Sulforaphane’s discovery at Johns Hopkins

It is now almost 4 years since pharmacologist Paul Talalay, M.D., passed away at the age of 95. 27 years earlier, he led the study at the renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital in the USA, which was to introduce us to the world’s most powerful antioxidant, sulforaphane.

Paul was one of the most significant researchers in Johns Hopkins history, and his guidance, scientific discoveries and leadership forever changed the field of medicine, said Philip A. Cole. M.D., Ph.D., former Director of the Department and Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at Johns Hopkins, and current Professor of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School.

Protection against side effects of chemotherapy

Talalay’s research into the cancer-protective properties of a substance in broccoli sprouts launched the ever-growing field of research he called “chemoprotection”. This field, which began with sulforaphane at Johns Hopkins, deals with methods of protecting the body from the side effects of chemotherapy in cancer treatment. It is the detoxification effect in the liver on so-called phase 2 enzymes that has made sulforaphane a detox superstar.

As head of John’s Hopkins’ Laboratory for Molecular Pharmacology (Today known as the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Chemoprotection Center), he and his colleagues published a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that described the protective biochemical mechanisms of sulforaphane, a substance found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. The glucosinolates in these plants are transformed into isothiocyanates, such as sulforaphane, by contact with an enzyme called myrosinase. It is these isothiocyanates, as Talalay’s studies describe, that prevent the development of cancer cells.

His findings received wide publicity in the news media, and although the health value of fruits and vegetables was a well-established fact, Talalay chose to devote his entire career to the study of this miraculous nutrient.

“My greatest fear is that on my tombstone, they’ll say, ‘He made broccoli famous”.

Sulforaphane and reducing the risk of cancer

His intuition proved to be good, because just two years later, in 1994, the mechanism behind sulforaphane’s effect on the liver was identified. Nrf2, known as the immune system’s master switch, has since then been the subject of close to 6,000 scientific studies that indirectly document sulforaphane’s health benefits at the cellular level. The New York Times highlighted the discovery on its front pages on 15 March 1992 with the title “Potent chemical to fight cancer found in broccoli”. Many natural and synthetic substances have been found to stimulate these protective enzymes, but the recently discovered substance in broccoli is by far the most powerful activator, wrote journalist Natalie Angier.

The substance sulforaphane may be the main reason why people who eat a lot of broccoli, Chinese cabbage and similar vegetables have a significantly reduced risk of developing cancer compared to those who avoid these foods, she continues.

Dr. Talalay himself, who has studied anti-carcinogenic substances for over 20 years, commented on the finding with “We’re very excited about this, and we don’t excite easily.”

One of his colleagues, Dr. Lee Wattenberg, a researcher at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and a pioneer in the field of anti-cancer substances in food, admitted that “This is a very good study, and they are to be congratulated for it”. He further pointed out that the study sheds light on the importance of finding out what we actually eat, and discover the substances that can offer protection against carcinogens and other toxins.

Wattenberg stressed that broccoli is not a good source of sulforaphane, as the body is unable to digest the huge amounts needed to reach an effective dose. Although broccoli seeds are used in the research, the amount of sulforaphane is diluted hundreds of times in the fully grown vegetable. This makes it difficult for most people to ingest enough sulforaphane to achieve the protective properties Talalay discovered.


Why SulforaPlus is made of freeze-dried broccoli sprouts
Sulforaphane products are usually made from extracts of pressed broccoli seeds. The downside of this method is low durability and poor bioavailability. Other products often contain the precursor to sulforaphane, glucoraphanin, but lack the enzyme myrosinase, so you are just as far. Only a few of us have enough of the special bacteria that form myrosinase in the gut. Research has shown that this enzyme is absolutely necessary to make use of the potential of the glucosinolates. Unfortunately, we humans have a very limited own production of the enzyme, which, depending on the bacterial flora, varies between 1% and 40%.

SulforaPlus has solved this problem by freeze-drying the most glucoraphanin-rich broccoli sprouts and ensuring that myrosinase is available for the highest possible conversion to Sulforaphane. Because the sprouts are dried, the enzyme will not activate the glucoraphanin until it comes into contact with water in the body. The activity of sulforaphane otherwise only lasts for about half an hour outside the body after it has been activated. By activating the sulforaphane when you eat it, you are guaranteed an effective dose, even if you may be missing the right bacteria

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