For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
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.
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.
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.
Small studies in humans suggest that broccoli sprouts may help reduce inflammation of the stomach caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori.
For Healthcare Professionals
Broccoli sprouts are young broccoli plants that are rich in glucoraphanin, a precursor of sulforaphane. Preclinical studies suggest that sulforaphane, an isothiocyanate, has anticancer effects against prostate (1), breast (2) (3) (16), and urinary cancers (4). It may also protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation (5). In mouse models, a prenatal/maternal broccoli sprouts diet appeared to offer greater preventive effects on breast cancer development compared with postnatal early-life treatment (17).
Broccoli sprouts consumption may also help reduce Helicobacter pylori-induced gastritis (6) (7), and protect against oxidative stress-induced upper airway disease (8) and DNA damage (9). In overweight subjects, long-term dietary consumption of broccoli sprouts reduced levels of inflammatory markers (18). Glucoraphanin extracted from broccoli sprouts might assist in the excretion of environmental toxicants (10). Other preliminary studies suggest broccoli sprouts supplementation may enhance antiviral responses (14) and that a broccoli sprout extract was safe and well tolerated in healthy volunteers (11).
Only a few studies have been conducted in cancer patients. In a feasibility trial among advanced pancreatic cancer patients, although some positive effects were noted, broccoli sprout capsule intake was difficult for some and may have increased digestive symptoms (19). In patients with prior melanoma, a broccoli sprout extract was determined to be well tolerated (15), but larger studies that evaluate its chemopreventive potential are needed.
Mechanism of Action
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 and inhibits histone deacetylase by its metabolites in vitro (13). In a triple-negative breast cancer animal model, sulforaphane protection against cancer stem-like cell proliferation was attributed to suppression of the Cripto-mediated pathway and/or the Cripto/Alk4 protein complex (16).
In a small human study, broccoli sprout homogenates enhanced antiviral defense responses via peripheral blood NK cell activation and increased granzyme B production (14).