Sulforaphene, a natural analog of sulforaphane

Three papers on sulforaphene, starting with a 2022 in vitro digestion study by Our model clinical trial for Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts group:

“This work aims to assess anti-inflammatory potential of bioactive compounds of cruciferous sprouts red radish (RRS) and red cabbage (RCS) in their bioaccessible form (obtained by the digestion of aqueous extracts). We used a well-established in vitro inflammation cellular model consisting of human macrophage-like HL60 cells stimulated with LPS, which mimics systemic chronic inflammatory conditions present in certain non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.


Composition of RRS and RCS digestates extracts presented differences with a 20% lower content of total isothiocyanates (ITCs) in RRS than in RCS. However, there was more variability in the compounds present in RRS than in RCS extract digestates, including sulforaphene (SFE) and 3,3′-diindolylmethane (DIM), which were exclusively present in RRS.

RCS extract showed a trend of decreasing both TNF-α and IL-6 production under LPS-stimulated conditions, and this inhibitory effect was mainly observed at final protein expression. This activity at higher rates might be related to the inhibitory ability of iberin upon TLRs dimerization, impairing the NF-κB signaling pathway.

On the other hand, RRS exhibited a significant dose–response inhibition of IL-6 production levels. This difference in better performance of RRS compared to RCS could be exerted by the higher concentration of sulforaphane, and the exclusive presence of SFE, DIM, and anthocyanins in RRS.” “Anti-inflammatory potential of digested Brassica sprout extracts in human macrophage-like HL-60 cells”

I was surprised that this study didn’t detect anthocyanins in 8-day-old red cabbage sprout digestates, as they are visibly present in red cabbage sprouts. For example, from Week 56:


Reference 32 of this study was a 2021 review:

“Sulforaphene (SRP), as a product derived from glucoraphenin in the presence of myrosinase, mainly exists in cruciferous plants, especially in dried and mature seeds of radish. The most abundant ITC in juice of R. sativus L. coming from Sango freeze-dried sprouts is SRP. There is no safe and efficient SRP chemical synthesis which could be industrialized.

Structural variation in ITCs, such as the presence of particular functional group, molecular size, and length of a hydrocarbon chain, often results in very diverse antimicrobial activities. SRP, which is similar to sulforaphane in chemical structure but has an extra double bond, shows a much higher antimicrobial activity. However, the exact explanation for this enhanced microbial activity remains unknown.” “Sulforaphene: Formation, stability, separation, purification, determination and biological activities” (not freely available) Thanks to Dr. Jie Zhang for providing a copy.

Eat broccoli sprouts instead of antibiotics had two papers on ITCs’ antimicrobial actions.

A third paper was a 2022 cell study:

“Acne is a chronic inflammatory disease of the sebaceous gland attached to hair follicles. Cutibacterium acnes is a major cause of inflammation caused by acne.

It is well known that C. acnes secretes a lipolytic enzyme to break down lipids in sebum, and free fatty acids produced at this time accelerate the inflammatory reaction. There are several drugs used to treat acne; however, each one has various side effects.

We examined effects of sulforaphene (SFEN) on bacterial growth and inflammatory cytokine production induced by C. acnes. SFEN showed antibacterial activity against C. acnes and controlled the inflammatory response on keratinocytes and monocytes. This finding means that SFEN has potential as both a cosmetic material for acne prevention and a pharmaceutical material for acne treatment.” “Sulforaphene Attenuates Cutibacterium acnes-Induced Inflammation”

I ordered the Sango variety of red radish seeds used in this first study, to arrive in two weeks. I expect that their flavor and sulforaphene combination will be a good substitute for the mainly-flavor mustard third of my 3-day-old sprouts brocolli / red cabbage / mustard sprouts morning mix.

Home sprouting cupboard setup, with Avena sativa twice-daily hulled oats sprouts on top:


Do broccoli sprouts treat asthma?

This 2022 rodent study investigated sulforaphane’s effects on airway disease:

“Sulforaphane has been studied in numerous preclinical and clinical models of lung damage and airway diseases. The lack of definitive findings from clinical studies to date most likely reflects issues with extract preparations and dosage regimes.

We investigated effects of administration of L-sulforaphane (LSF), which is also known as (R)-sulforaphane, in a murine model of ovalbumin (OVA)-induced chronic allergic airways disease (AAD). This model of chronic AAD recapitulates several features of human asthma including airway inflammation, airway remodeling, and airway hyper-responsiveness.

Our findings confirmed the efficacy of LSF in attenuating pathologies associated with AAD, involving activation of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory pathways. Inhibition of HDAC enzymes by LSF and accumulation of acetylated core histones and α-tubulin in vivo following LSF administration represent an important epigenetic regulatory mechanism. LSF and its metabolites may modulate HDAC6 and HDAC8 enzymes by binding to the catalytic site.

sulforaphane asthma

Our findings along with accumulated evidence, highlight the clinical potential of sulforaphane as either a prophylactic or a therapeutic in the context of AAD.” “Sulforaphane prevents and reverses allergic airways disease in mice via anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and epigenetic mechanisms” (not freely available)


Eat mushrooms every day?

Three 2022 papers on amino acid ergothioneine, starting with a human study:

“We examined temporal relationships between plasma ergothioneine (ET) status and cognition in a cohort of 470 elderly subjects attending memory clinics in Singapore. All participants underwent baseline plasma ET measurements as well as neuroimaging for cerebrovascular disease (CeVD) and brain atrophy. Neuropsychological tests of cognition and function were assessed at baseline and follow-up visits for up to five years.

Lower plasma ET levels were associated with poorer baseline cognitive performance and faster rates of decline in function as well as in multiple cognitive domains including memory, executive function, attention, visuomotor speed, and language. In subgroup analyses, longitudinal associations were found only in non-demented individuals.

Mediation analyses showed that effects of ET on cognition seemed to be largely explainable by severity of concomitant CeVD, specifically white matter hyperintensities, and brain atrophy. Our findings support further assessment of plasma ET as a prognostic biomarker for accelerated cognitive and functional decline in pre-dementia and suggest possible therapeutic and preventative measures.” “Low Plasma Ergothioneine Predicts Cognitive and Functional Decline in an Elderly Cohort Attending Memory Clinics”

Earlier this year, two of the study’s coauthors put together a collection of 11 ergothioneine papers:

“One catalyst for this upsurge of interest was the discovery in 2005 of a transporter for ET (OCTN1, often now called the ergothioneine transporter, ETT), which accounts for the fact that animals (including humans) take up and avidly retain ET from the diet. The presence of a specific transporter together with the avid retention of ET in the body implies that this compound is important to us.

To quote an old phrase ‘correlation does not imply causation.’ Low ET levels may predispose to disease, but disease could also lead to low ET levels. Possible reasons could include:

  • Alterations in diet due to illness so that less ET is consumed;
  • Decreases in ETT activity in the gut (leading to less ET uptake) or kidney (impairing ET reabsorption) with age and disease.
  • Changes in gut microbiota might influence uptake and accumulation in the body.
  • ET is being consumed as it scavenges oxygen radicals and other reactive oxygen species, the production of which is known to increase in these diseases and during ageing in general.

Only the gold standard of placebo-controlled double-blinded clinical studies can definitively establish the value (if any) of ET in preventing or treating human disease. Several such trials are being planned or in progress; we await the results with interest, and a streak of optimism.” “Ergothioneine, where are we now?”

One of the collection’s papers focused on what ETT research findings could or could not be replicated:

“ETT is not expressed ubiquitously and only cells with high ETT cell-surface levels can accumulate ET to high concentration. Without ETT, there is no uptake because the plasma membrane is essentially impermeable. We review substrate specificity and localization of ETT, which is prominently expressed in neutrophils, monocytes/macrophages, and developing erythrocytes.

Comparison of transport efficiency (TE) for acknowledged substrates of the ETT. Bar length represents approximate TE of wild-type human ETT.


We have not found in the literature any other ET transporters. However, it is highly probable that additional ET transporters work in the human body:

  • Uptake of ET from the small intestine into epithelial cells occurs through apically localized ETT. The very hydrophilic ET cannot then exit these cells toward the blood without help – a basolateral efflux transporter is required.
  • After oral administration of 3H-ET, a considerable amount of ET was still absorbed into the body in the ETT KO [knockout] mice. There must be another transporter for apical uptake at least in the small intestine of the mouse.
  • When ET was administered intravenously, ETT KO mice showed no change in ET concentration in the brain compared to wild type. The little ET that enters the brain must therefore pass through the BBB via a different transporter.” “The ergothioneine transporter (ETT): substrates and locations, an inventory”

It’s persuasive that there’s an evolutionarily conserved transmitter specific to ergothioneine. It isn’t persuasive that this compound once consumed is almost always in stand-by mode to do: what?

Ergothioneine isn’t a substitute for the related glutathione, especially since its supply isn’t similarly available from an endogenous source. It isn’t an active participant in day-to-day human life.

Still, I hedge my bets. I eat ergothioneine every day via white button mushrooms in AGE-less chicken vegetable soup at a cost of about $1.30.


Eat broccoli sprouts to epigenetically regulate histones

Five papers on beneficial effects from sulforaphane inhibiting histone deacetylases (HDACs), starting with a 2022 rodent cell study:

“Sulforaphane (SFN) has tissue specificity for subtypes of HDACs that are downregulated. For example:

  • In breast cancer cells, HDAC1-3 are inhibited by SFN to induce cell apoptosis;
  • In skin cells, HDAC1-4 are regulated by SFN [anti-skin cancer]; and
  • In the cochlea, SFN inhibits HDAC2, 4, and 5 [attenuates hearing loss].

In the present study, SFN significantly inhibited HDAC2, 3, and 5 expression and HDACs activity in cardiomyocytes, thereby increasing H3 acetylation levels in the Nrf2 promoter and upregulating Nrf2 expression. Mechanism by which SFN prevents Ang II-induced cardiomyocyte apoptosis:

  • Ang II activates oxidative stress by increasing ROS leading to inflammation, oxidative stress and fibrosis in cardiomyocytes.
  • SFN prevents Ang II-induced cardiomyocyte apoptosis by inhibiting HDACs to activate Nrf2 and downstream antioxidant genes.


SFN activates Nrf2 by inhibiting HDACs expression and activation.” “Sulforaphane inhibits angiotensin II-induced cardiomyocyte apoptosis by acetylation modification of Nrf2”

A 2021 rodent study found:

“SFN significantly attenuated diabetes-induced renal fibrosis in vivo. SFN inhibited diabetes-induced increase in HDAC2 activity.

Bone morphologic protein 7 (BMP-7) has been shown to reduce renal fibrosis induced by transforming growth factor-beta1. SFN protects against diabetes-induced renal fibrosis through epigenetic up-regulation of BMP-7.”

dmj-2020-0168f7 “Sulforaphane Ameliorates Diabetes-Induced Renal Fibrosis through Epigenetic Up-Regulation of BMP-7”

A 2019 human osteosarcoma cell study found:

“SFN inhibits mTOR in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. This inhibition occurs in the presence or in the absence of NRF2.

SFN inhibits HDAC6 and decreases catalytic activity of AKT, which partially explains the mechanism by which SFN inhibits mTOR.” “The isothiocyanate sulforaphane inhibits mTOR in an NRF2-independent manner”

A 2022 review cited a 2018 cell study:

“HDAC expression and activity are dysregulated in various diseases including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer, cardiac hypertrophy, and neurodegenerative and psychological disorders. HDAC inhibitors could be a potential therapeutic target for many diseases.

In hypertension, aortic stiffness is usually increased and vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) contribute to vascular stiffness. We used VSMCs to test the degree of acetylation of histones in this study.

Sulforaphane weakly inhibited HDAC2 and effectively inhibited HDAC9.” “Zinc-dependent histone deacetylases: Potential therapeutic targets for arterial hypertension” “Inhibition of class IIa histone deacetylase activity by gallic acid, sulforaphane, TMP269, and panobinostat” (not freely available)