A pair of broccoli sprout studies

This 2015 Oregon human study found:

  • “Plasma and urinary levels of total SFN [sulforaphane] metabolites were ~3–5 times higher in sprout consumers compared to BSE [broccoli sprout extract] consumers.
  • In sprout consumers, plasma concentrations were 2.4-fold higher after consuming the second dose than after the first dose.
  • Calculated SFN bioavailability from broccoli sprouts exceeded 100%.

a Following consumption of a single 200-µmol SFN dose. b Cumulative excretion of SFN metabolites from baseline collection through the 48-hr study period. c Bioavailability F calculated based on total micromoles excreted in urine. Cmax, maximum concentration observed; AUC, area under the curve; h, hour; L, liter; t1/2, half-life; Tmax, time at Cmax. Values represent mean ± SD, n = 10.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394840/ “Absorption and chemopreventive targets of sulforaphane in humans following consumption of broccoli sprouts or a myrosinase-treated broccoli sprout extract”

Another way to state findings:

  1. Broccoli sprouts are better than supplements.
  2. Eating sprouts twice a day is better than eating them once a day.

No explanation was given for sprout weight variability, although one was needed, because 127.6 g / 2 = 63.8 g, not 46.8 g:

“In the divided-dose phase (two weeks later), subjects (fasting) consumed half the original dose (100 μmol SFN equivalents) at 8 AM from sprouts or the BSE and the other half (not fasting) 12 h later.”

A “SFN potential” process demonstrated sulforaphane amount equivalencies, but didn’t explain non-intuitive sprout weight measurements. Was it too difficult to control sprout variability? The difficulties were instead pushed onto other researchers trying to replicate the study, and consumers looking for practical guidance.

Regardless, I adjusted my practices to twice daily start a new broccoli sprout batch with one tablespoon of seeds rather than once a day with two tablespoons. I eat them with breakfast and dinner rather than at lunch.

I microwave 3-day-old sprouts immersed in 100 ml distilled water on full 1000W power for 40 seconds to achieve 58°C. I immediately put them into a strainer to allow further myrosinase hydrolization of glucoraphanin and other glucosinolates into sulforaphane and other healthy compounds.

I’d overlooked the above study until I saw it referenced in its successor 2018 human study Untargeted metabolomic screen reveals changes in human plasma metabolite profiles following consumption of fresh broccoli sprouts and cited it in Reversal of aging and immunosenescent trends with sulforaphane for its DHEA findings. The clinical trial treatments included:

“Both dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and metformin in an attempt to limit the “diabetogenic” effect of GH [growth hormone]. DHEA has many effects, in both men and women, that oppose deleterious effects of normal aging.”

A PubMed search on DHEA found Impact of Dehydroepianrosterone (DHEA) Supplementation on Serum Levels of Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1): A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials which confirmed the clinical trial’s DHEA dose would increase IGF-1.

This study observed a significant decrease in DHEA after eating broccoli sprouts, but didn’t provide a plausible explanation for this finding, or cite relevant studies. Ten other significant decreases were related to antioxidants and fatty acids.

It isn’t clear that I needed to take DHEA anyway, since the clinical trial’s purpose for DHEA treatment was to oppose effects of growth hormone, which I’m not taking. But I’m getting good results, so I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing for a limited time.

The study said:

“While this study focuses largely on the potential effects of SFN, broccoli sprouts contain many other bioactive components that could be responsible for our observations as well as additional health benefits.”

Our model clinical trial Effects of long-term consumption of broccoli sprouts on inflammatory markers in overweight subjects said much the same:

“The anti-inflammatory effects observed with broccoli sprouts intake are likely due to the combined effects of all the hydrolysis products of glucosinolates.”

The 3-day-old broccoli sprouts have the optimal yields study said:

Although germination reduces SF [sulforaphane] yield to some extent, it is beneficial to the formation and accumulation of total phenol and flavonoids, ensuring the health properties of sprouts.”

Combining the pair of Oregon studies’ findings:

  1. Broccoli sprouts are better than supplements.
  2. Eating sprouts twice a day is better than eating them once a day.
  3. When in doubt, refer back to Item 1.


Reversal of aging and immunosenescent trends with sulforaphane

Sulforaphane research findings have commonalities with a super informative presentation by the lead researcher of clinical trial Reversal of aging and immunosenescent trends. I did a PubMed search of sulforaphane and each presentation topic, and used a 1/1/2015 publication date cutoff.

Presentation topics through the first 13 minutes were:

Thymus – no recent sulforaphane studies



C-reactive protein and IL-6

Bone marrow fat – no recent studies

T cells

PD-1 / PD-L1

Treatment cost

I estimate the annual cost of the non-prescription treatments of the clinical trial to be $100. The estimated annual cost of eating broccoli sprouts every day is $200 for the broccoli seeds.

broccoli seed label

The above image isn’t an endorsement although it’s what I’ve used. It’s buzzword marketing to put “sprouts” and “sulforaphane” but not “seeds” on the label of a broccoli seeds package. For another thing, broccoli sprouts don’t “abound with phytochemical sulforaphane.”

Repeating a point from Estimating daily consumption of broccoli sprout compounds, broccoli seeds and sprouts contain little or no sulforaphane. They have glucoraphanin and myrosinase enzyme which are structurally separated. Disturbing their cells mixes the two, and the enzyme hydrolyzes glucoraphanin into sulforaphane.

Do broccoli sprouts treat migraines?

While rereading a review in Eat broccoli sprouts today, it occurred to me that I haven’t needed to take migraine medicine during the 9 weeks I’ve been eating broccoli sprouts every day. Since 14 weeks of lockdown overlap this period, it’s also possible that I’ve avoided triggering conditions. I look at brightly-lit screens all day, but don’t have cold air blowing on my head that’s the other half of my most common triggering condition.

I started having intermittent ~monthly episodes about ten years ago. I wouldn’t take sumatriptan unless I have a half-day-long headache that doesn’t respond to acetaminophen. It stops a headache from turning into a 3-day-long migraine.

I went over to PubMed and did a “sulforaphane migraine” search, which turned up exactly 1 (!!) result. A 2016 Chinese rodent study Activation of the nuclear factor E2-related factor 2/anitioxidant response element alleviates the nitroglycerin-induced hyperalgesia in rats found:

“Activation of the Nrf2/ARE pathway inhibited the activation of TGVS [trigeminovascular system] and prevented the induction of hyperalgesia. Sulforaphane might therefore be an effective agent for hyperalgesia.”

Plausible conclusion. Nitroglycerin definitely jolts a monster headache. 5 mg sulforaphane / kg body weight was a large dose as well.

Two of the eleven papers citing this study were:

There wouldn’t be any potential payoff for a company to be interested in studying a sulforaphane-migraine connection. What sponsor would be interested enough to double the number of studies in this area?

Reevaluate findings in another paradigm

It’s challenging for people to change their framework when their paychecks or mental state or reputations depend on it not changing.

I’ll use The hypothalamus and aging as an example. The review was alright for partial fact-finding up through 2018. The review’s facts were limited, however, to what fit into the reviewers’ paradigm.

The 2015 An environmental signaling paradigm of aging provided examples of findings that weren’t considered in the review. It also presented a framework that better incorporated what was known at the time.

Here’s how they viewed the same 2013 study, Hypothalamic programming of systemic ageing involving IKK-β, NF-κB and GnRH (not freely available).

Paradigm: “The hypothalamus is hypothesized to be a primary regulator of the process of aging of the entire body.”


“The age-associated inflammation increase is mediated by IκB kinase-β (IKK-β) and nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) in the microglia and, subsequently, nearby neurons through the microglia–neuron interaction in the mediobasal hypothalamus. Apparently, blocking the hypothalamic or brain IKK-β or NF-κB activation causes delayed aging phenotype and improved lifespan.

Aging correlates with a decline in the hypothalamic GnRH expression in mice and, mechanistically, activated IKK-β and NF-κB significantly down regulates the GnRH transcription. Notably, GnRH therapy through either hypothalamic third ventricularor subcutaneous injection leads to a significant recovery of neurogenesis in the hypothalamus and hippocampus and a noticeable improvement of age-related phenotype in the skin thickness, bone density, and muscle strength when applied in middle-aged mice.”

Paradigm: Environmental signaling model of aging


“A link between inflammation and aging is the finding that inflammatory and stress responses activate NF-κB in the hypothalamus and induce a signaling pathway that reduces production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) by neurons. GnRH decline contributes to aging-related changes such as bone fragility, muscle weakness, skin atrophy, and reduced neurogenesis. Consistent with this, GnRH treatment prevents aging-impaired neurogenesis and decelerates aging in mice.

Zhang et al. report that there is an age-associated activation of NF-κB and IKK-β. Loss of sirtuins may contribute both to inflammation and other aspects of aging, but this explanation, also given by Zhang et al. merely moves the question to why there a loss of sirtuins.

The case is particularly interesting when we realize that the aging phenotype can only be maintained by the continuous activation of NF-κB – a product of which is the production of TNF-α. Reciprocally when TNF-α is secreted into the inter-cellular milieu, it causes the activation of NF-κB. In their study, Zhang et al. noted that the activation of NF-κB began in the microglia (the immune system component cells found in the brain), which secreted TNF-α, resulting in a positive feedback loop that eventually encompassed the entire central hypothalamus.

The net result of this is a diminution in the production of gonadotropin-releasing factor which accounted for a shorter lifespan because provision of GnRH eliminated that effect, while either preventing NF-κB activation (or that of the IKK-β upstream activator) or by providing gonadotropin-releasing factor directly into the brain, or peripherally, extended lifespan by about 20%.

In spite of the claim of Zhang et al. that the hypothalamus is the regulator of lifespan in mice, their experiments show that only some aspects of lifespan are controlled by the hypothalamus, as preventing NF-κB activation in this organ did not stop aging and death. Similar increased NF-κB activation with age has been seen in other tissues as well and said to account for dysfunction in aging adrenal glands. It was demonstrated that increased aging occurred as a result of lack of gonadotropin-releasing hormone and that increased lifespan resulted from its provision during aging.

In this manner:

  1. The aging of hypothalamic microglia leads to
  2. The aging of the hypothalamus, which leads to
  3. Aging elsewhere in the body.

So here we have a multi-level interaction:

  1. The activation of NF-κB leads to
  2. Cellular aging, leading to
  3. A diminished production of GnRH, which then
  4. Acts (through the cells with a receptor for it, or indirectly as a result of changes to GnRH-receptor-possessing cells) to decrease lifespan.

So the age state of hypothalamic cells, at least with respect to NF-κB activation, is communicated to other cells via the reduced output of GnRH.”

Not using the same frameworks, are they?

In 2015, the researcher told the world what could be done to dramatically change the entire research area. He and other researchers did so recently as curated in Part 3 of rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane which addressed hypothalamus rejuvenation.

Tailoring measurements for broccoli sprouts

To follow up two points of Lab analyses of broccoli sprout compounds:

3. Without knowing the broccoli sprouts’ cultivar, could a person infer from a glucoraphanin amount how much sulforaphane they would consume?

No. The 2014 Iron Man 5.2 μmol per g glucoraphanin wasn’t that different from the 2015 Sirtaki 5.4 amount. But Iron Man vs. Sirtaki differences of 0.3 vs. 0.6 μmol per g sulforaphane amounts and 5% vs. 11% hydrolyzed showed Sirtaki cultivar had double or more those of Iron Man.

4. Could a person infer from a mature broccoli glucoraphanin amount anything about its broccoli sprout glucoraphanin amount, or vice versa?

No. The Sirtaki 8.0 μmol per g sprout glucoraphanin amount was the highest cultivar, but its fully developed head was lowest at 0.27.

Studies often tailor their measurements to interests of either their sponsor or audience. This tailoring may leave gaps in what people outside of their target audience want to know.

Item 3 showed that sprout glucoraphanin amount can’t be relied upon to infer sprout sulforaphane amount because the hydrolysis process may be cultivar specific. The 3-day-old broccoli sprouts have the optimal yields study showed this result was also true using seed glucoraphanin and sulforaphane measurements.

Item 4 showed cultivar comparative measurements of glucoraphanin and sulforaphane made with broccoli florets may be the opposite of broccoli seed and sprout measurements. We should use studies that measured compounds in broccoli seeds and / or sprouts because we’re interested in eating broccoli sprouts.

A problem arises when studies compare cultivars using seed or sprout glucoraphanin but not also sulforaphane. We can’t ignore Item 3’s findings and automatically prefer a cultivar that has a higher glucoraphanin amount.

Repeating a point from Estimating daily consumption of broccoli sprout compounds, broccoli seeds and sprouts contain little or no sulforaphane. They have glucoraphanin and myrosinase enzyme which are structurally separated. Disturbing their cells mixes the two, and the enzyme hydrolyzes glucoraphanin into sulforaphane.

So if a study’s processing is what creates sulforaphane, what can we do with study findings if researchers didn’t bother to also measure that sulforaphane? I’ll guess that substantial differences in glucoraphanin seed or sprout amounts could be used as rough guides for sulforaphane amounts.

Looking at the above 2014 sprout amounts, a Iron Man 5.2 vs. Marathon 4.0 μmol per g glucoraphanin difference didn’t result in their 0.3 sulforaphane amounts being different. As a rough guide for home gardens, a 1.3 (5.2 / 4.0) ratio could be used as a threshold.

Broccoli seed glucoraphanin amounts in this 2004 table from Glucoraphanin and 4-Hydroxyglucobrassicin Contents in Seeds of 59 Cultivars of Broccoli, Raab, Kohlrabi, Radish, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Kale, and Cabbage (not freely available) are sorted by higher-to-lower glucoraphanin (GR) amounts per cultivar. Marathon can be found at 59.81 μmol per g. A threshold of 78 μmol per g (59.81 x 1.3) would roughly guide planting cultivars Premium Crop down to Monterey, depending on their availability 16 years later in 2020.

We’d like to plant broccoli cultivars that have laboratory results so we could expect comparatively higher sulforaphane from their seeds and sprouts. I’ve contacted broccoli seed suppliers for commercial growers and home gardeners, and asked them for lab evidence of their offered cultivar’s sulforaphane contents. Haven’t received responses yet. When they respond, we’ll have to clarify whether those lab results are from seeds or tailored to mature plant’s florets in order for us to reliably use them.

Broccoli seeds intended for commercial growers and home gardeners are prohibitively expensive for home sprouting. If such a supplier did sell in bulk at much lower prices, unless otherwise specified, seeds are expected to be treated with insecticides, fungicides, dyes or bulking agents.

Home sprouting has to deal with unknown cultivar, unknown glucoraphanin, and unknown sulforaphane. Even so, I’ve documented good results from eating broccoli sprouts every day for 8 weeks. Worst case estimates still fit within:

“The daily SFN [sulforaphane] dose found to achieve beneficial outcomes in most of the available clinical trials is around 20-40 mg.”

Current growing and preparation processes of microwaving to achieve 60°C, transferring broccoli sprouts to a strainer, and allowing further myrosinase hydrolization of glucoraphanin into sulforaphane compensate for some degree of these uncertainties. It would still be better, though, to know which cultivar is purchased along with lab reports of its compounds’ characteristics.

Let’s say that one day, bulk broccoli seed suppliers start advertising something past buzzwords, like cultivated variety (and Calabrese isn’t a cultivar). We have Marathon in both a lab analysis and a seed glucoraphanin list to help inform our decisions. Would I pay extra for seeds of cultivars substantially below Marathon like common cultivars DeCicco and Waltham 29? No, I’m doing fine changing my phenotype despite unknowns. The advertised cultivar would have to be substantially above Marathon in the glucoraphanin list to consider a purchase.

A hair color anecdote

Will you excuse a poorly-evidenced observation that’s a positive development I left out of Week 8 of changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts?

I got a haircut last weekend after waiting for Governor Klan Robes Blackface to not arrest barbershop and hair salon owners for the crime of earning a living. A thirty-something tattooed barber wearing a face mask and face shield said my last haircut had been on February 1, 2020, so it had been 14 weeks. She used a #4 clipper to cut everything to about 1/2 inch.

I’d eaten broccoli sprouts every day for 7 weeks at that point. Post-haircut visible hair was all from that period, probably since Week 3, which was also when broccoli sprouts’ effects on inflammation became noticeable.

One evening as I brushed my teeth, I noticed overall hair appearance was mainly dark brown again, an unexpected phenomenon. Maybe white hair will show up as it gets longer?

Feedback on hair color from a back-of-the-head picture was mixed, ranging from “Yes. Definitely!” to Unsupported non-evidence since before and after pictures weren’t taken under the same lighting conditions. Even if validated, other factors could be in play, such as working from home without the stress of going into work.

While eating my usual steel cut oats for breakfast this morning, I remembered a super informative presentation by the lead researcher of clinical trial Reversal of aging and immunosenescent trends. I rewatched it, pausing after two minutes to reabsorb when he said:

“There’s a collapse that takes place somewhere between the ages of sixty to eighty in which you lose 98% of your ability to recognize foreign antigens.”

You will have forgotten why I drew your attention to this super interesting presentation by the 21:25 mark. But pause for the “Hair Follicle Rejuvenation?” slide with before and after photos:

“A couple of guys came to us and said they seemed to notice that their hair was growing in darker again. It’s an anecdote. It didn’t apply to most of the guys. But it’s a sign that maybe something interesting is going on.”

That’s followed by epigenetic clock findings using four different clocks. Note that no significant effects on biological age were found until the trial’s 9-month point, and those weren’t as strong as improvements by 12 months. Also, improvements accelerated between 9 and 12 months, and at 12 months, subjects had increased their life expectancies by 2.5 years.

I started and have continued four lifestyle “interventions” since last summer:

  1. In July I dramatically reduced my consumption of advanced glycation end products after reading Dr. Vlassara’s AGE-Less Diet: How a Chemical in the Foods We Eat Promotes Disease, Obesity, and Aging and the Steps We Can Take to Stop It.
  2. In September I started this trial’s non-prescription daily treatments of Vitamin D, zinc, and DHEA.
  3. Also in September, I started non-prescription intermittent quercetin treatments of Preliminary findings from a senolytics clinical trial.
  4. Eight weeks ago I started eating broccoli sprouts every day per clinical trial Effects of long-term consumption of broccoli sprouts on inflammatory markers in overweight subjects.

In a month or so I should be able to say whether or not my hair really is growing in darker. One way to find out which “intervention” had the largest effect may be to stop one or more of them. That might happen anyway because:

  1. Consistently eating AGE-less food is boring.
  2. I’m leery of taking more than RDAs.
  3. Ehh.
  4. I still sadly hope against reality that we’re past the Madness of Crowds phase and can accelerate the “recover their senses slowly, one by one” phase. It would be harder to take care of my broccoli sprout farm if I have to go into work every day.

Or maybe An environmental signaling paradigm of aging is correct, and at a certain point, clocks are reset and none of these “interventions” will be needed? What do you think?


Week 8 of changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts

To follow up Week 7 of changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts:

1. I changed practices per Enhancing sulforaphane content. After microwaving to achieve 60°C, I now transfer broccoli sprouts to a strainer, and allow further myrosinase hydrolization of glucoraphanin into sulforaphane. I previously cooled them immediately.

They taste better, too, and I stopped putting mustard in them to make them more palatable. What does letting 3-day-old broccoli sprouts cool down by themselves to increase sulforaphane do that makes them more agreeable?

Despite improving yields two weeks ago, 3-day-old broccoli sprouts started from two tablespoons of broccoli seeds still fit into a Corning Ware 16 fl. oz. / 473 ml container:

2. I made worst case estimates in Estimating daily consumption of broccoli sprout compounds. They fit within:

“The daily SFN [sulforaphane] dose found to achieve beneficial outcomes in most of the available clinical trials is around 20-40 mg.”

The post’s point was: how can a person guide their actions with evidence when a broccoli cultivated variety’s beneficial characteristics aren’t known? I’ll repeat a sulforaphane yields graphic from the 3-day-old broccoli sprouts have the optimal yields study for examples of unknowns:

A. If sulforaphane content was a consumer’s overriding concern. the above evidence suggests that it would be better to always eat the seeds of an unknown cultivar. A tablespoon seems like a good choice, but be sure to chew the broccoli seeds thoroughly (try for five minutes) to release myrosinase.

The first minute goes alright. Sometime after that, your mouth and the back of your throat starts to burn. That will be a reminder of an evolved function that protects plants from predators.

I haven’t successfully swallowed a mouthful of thoroughly chewed broccoli seeds without also eating something else or drinking more than just water. That might not go along with your plan for a snack or eating before bedtime.

B. The study recommended consuming 3-day-old sprouts because:

Although germination reduces SF [sulforaphane] yield to some extent, it is beneficial to the formation and accumulation of total phenol and flavonoids, ensuring the health properties of sprouts.”

Fine, but if your unknown cultivar’s sulforaphane characteristics look like the third cultivar’s 3-day-old sprouts, you’ll have a 53% reduction in the sulforaphane weight. Should you take a 1-in-6 chance with Day 5 sprouts? Or stick with Day 3, guessing that they may still yield more sulforaphane than 3 of the 5 other cultivars’ Day 3 broccoli sprouts?

C. What if you can’t stomach the appearance of 3-day-old broccoli sprouts per the above photo, and you prefer microgreens? Should you wait until Day 7, and take a 1-in-6 chance that your unknown cultivar’s characteristics are like the highest Day 7 of the fourth cultivar? When you roll the die, does it come up 4?

Broccoli seed bulk suppliers aren’t providing evidence for their products and educating customers. Their marketing strategy depends more on buzzwords and price.

3. I compared lab reports of 3 broccoli sprouts’ cultivars in Lab analyses of broccoli sprout compounds to see if they helped rationally deal with these unknowns. It turned out that not much could be accurately inferred from lab reports, past knowing that broccoli sprouts of one cultivar produced more sulforaphane than another.

I haven’t found studies of cultivar characteristics for items I could actually purchase in bulk. I contacted five small US and Canadian suppliers to ask “Do you sell broccoli seeds that have lab evidence of the cultivar’s sulforaphane content?” Two said no so far. I contacted another supplier for the home garden business who has two dozen cultivars listed for sale and asked them the same question.

None of the broccoli seed bulk suppliers specified the cultivar on their offering. When pressed on Amazon they at best said Calabrese, which has described hundreds of cultivars. Such as two in this study, Iron Man and Marathon, which are also named Calabrese Iron Man F1 and Calabrese Marathon F1.

4. I’ve had only sporadic inflammation, and I’m tempted to write anecdotes of positive things. But self-reports are better evidence for emotions than for other internal events.