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Broccoli Sprouts

Broccoli Sprouts

For Patients & Caregivers

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Broccoli sprouts contain compounds that have anticancer effects. Further studies are warranted.

Broccoli sprouts are young broccoli plants. Lab studies show they contain compounds that have anticancer activities. Preliminary studies are being conducted to see whether there may also be some benefit in humans. Other studies suggest that broccoli sprouts can help eliminate environmental toxins and protect against some viruses and bacterial infections. However, more research is needed to confirm these effects.

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  • Cancer Prevention
    Studies done in the lab and in animals show that broccoli sprouts contain sulforaphane, which has anticancer properties. In a study conducted in humans, broccoli sprouts were found to play a role in eliminating cancer-causing chemicals. Large-scale studies are needed to confirm such effects.
  • Cancer Treatment
    Broccoli sprouts appear to have anticancer effects in the lab. Preliminary studies are being conducted to see whether there may also be some benefit in humans.
  • Bacterial Infections
    Small studies in humans suggest that broccoli sprouts may help reduce inflammation of the stomach caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori.
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None reported.

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For Healthcare Professionals

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Brassica oleracea L. var. italica Plenck
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Broccoli sprouts are young broccoli plants that are rich in glucoraphanin, a precursor of sulforaphane. In vitro studies suggest that sulforaphane, an isothiocyanate, has anticancer effects against prostate (1), breast (2) (3), and urinary cancers (4). It may also protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation (5)Preliminary studies to further evaluate these effects are currently being conducted in humans.

Consumption of broccoli sprouts was found to help reduce Helicobacter pylori-induced gastritis (6) (7), and protect against oxidative stress-induced upper airway disease (8) and DNA damage (9). Glucoraphanin extracted from broccoli sprouts may play a role in the excretion of environmental toxicants (10). Supplementation with broccoli sprouts may enhance antiviral responses (14). Further research is warranted.

A broccoli sprout extract was shown to be safe and well tolerated in healthy volunteers (11). In patients with prior melanoma, a preliminary study of oral broccoli sprout extract also determined it was well tolerated (15), but efficacy studies to evaluate its chemopreventive potential are needed. 

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  • Cancer prevention
  • Cancer treatment
  • Bacterial Infections
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Sulforaphane, the isothiocyanate present in broccoli sprouts, has been shown to block the initiation stage in carcinogenesis by inhibiting enzymes that convert procarcinogens to carcinogens, and inducing phase 2 enzymes that metabolize carcinogens to facilitate excretion. Induction of phase 2 enzymes occurs through antioxidant response element-driven gene expression, with targets including NAD(P)H:quinone reductase, heme oxygenase 1, and gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase regulated by nuclear factor E2 related factor (13). Sulforaphane also suppresses cancer development through various molecular targets. It induces G2/M cell cycle arrest via cyclin-dependent kinases and triggers dose-dependent apoptosis. Sulforaphane also inhibits histone deacetylase by its metabolites in vitro (13).

In a small study, broccoli sprout homogenates enhanced antiviral defense responses via peripheral blood NK cell activation and increased granzyme B production (14).

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None reported.

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  1. Li Y, Zhang T, Korkaya H, et al. Sulforaphane, a dietary component of broccoli/broccoli sprouts, inhibits breast cancer stem cells. Clin Cancer Res. 2010;16(9):2580-2590.

  2. Munday R, Mhawech-Fauceglia P, Munday CM, et al. Inhibition of urinary bladder carcinogenesis by broccoli sprouts. Cancer Res. Mar 1 2008;68(5):1593-1600.

  3. Talalay P, Fahey JW, Healy ZR, et al. Sulforaphane mobilizes cellular defenses that protect skin against damage by UV radiation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Oct 30 2007;104(44):17500-17505.

  4. Moon JK, Kim JR, Ahn YJ, Shibamoto T. Analysis and anti-Helicobacter activity of sulforaphane and related compounds present in broccoli ( Brassica oleracea L.) sprouts. J Agric Food Chem. Jun 9 2010;58(11):6672-6677.

  5. Yanaka A, Fahey JW, Fukumoto A, et al. Dietary sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprouts reduce colonization and attenuate gastritis in Helicobacter pylori-infected mice and humans.Cancer Prev Res (Phila Pa). Apr 2009;2(4):353-360.

  6. Riedl MA, Saxon A, Diaz-Sanchez D. Oral sulforaphane increases Phase II antioxidant enzymes in the human upper airway. Clin Immunol. 2009;130(3):244-251.

  7. Shapiro TA, Fahey JW, Dinkova-Kostova AT, et al. Safety, tolerance, and metabolism of broccoli sprout glucosinolates and isothiocyanates: a clinical phase I study. Nutr Cancer. 2006;55(1):53-62.

  8. Park EJ, Pezzuto JM. Botanicals in cancer chemoprevention. Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2002;21(3-4):231-255.

  9. Clarke JD, Dashwood RH, Ho E. Multi-targeted prevention of cancer by sulforaphane. Cancer Lett. 2008;269(2):291-304.

  10. Tahata S, Singh SV, Lin Y, et al. Evaluation of biodistribution of sulforaphane after administration of oral broccoli sprout extract in melanoma patients with multiple atypical nevi. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). Apr 24 2018. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.Capr-17-0268

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