael. (2015). A Glance At…Broccoli, Glucoraphanin, and Sulforaphane. Nutrition. 31. DOI: 10.1016/j.nut.2015.03.003.
  2. Haristoy, X., Angioi-Duprez, K., Duprez, A., & Lozniewski, A. (2003). Efficacy of sulforaphane in eradicating Helicobacter pylori in human gastric xenografts implanted in nude mice. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 47(12), 3982–3984. DOI: 10.1128/aac.47.12.3982-3984.2003.
  3. Houghton, Christine. (2019). Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 1-27. DOI: 10.1155/2019/2716870.
  4. Kurutas E. B. (2016). The importance of antioxidants which play the role in cellular response against oxidative/nitrosative stress: current state. Nutrition Journal. 15(1), 71. DOI: 10.1186/s12937-016-0186-5.