Get serious about advanced glycation end products (AGEs)

Ever heard about AGEs? Here are three papers that describe how AGEs affect humans.

First is a 2020 Italian review Common Protective Strategies in Neurodegenerative Disease: Focusing on Risk Factors to Target the Cellular Redox System:

“Neurodegenerative disease is an umbrella term for different conditions which primarily affect the neurons in the human brain. Currently, neurodegenerative diseases are incurable, and the treatments available only control the symptoms or delay the progression of the disease.

Neurotoxicity can be induced by glycation reactions. Since glycation is a nonenzymatic process, proteins characterized by a slow turnover are those that more easily accumulate AGEs.

Methylglyoxal (MG) can occur as glycolysis by-product, but it is also present in foods (especially cooked and baked), beverages (mainly those fermented), and cigarette smoke, and it is considered the most potent precursor of AGE formation. More than 20 different AGEs have been identified in foods and in human tissues.

AGE accumulation, oxidative stress, and inflammation are related to AGE ability to bind specific receptors called RAGE. RAGE expression increases during aging, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, AD [Alzheimer’s], PD [Parkinson’s], and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

A 2015 study by some of the same authors Antiglycative activity of sulforaphane: a new avenue to counteract neurodegeneration? was cited for a treatment in addition to changing one’s diet to be AGE-less.

“When MG production is increased by high glucose or oxidative stress, glycated proteins accumulate in the brain and lead to glycative stress, playing a fundamental role in the establishment of different neurodegenerative disorders.

Our results indicated that SF [sulforaphane] counteracts ROS by two possible mechanisms of action: an increase of intracellular GSH [glutathione] levels and an enhancement of MG-detoxification through the up-regulation of the glyoxalase (GLO1) systems. GLO1 up-regulation is mediated by the transcription factor Nrf2. SF has been demonstrated to activate Nrf2.

Another mechanism by which SF exerts its neuroprotective activity against MG-induced glycative damage is the modulation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways involved in apoptotic cell death. All MAPK signaling pathways are activated in AD.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is associated with neuronal survival through its interactions with the tyrosine receptor kinase B (TrkB) and p75 cellular receptors. BDNF expression levels are reduced in the brain of AD patients. SF pre-treatment, before MG addition, not only further increased BDNF levels, but also significantly induced TrkB protein levels reverting MG negative effect on this receptor.

SF totally reverts the reduction of glucose uptake caused by MG exposure. SF can be defined as a multitarget agent modulating different cellular functions leading to a pro-survival frame of particular importance in the prevention / counteraction of multifactorial neurodegenerative diseases.”

A 2020 review Non-enzymatic covalent modifications: a new link between metabolism and epigenetics investigated glycation:

“Non-enzymatic covalent modifications (NECMs) by chemically reactive metabolites have been reported to manipulate chromatin architecture and gene transcription. Unlike canonical post-translational modifications (PTMs), NECMs accumulate over time and are much more dependent on the cellular microenvironment.

A. Guanine residues in DNA and RNA can undergo methylglyoxal glycation, thereby inducing DNA and RNA damage. This DNA damage has few corresponding repair pathways.

B. Histones are primary glycation substrates because of their long half-lives and abundant lysine and arginine residues. Histone glycation was found to induce epigenetic dysregulation through three distinct mechanisms:

  1. Competition with essential enzymatic PTMs for sites (e.g., glycation adducts replace H3K4me3 and H3R8me2);
  2. Changing the charge states of histone tails and subsequently affecting the compaction state of the fiber; and
  3. Altering three-dimensional chromatin architecture by inducing both histone-histone and histone-DNA crosslinking.

Epigenetic impacts of histone glycation were shown to be dependent on sugar concentration and exposure time. Histone and DNA glycation may lead to long term epigenetic impacts on immune responses.

C. Glycation of multiple lysine residues of NRF2 inhibits its oncogenic function. Sugar molecules can influence epigenetic events through glycation of transcription factors and/or their associated regulatory proteins.”

The Transcription factor glycation section referenced a 2011 paper Regulation of the Keap1/Nrf2 system by chemopreventive sulforaphane: implications of posttranslational modifications:

“Nrf2 mRNA level is unaffected by treatment with sulforaphane, suggesting that cellular expression of Nrf2 protein is posttranscriptionally regulated. Posttranslational modifications of Keap1 and Nrf2 proteins seem to play an important role in the regulation of ARE‐dependent gene expression.”

Other curated AGEs papers include:

Broccoli sprout synergies

I was asked for examples of broccoli sprout synergies with supplements mentioned in Week 19 of Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts. I take them together an hour or two before meals to keep meal contents from lowering sulforaphane bioavailability. Sulforaphane peaks in plasma between 1 and 2 hours after ingestion.

sulforaphane peak plasma

I started splitting broccoli sprout doses after reading the first study of A pair of broccoli sprout studies. The second study was Untargeted metabolomic screen reveals changes in human plasma metabolite profiles following consumption of fresh broccoli sprouts.

Those subjects ate only “a single dose of fresh broccoli sprouts (providing 200 μmol SFN equivalents) at 8 AM on study day 1.” A 200 μmol amount of sulforaphane is a 35 mg weight.

For comparison, my daily consumption is a worst-case 52 mg sulforaphane from microwaving 131 g of 3-day-old broccoli sprouts per Estimating daily consumption of broccoli sprout compounds. Every day for 22 weeks now. 🙂

The second study’s measurements through 48 hours produced this informative graphic and text:

“Of the features we identified using metabolite databases and classified as endogenous, eleven were significantly altered.

  • Glutathione (GSH) – a major intracellular antioxidant that conjugates with SFN during metabolism – was significantly decreased in plasma at 6, 12 and 24 hours following sprout intake.
  • GSH precursors glutamine (3 and 24 hours) and cysteine (12 and 24 hours) also decreased.
  • We observed significant decreases in dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) at 3, 6 and 12 hours.
  • Decreases in fatty acids reported here suggest that even a single dose of broccoli sprouts may alter plasma lipids in healthy adult populations.

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

Supplements I take twice daily with broccoli sprouts:

  • 1 gram L-glutamine for replenishment and other purposes;
  • 25 mg DHEA to replenish and other effects;
  • 15 mg then 50 mg zinc, which has a role in GSH metabolism;
  • 500 mg glucosamine (anti-inflammatory, crosstalk with Nrf2 signaling pathway);
  • 500 mg acetyl-L-carnitine (induces Nrf2-dependent mitochondrial biogenesis); and
  • 1400 IU then 2000 IU Vitamin D. A major portion of its effects is Nrf2 activation, like sulforaphane. A virtuous circle develops when taken with broccoli sprouts in that the Vitamin D receptor is a Nrf2 target gene inducible by sulforaphane, which then upregulates Nrf2 expression levels.

One of the things eating Boring Chicken Vegetable Soup twice a day does is replenish cysteine. I eat that and steel-cut oats (another cysteine source) separately from broccoli sprouts.

I take 1 gram flax oil with breakfast and dinner instead of with broccoli sprouts. Haven’t found relevant research on whether broccoli sprout compounds decrease omega-3 polyunsaturated alpha linolenic acid C18:3 as they do these six endogenous fatty acids.

Both studies investigated effects of fresh broccoli sprouts. Timing of their measured decreases and increases are different for me because I microwave broccoli sprouts up to but not exceeding 60°C (140°F).

A section of Microwave broccoli seeds to create sulforaphane highlighted metabolic differences among fresh broccoli sprouts, microwaved broccoli sprouts, and broccoli sprout supplements.

“A metabolic profile resulting from my current practices is probably between the Sprout and BSE (broccoli sprout extract) divided-dose statistics:

  1. Sulforaphane intake is greater than eating raw broccoli sprouts because microwaving 3-day-old broccoli sprouts creates an increased amount of sulforaphane in them before eating.
  2. Sulforaphane uptake from microwaved broccoli sprouts is quicker than eating raw broccoli sprouts. It may not be as immediate as taking sulforaphane supplements, which are usually powders.
  3. Sulforaphane dose from microwaved broccoli sprouts is less dependent on an individual’s metabolism than eating raw broccoli sprouts.
  4. Sulforaphane release from microwaved broccoli sprouts continues on to the gut as does eating raw broccoli sprouts. Sulforaphane release from supplements typically ends in the stomach.”

One thing I didn’t mention in that blog post was that glucoraphanin also increased by microwaving per Microwave broccoli to increase sulforaphane levels. A coauthor clarified a chart’s 60°C (140°F) glucoraphanin amount increased by 27% (2.78 / 2.18 μmol).

Metabolism of broccoli sprout glucoraphanin and other glucosinolates that aren’t preferentially hydrolyzed by microwaving and thorough chewing is assisted in the gut twice a day by:

  • 6 billion IU acidophilus; and
  • 750 mg fructo-oligosaccharides.


If you can stand the woo of two Californians trying to outwoo each other, listen to these five podcasts with a sleep scientist.

“Ambien, sedation, hypnotives, are not sleep.

Sleep is a life support system. It’s the Swiss army knife of health.

Lack of sleep is like a broken water pipe in your home that leaks down into every nook and cranny of your physiology.

Sleep research is not being transmitted to clinical practice.”

I live on the US East Coast. Hyperbole in normal conversations outside of urban centers is an exception.

It’s different on the West Coast. For example:

  • Interviewer assertions regarding heart rate variability should be compared and contrasted with Dead physiological science zombified by psychological research evidence that:

    “A broad base of further evidence was amassed within human cardiac, circulatory, and autonomic physiology such that the hypotheses do not work as described.”

  • Interviewer favorable comments for MDMA (Ecstasy) “to deal with issues of underlying trauma, anxiety, and depression.”

Sulforaphane and RNAs

This 2020 Texas review subject was long non-coding RNAs:

“We review the emerging significance of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNA) as downstream targets and upstream regulators of the Nrf2 signaling pathway, a critical mediator of diverse cellular processes linked to increased cell survival.

It is believed that more than 3% of human genes are regulated by the Nrf2/Keap1 pathway. In addition to the classical cytoprotective and oxidative stress response genes transactivated by Nrf2, emerging evidence suggests a role for non-coding transcript regulation at the level of noncoding RNAs, [which] far outnumber protein-coding genes in the human genome.

One important distinction between miRNAs and lncRNAs is that the latter are often species-specific, meaning that a human lncRNA typically cannot be studied in the mouse or rat, and vice versa.

Sulforaphane (SFN) acts via multiple mechanisms to modulate gene expression, including the induction of Nrf2-dependent signaling. In addition to the established canonical targets of Nrf2, such as NQO1 and HMOX1, SFN altered the expression of multiple lncRNAs.

Given that SFN induces NMRAL2P [a lncRNA pseudogene] and several other lncRNAs in colon cancer cells, further studies are warranted on their respective roles as upstream regulators and/or downstream targets of Nrf2 signaling.

Pharmacological modulation of Nrf2 is considered a viable strategy against chronic conditions that are accompanied by oxidative stress and inflammation:

  • DMF [dimethyl fumurate] is the most successful Nrf2 activator, FDA-approved in 2013 for the treatment of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. However, DMF causes leukopenia and other side-effects.
  • Bardoxolone cleared Phase II clinical trials for the treatment of advanced chronic kidney disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus, but was halted in Phase III trials due to cardiovascular concerns.
  • SFN is relatively unstable at room temperature.

We used reported bioinformatics approaches to search for putative ARE [antioxidant response element] sequences among the entire set of 16,000+ annotated human lncRNAs. 13,285 promoter regions contained one or more potential binding sites for Nrf2.” “Emerging crosstalk between long non-coding RNAs and Nrf2 signaling”

This study hyped lncRNAs in that only 7 have been validated as Nrf2 targets, and 8 validated as Nrf2 regulators. For regulators, “protein and/or miRNA interacting partners are yet to be fully corroborated” as well.

Also, there’s no need for a “SFN is relatively unstable at room temperature” problem. Just create sulforaphane right before consuming it.

Twice a day I microwave an average 65.5 grams of 3-day-old broccoli sprouts immersed in 100 ml water with a 1000W microwave on full power for 35 seconds to achieve 60°C. After microwaving I transfer broccoli sprouts to a strainer, and wait five minutes to allow further myrosinase hydrolization of glucoraphanin and other glucosinolates into sulforaphane and other healthy compounds.

Are sulforaphane supplements better than microwaved broccoli sprouts?

Armando asked a good question in Upgrade your brain’s switchboard with broccoli sprouts:

“Is there any way to consume sulphorafane in a supplement form? Rather than have to jump so many hops to consume it from broccoli.”

That blog post referenced a 2017 study, whose sulforaphane amount was:

“100 µmol [17.3 mg] sulforaphane as standardized broccoli sprout extract in the form of 2 gel capsules.”

One answer in A pair of broccoli sprout studies was No:

  • “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%.”

That study was from 2015, though. Are better products than broccoli sprout extracts available now?

Image from the US Library of Congress

During Week 5 of Changing an inflammatory phenotype with broccoli sprouts, back in May when I still believed impossible things like we would:

I contacted a distributor of a dried broccoli sprout powder for evidence of their claim:

“Independent assays confirm that EnduraCELL yields more Sulforaphane per gram and per dose than any other broccoli sprout ingredient available! These assays showed that EnduraCell yields around 3.5 times more SULFORAPHANE than the next highest broccoli sprout product.”

I’ve asked three times for the lab assays. They declined each time to provide the data. In correspondence the company founder said:

“Each 700 mg capsules yields around 15mg sulforaphane.”

The company founder has written several reviews, one of which is entitled Sulforaphane and Other Nutrigenomic Nrf2 Activators: Can the Clinician’s Expectation Be Matched by the Reality? In Section 6.5 Sulforaphane it stated:

“By calculation, MYR [myrosinase]-active whole broccoli sprout supplement yielding 1% SFN could deliver 10 mg SFN per gram of powder, corresponding to ~12 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts (dried powder retains ~8% moisture).

The 2017 study’s dosage of “100 µmol [17.3 mg] sulforaphane as standardized broccoli sprout extract” weighed a gram or less, for a 1.73% sulforaphane yield. A broccoli sprout powder may have a 15 mg / 700 mg = 2.14% sulforaphane yield.

Using calculations from Estimating daily consumption of broccoli sprout compounds and Our model clinical trial for Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts, I eat 131 grams of 3-day-old broccoli sprouts daily. That would be 131 g / 12 = 10.9 grams of a broccoli sprout powder.

The equivalent sulforaphane dosage would be 10.9 g x 21.4 mg per gram = 233.3 mg! That’s obviously too high. What isn’t right?

Subsequent investigation of a distributor’s site found this table:

autism sprout powder

The study referenced for equivalence was Sulforaphane treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Calculations:

  • The 100 µmol sulforaphane amount for 90 kg participants weighed 17.73 mg per
  • The equivalent broccoli sprout powder sulforaphane yield is 0.01773 / 3.6 g = 0.4925%. That’s 5 mg of sulforaphane per gram of broccoli sprout powder.
  • 0.4925% / 2.14 % = 0.23. Decrementing the above sulforaphane weight gives 233.3 mg x .23 = 54 mg.

The answer to my question What isn’t right? I relied on private correspondence rather than what a vendor publicly disclosed.

I’m not particularly concerned about analytical uncertainties for myself. Whatever the numbers are, microwaving techniques for fresh broccoli sprouts increase them.

I immerse 3-day-old broccoli sprouts in 100 ml distilled water, then microwave them on 1000W full power for 35 seconds to achieve up to but not exceeding 60°C (140°F) per Microwave broccoli to increase sulforaphane levels. Worst-case estimates are 52 mg sulforaphane with microwaving.

My answer to Armando’s question would be No for sulforaphane supplements. I’d consider a whole broccoli sprout powder after lab assays were personally verified.

Part 2 of Do broccoli sprouts treat migraines?

To follow up Do broccoli sprouts treat migraines? which used a PubMed “sulforaphane migraine” search, a PubMed “diindolylmethane” search came across a 2020 Czech human cell study Antimigraine Drug Avitriptan Is a Ligand and Agonist of Human Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor that Induces CYP1A1 in Hepatic and Intestinal Cells that had this informative Introduction:

“The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) transcriptionally controls a wide array of genes. AhR is a critical player in human physiology (e.g., hematopoiesis) and also in many pathophysiological processes such as diabetes, carcinogenesis, inflammation, infection or cardiovascular diseases.

Suitable candidates for off-targeting AhR could be the antimigraine drugs of triptan class, which have an indole core in their structure. Indole-based compounds were demonstrated as ligands of AhR, including dietary indoles (e.g., indole-3-carbinol and diindolylmethane).”

Adding AhR to the search showed:

Changing the PubMed search to “icz migraine” pulled up a 2013 review Biomedical Importance of Indoles that described sumatriptan as an indole, and:

“Since DIM accumulates in the cell nucleus, it likely contributes to cell nuclear events that have been ascribed to I3C.”

Widening the search to “i3c ahr” added:

Changing the search to “i3c migraine” picked up a 2011 UK human study Effect of diindolylmethane supplementation on low-grade cervical cytological abnormalities: double-blind, randomised, controlled trial:

“In the study reported here, there was no statistically significant difference in serious adverse events between groups; in fact a higher proportion of women in the placebo group reported a serious adverse event. Although this study did not have sufficient power to study migraines, we did find a non-significant increase in reported headaches (18% on DIM, 12% on placebo, P=0.12).”

Returning to the original PubMed “sulforaphane migraine” search, Bioavailability of Sulforaphane Following Ingestion of Glucoraphanin-Rich Broccoli Sprout and Seed Extracts with Active Myrosinase: A Pilot Study of the Effects of Proton Pump Inhibitor Administration included one subject who took migraine medication. They weren’t a study outlier, however.

Although indole chemistry indicates a broccoli sprouts – migraine connection, I haven’t found relevant research. Maybe the known properties and actions of broccoli sprout compounds provide enough to affect causes of migraines?

See Part 3 to follow up.

Day 70 results from Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts

Here are my Day 70 measurements* to follow up Our model clinical trial for Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts, which had these findings:

Keep in mind that I’m not in the population represented by the clinical trial sample:

  1. My chronological age is above their inclusion range;
  2. My BMI is below their inclusion range; and
  3. I take supplements and meet other exclusion criteria.

I also didn’t take Day 0 measurements.

June 2019 BMI: 24.8

June 2020 BMI: 22.4

2020 IL-6: 1.0 pg / ml. See Part 2 of Rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane for comparisons.

2020 C-reactive protein: < 1 mg / l.

2019 and 2020 No biological age measurements. Why aren’t epigenetic clocks standard and affordable?

I’ve made four lifestyle “interventions” since last summer:

  1. In July 2019 I started to reduce 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 non-prescription daily treatments of Vitamin D, zinc, and DHEA per clinical trial Reversal of aging and immunosenescent trends.
  3. Also in September, I started non-prescription intermittent quercetin treatments of Preliminary findings from a senolytics clinical trial.
  4. I started eating broccoli sprouts every day eleven weeks ago.

1. Broccoli sprouts oppose effects of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) provided examples of Items 1 and 4 interactions.

2. Two examples of Item 2 treatment interactions with Item 4 are in Reversal of aging and immunosenescent trends with sulforaphane:

  • “The effects of the combined treatment with BSE [broccoli sprout extract] and zinc were always greater than those of single treatments.”
  • “Vitamin D administration decreased tumor incidence and size, and the co-administration with SFN [sulforaphane] magnified the effects. The addition of SFN decreased the activity of histone deacetylase and increased autophagy.”

3. How broccoli sprout compounds may complement three supplements I take was in a 2020 review Central and Peripheral Metabolic Defects Contribute to the Pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease: Targeting Mitochondria for Diagnosis and Prevention:

“The nutrients benefit mitochondria in four ways, by:

  • Ameliorating oxidative stress, for example, lipoic acid;
  • Activating phase II enzymes that improve antioxidant defenses, for example, sulforaphane;
  • Enhancing mitochondrial remodeling, for example, acetyl-l-carnitine; and
  • Protecting mitochondrial enzymes and/or stimulating mitochondrial enzyme activities, for example, enzyme cofactors, such as B vitamins and coenzyme Q10 .

In addition to using mitochondrial nutrients individually, the combined use of mitochondrial nutrients may provide a better strategy for mitochondrial protection.”

The review provided a boatload of mitochondrial multifactorial analyses for Alzheimer’s. But these analyses didn’t include effective mitochondrial treatments of ultimate aging causes. I didn’t see evidence of why, after fifteen years of treating mitochondrial effects with supplements, treating one more effect could account for my Week 9 vastly different experiences.

I nod to An environmental signaling paradigm of aging explanations. Its Section 10 reviewed IL-6, C-reactive protein, senescence, and NF-κB in terms of feedback loops, beginning with:

“It is clear that the increasing number of senescent cells depends on the post-adult developmental stage rather than chronological age. The coincidence that these processes result in particular forms of impairment in old age does not seem to be random as it is present in all mammals, and may be causative of many aspects of aging.”

A derived hypothesis: After sufficient strength and duration, broccoli sprout compounds changed my signaling environment, with appreciable effects beginning in Week 9.

I offered weak supporting evidence in Upgrade your brain’s switchboard with broccoli sprouts where a study’s insufficient one week duration of an insufficient daily 17.3 mg sulforaphane dosage still managed to change a blood antioxidant that may have changed four thalamus-brain-area metabolites. For duration and weight comparisons, I doubled my daily amount of broccoli seeds from one to two tablespoons just before Week 6 (Day 35), and from that point onward consumed a estimated 30 52 mg sulforaphane with microwaving 3-day-old broccoli sprouts every day.

Maybe a promised “In a submitted study, we will report that peripheral GSH levels may be correlated with cognitive functions” will provide stronger evidence? I’m not holding my breath for relevant studies because:

  • There wouldn’t be potential payoffs for companies to study any broccoli sprout compound connections with research areas such as aging, migraines, etc. Daily clinically-relevant broccoli sprout dosages can be grown for < $500 a year.
  • Sponsors would have to change paradigms, a very-low-probability event. They’d have to explain why enormous resources dedicated to current frameworks haven’t produced effective long-term treatments.

What long-term benefits could be expected if I continue eating broccoli sprouts every day?

The longest relevant clinical trial I’ve seen – referenced in Part 2 of Reversal of aging and immunosenescent trends with sulforaphane – was twelve weeks. Part 2 also provided epigenetic clock examples of changes measured after 9 months, which accelerated from there to the 12-month end-of-trial point.

Reviewing clinical trials of broccoli sprouts and their compounds pointed out:

“Biomarkers of effect need more time than biomarkers of exposure to be influenced by dietary treatment.”

A contrary argument: Perhaps people don’t require long durations to effectively change their signaling environments?

I apparently didn’t start eating an effective-for-me daily broccoli sprouts dosage until Day 35, when I changed from one to two tablespoons of broccoli seeds a day. If so, Weeks 6 through 8 may account for my substantial responses during Week 9.

  • Could eating broccoli sprouts every day for four weeks dramatically change a person’s signaling environment?
  • Do you have four weeks and $38 to find out? Two tablespoons of broccoli seeds = 38 21.4 g x 30 days = .642 kg or 1.42 lbs.

This is what twice-a-day one-tablespoon starting amounts of broccoli seeds look like through three days:

Maintaining the sprouting process hasn’t been a big effort compared with the benefits.

In the absence of determinative evidence, I’ll continue eating broccoli sprouts every day. Several areas of my annual physical have room for improvements. Extending my four lifestyle “interventions” a few more months may also provide hints toward inadequately researched connections.

* Results may not be extrapolatable to other people, to any specific condition, etc.

Upgrade your brain’s switchboard with broccoli sprouts

Further investigating A claim of improved cognitive function, Part 3 of Rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane offered:

“Improving brain function does not depend on neurogenesis as much as it does on synapse formation and factors such as NMDA receptors which decline in density with age.”

A PubMed “sulforaphane NMDA receptors” search turned up a 2019 cell study The glutathione cycle shapes synaptic glutamate activity:

Sulforaphane is a potent inducer of the Nrf2 transcription factor, has blood–brain barrier penetration, and might expand the size of the glutathione reservoir by our observation that it increases expression of GCL [glutamate cysteine ligase], the rate-limiting step in glutathione biogenesis. Our recent study in human subjects revealed that sulforaphane elevates peripheral glutathione levels and those of other brain metabolites.”

The referenced study was a 2017 Sulforaphane Augments Glutathione and Influences Brain Metabolites in Human Subjects: A Clinical Pilot Study:

“We found that the naturally occurring isothiocyanate sulforaphane increased blood GSH [reduced glutathione] levels in healthy human subjects following 7 days of daily oral administration. In parallel, we explored the potential influence of sulforaphane on brain GSH levels in the anterior cingulate cortex, hippocampus, and thalamus via 7-T magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

A significant positive correlation between blood and thalamic GSH post- and pre-sulforaphane treatment ratios was observed, in addition to a consistent increase in brain GSH levels in response to treatment. The sulforaphane response in brain GSH levels is not influenced by age, sex, or race.

The participants were given 100 µmol sulforaphane as standardized broccoli sprout extract in the form of 2 gel capsules, and instructed to ingest the extract each morning for 1 week.

Following sulforaphane administration, the increase in blood GSH was positively correlated with GABA, Gln [glutamine], Glu [glutamate], and GSH in the THAL [thalamus]. Although these correlations were not significant following multiple comparison, they remain suggestive. Power analysis calculations suggest that a sample size of n = 50 would yield a significant result, and this will be the focus of a future study.

As has been reported for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, longer treatment duration and/or higher dosages may be warranted. In a submitted study, we will report that peripheral GSH levels may be correlated with cognitive functions.”

One week of consuming sulforaphane wasn’t long enough to achieve much. Not enough subjects and “higher dosages may be warranted” were also thrown in to explain the lack of significant results.

Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease estimated the “100 µmol sulforaphane” dosage to be 17.3 mg. Worst-case estimates made in Estimating daily consumption of broccoli sprout compounds are that since doubling the starting amount of broccoli seeds from one to two tablespoons in Week 6, I’ve consumed 30 52 mg sulforaphane with microwaving 3-day-old broccoli sprouts every day.

Something happened where the promised “In a submitted study, we will report that peripheral GSH levels may be correlated with cognitive functions” either wasn’t performed or wasn’t published. The follow-on 2019 study became a cell study instead of a 50+ person study.

The study’s thalamus findings provided plausible explanations for why eating a clinically relevant amount of broccoli sprouts every day since at least Week 6, Week 9 was so much different from the others. Sulforaphane changed a blood antioxidant which may have changed four thalamus metabolites.

The thalamus part of our brain is analogous to a switchboard. Signals pass through it to and from other brain areas.

Signals can be routed better when we clean up and upgrade wiring, and lower circuit resistance.

A review of sulforaphane and aging

This 2019 Mexican review stated:

“We describe some of the molecular and physical characteristics of SFN, its mechanisms of action, and the effects that SFN treatment induces in order to discuss its relevance as a ‘miraculous’ drug to prevent aging and neurodegeneration. SFN has been shown to modulate several cellular pathways in order to activate diverse protective responses, which might allow avoiding cancer and neurodegeneration as well as improving cellular lifespan and health span.

NF-κB is in charge of inflammatory response regulation. Under basal conditions, NF-κB is sequestrated into the cytosol by IκB, but when pro-inflammatory ligands bind to its receptors, the IKK protein family phosphorylates IκB to degrade it via proteasome, so NF-κB is able to translocate into the nucleus and transcript several inflammatory mediators. Sulforaphane is capable to inhibit IκB phosphorylation and NF-κB nuclear translocation.

SFN upregulated Nrf2 expression by reducing DNA demethylation levels of the Nrf2 promoter. In another model using the triple-transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease (3 × Tg-AD), the use of SFN regulates the expression of the Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) via HDAC inhibition, thus increasing H3 and H4 acetylation on the BDNF promoter. Enhancing BDNF expression as an effect of SFN treatment increased the neuronal content of several synaptic molecules like MAP 2, synaptophysin, and PSD-95 in primary cortical neurons of 3 × Tg-AD.” “Sulforaphane – role in aging and neurodegeneration”

I came across this review while searching PubMed for sulforaphane commonalities with presentation topics in Part 2 of Reversal of aging and immunosenescent trends with sulforaphane. The review outlined some aging aspects and presented relevant sulforaphane studies. Others such as eye and muscle decline weren’t addressed.

Since sulforaphane’s “a ‘miraculous’ drug” in the Abstract, I expected but didn’t see corresponding excitement in the review body. Just phrases like “it is known” and non-specific “more research is needed.”

Other papers published after this review were found by a PubMed “sulforaphane signal aging” search:

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.”

Study assessment:

“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

Study assessment:

“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.