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 worst-case 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 at least 76 131 grams of 3-day-old broccoli sprouts daily. That would be 76 131 g / 12 = 6.3 10.9 grams of a broccoli sprout powder.

The equivalent sulforaphane dosage would be 6.3 10.9 g x 21.4 mg per gram = 135 233.3 mg! That’s obviously too high.

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 30 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?

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.

Week 10 of Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts

To follow up Week 9 of Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts:

1. I increased three of eight upper body exercises by 50% through adding another set. I did it because I didn’t feel muscle exhaustion after two sets like I’d previously felt. 🙂

Cognitively, see A claim of improved cognitive function and its follow on Upgrade your brain’s switchboard with broccoli sprouts.

2. It’s been inspirational at times, and at other times, dull, duller, dullest, to do what’s necessary and keep on track. But the efforts paid off when Week 9 was unlike any previous week!

I expressed appreciation in Our model clinical trial for Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts because scientific evidence provides great bases for intentional behavior. It’s still up to me to voluntarily carry out my part. And why wouldn’t I act when my healthspan and lifespan are the consequences? Except…

What if I’d been:

  • Tired of the hassle, or bored with self-imposed discipline, or lazy, and quit?
  • Projecting personal problems onto others, such that improving my present and future became less important than act-outs?
  • Distracted by, or believed propaganda, or participated in Madness of Crowds behavioral contagion, and missed day after day of required actions?

I may not have ever experienced Week 9’s intermediate-term benefits!

If I keep going past ten weeks, what long-term benefits could be expected?

Our model clinical trial didn’t say how researchers decided on a ten-week period for subjects to consume broccoli sprouts every day. I asked a study coauthor about trial duration, but no answer yet.

A few of the same coauthors answered generally in Reviewing clinical trials of broccoli sprouts and their compounds:

Biomarkers of effect are early stage end-points, for instance the modulation of phase 2 enzymes by glucosinolates. They need more time than biomarkers of exposure to be influenced by the dietary treatment.

Hence, length or duration of the study must be defined according to the biomarker measured to be modified, that is, to define perfectly the time of exposure to observe changes in relevant parameters. Gene expression is one important target for glucosinolates, and it requires a sufficient period of exposure to (de)activate signaling pathways involved.

It is crucial to find appropriate biomarkers of effect that are linked to later disease outcomes, and more investigation is needed in this sense. Post-study follow-up can be of great value in assessing the persistence of certain effects, or in discovering those that appear more long-term.

3. I’ll go into a clinic on Sunday for Day 70 truth tests. Here they are: Day 70 results from Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts!

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.

Trained immunity responses to bacterial infections

This 2019 Swiss rodent study investigated immune responses to five types of bacterial infections:

“The innate immune system recalls a challenge to adapt to a secondary challenge, a phenomenon called trained immunity. Trained immunity protected mice from a large panel of clinically relevant bacterial pathogens inoculated systematically and locally to induce peritonitis, enteritis and pneumonia.

Induction of trained immunity remodeled bone marrow and blood cellular compartments, providing efficient barriers against bacterial infections. Protection was remarkably broad when considering the pathogens and sites of infection tested.

We are running experiments to delineate the length of protection conferred by trained immunity. Trained immunity is most typically induced with β-glucan.

Mice were injected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Trained mice survived better than control mice (31% vs. 0% survival) and had 10-fold less bacteria in blood 2 days post-infection.

Mice were challenged with a lethal dose of Listeria monocytogenes. Most strikingly, all trained mice survived infection while all control mice died within 5 days. Bacteria were not detected in blood collected from trained mice 2 and 3 days post-infection.”

One of the coauthors also published: “Trained immunity confers broad-spectrum protection against bacterial infections”

A review of fetal adverse events

This 2019 Australian review subject was fetal adversities:

“Adversity during the perinatal period is a significant risk factor for the development of neurodevelopmental disorders long after the causative event. Despite stemming from a variety of causes, perinatal compromise appears to have similar effects on the developing brain, thereby resulting in behavioural disorders of a similar nature.

These behavioural disorders occur in a sex‐dependent manner, with males affected more by externalizing behaviours such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and females by internalizing behaviours such as anxiety. The term ‘perinatal compromise’ serves as an umbrella term for intrauterine growth restriction, maternal immune activation, prenatal stress, early life stress, premature birth, placental dysfunction, and perinatal hypoxia.

The above conditions are associated with imbalanced excitatory-inhibitory pathways resulting from reduced GABAergic signalling. Methylation of the GAD1/GAD67 gene, which encodes the key glutamate‐to‐GABA synthesizing enzyme Glutamate Decarboxylase 1, resulting in increased levels of glutamate is one epigenetic mechanism that may account for a tendency towards excitation in disorders such as ADHD.

The posterior cerebellum’s role in higher executive functioning is becoming well established due to its connections with the prefrontal cortex, association cortices, and limbic system. It is now suggested that disruptions to cerebellar development, which can occur due to late gestation compromises such as preterm birth, can have a major impact on the region of the brain to which it projects.

Activation of the maternal hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and placental protection. Psychological stress is perceived by the maternal HPA axis, which stimulates cortisol release from the maternal adrenal gland.

High levels of maternal cortisol are normally prevented from reaching the fetus by the 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 2 (HSD11B2) enzyme, which converts cortisol to the much less active cortisone. Under conditions of high maternal stress, this protective mechanism can be overwhelmed, with the gene encoding the enzyme becoming methylated, which reduces its expression allowing cortisol to cross the placenta and reach the fetus.”

The reviewers extrapolated many animal study findings to humans, although most of their own work was with guinea pigs. The “suggest” and “may” qualifiers were used often – 22 and 37 times, respectively. More frequent use of the “appears,” “hypothesize,” “propose,” and “possible” terms was justified.

As a result, many reviewed items such as the above graphic and caption should be viewed as hypothetical for humans rather than reflecting solid evidence from quality human studies.

The reviewers focused on the prenatal (before birth) period more than the perinatal (last trimester of pregnancy to one month after birth) period. There were fewer mentions of birth and early infancy adversities. “Perinatal compromise contributes to programming of GABAergic and Glutamatergic systems leading to long-term effects on offspring behaviour” (not freely available)

Too cheap for clinical trials

Let’s compare and contrast a 2019 meta-analysis and a 2017 review of using acetyl-L-carnitine to treat diabetic neuropathy.

A 2019 Brazilian meta-analysis Acetyl‐L‐carnitine for the treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy of four previous trials stated:

  • “The risk of bias was high in both trials of different ALC doses and low in the other two trials.
  • No included trial measured the proportion of participants with at least moderate (30%) or substantial (50%) pain relief.
  • At doses greater than 1500 mg/day, ALC reduced pain more than placebo. This subgroup analysis should be viewed with caution as the evidence was even less certain than the overall analysis, which was already of very low certainty.
  • The placebo-controlled studies did not measure functional impairment and disability scores.
  • No study used validated symptom scales.
  • Two studies were funded by the manufacturer of ALC and the other two studies had at least one co-author who was a consultant for an ALC manufacturer.

Authors’ conclusions:

  • We are very uncertain whether ALC causes a reduction in pain after 6 to 12 months treatment in people with DPN, when compared with placebo, as the evidence is sparse and of low certainty.
  • Data on functional and sensory impairment and symptoms are lacking, or of very low certainty.
  • The evidence on adverse events is too uncertain to make any judgements on safety.”

A 2017 Italian review Effects of acetyl-L-carnitine in diabetic neuropathy and other geriatric disorders stated:

“A long history of diabetes mellitus and increasing age are associated with the onset of diabetic neuropathy, a painful and highly disabling complication with a prevalence peaking at 50% among elderly diabetic patients. The management of diabetic neuropathy is extremely difficult: in addition to the standard analgesics used for pain control, common treatments include opioids, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and local anesthetics, alone or in combination. Such therapies still show a variable, often limited efficacy, however.

Many patients do not spontaneously report their symptoms to physicians, but, if asked, they often describe having experienced a persistent and non-abating pain for many years. The prevalence of painful symptoms is just as high in patients with mild neuropathy as in those with more advanced DPN.

Through the donation of acetyl groups, ALC exerts a positive action on mitochondrial energy metabolism. ALC has cytoprotective, antioxidant, and antiapoptotic effects in the nervous system.

ALC has also been proposed for the treatment of other neurological and psychiatric diseases, such as mood disorders and depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease, given that synaptic energy states and mitochondrial dysfunctions are core factors in their pathogenesis. Compared to other treatments, ALC is safe and extremely well tolerated.”

“In nerve injury, the mGlu2 receptor overexpressed by ALC binds the glutamate, reducing its concentration in the synapses with an analgesic effect. ALC may improve nerve regeneration and damage repair after primary nerve trauma.”

Where will the money come from to realize what the 2017 review promised, as well as provide what the 2019 meta-analysis required?

Do we prefer the current “limited efficacy” treatments of “opioids, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and local anesthetics?”

Who will initiate clinical trials of a multiple of the normal dietary supplement dose (500 mg at $.25 a day, retail)? How profitable is a product whose hypothetical effective dosage for diabetic neuropathy (3000 mg) sells for only $1.50 a day?

Perinatal stress and sex differences in circadian activity

This 2019 French/Italian rodent study used the PRS model to investigate its effects on circadian activity:

“The aim of this study was to explore the influence of PRS on the circadian oscillations of gene expression in the SCN [suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus] and on circadian locomotor behavior, in a sex-dependent manner.

Research on transcriptional rhythms has shown that more than half of all genes in the human and rodent genome follow a circadian pattern. We focused on genes belonging to four functional classes, namely the circadian clock, HPA axis stress response regulation, signaling and glucose metabolism in male and female adult PRS rats.

Our findings provide evidence for a specific profile of dysmasculinization induced by PRS at the behavioral and molecular level, thus advocating the necessity to include sex as a biological variable to study the set-up of circadian system in animal models.”

“There was a clear-cut effect of sex on the effect of PRS on the levels of activity:

  • During the period of lower activity (light phase), both CONT and PRS females were more active than males. During the light phase, PRS increased activity in males, which reached levels of CONT females.
  • More interestingly, during the period of activity (dark phase), male PRS rats were more active than male CONT rats. In contrast, female PRS rats were less active than CONT females.
  • During the dark phase, CONT female rats were less active than CONT male rats.

The study presented evidence for sex differences in circadian activity of first generation offspring that was caused by stress experienced by the pregnant mother:

“Exposure to gestational stress and altered maternal behavior programs a life-long disruption in the reactive adaptation such as:

  •  A hyperactive response to stress and
  • A defective feedback of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis together with
  • Long-lasting modifications in stress/anti-stress gene expression balance in the hippocampus.”

It would advance science if these researchers carried out experiments to two more generations to investigate possible transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of effects caused by PRS. What intergenerational and transgenerational effects would they possibly find by taking a few more months and extending research efforts to F2 and F3 generations? Wouldn’t these findings likely help humans?

One aspect of the study was troubling. One of the marginally-involved coauthors was funded by the person described in How one person’s paradigms regarding stress and epigenetics impedes relevant research. Although no part of the current study was sponsored by that person, there were three gratuitous citations of their work.

All three citations were reviews. Unlike study researchers, reviewers aren’t bound to demonstrate evidence from tested hypotheses. Reviewers are free to:

  • Express their beliefs as facts;
  • Over/under emphasize study limitations; and
  • Disregard and misrepresent evidence as they see fit.

Fair or not, comparisons of reviews with Cochrane meta-analyses of the same subjects consistently show the extent of reviewers’ biases. Reviewers also aren’t obligated to make post-publication corrections for their errors and distortions.

As such, reviews can’t be cited for reliable evidence. Higher-quality studies that were more relevant and recent than a 1993 review could have elucidated points.

Sucking up to the boss and endorsing their paradigm was predictable. Since that coauthor couldn’t constrain themself to funder citations only in funder studies, it was the other coauthors’ responsibilities to edit out unnecessary citations. “Perinatal Stress Programs Sex Differences in the Behavioral and Molecular Chronobiological Profile of Rats Maintained Under a 12-h Light-Dark Cycle”

OCD and neural plasticity

This 2019 New York rodent study investigated multiple avenues to uncover mechanisms of obsessive-compulsive disorder:

“Psychophysical models of OCD propose that anxiety (amygdala) and habits (dorsolateral striatum) may be causally linked. Numerous genetic and environmental factors may reduce striatum sensitivity and lead to maladaptive overcompensation, potentially accounting for a significant proportion of cases of pathological OCD-like behaviors.

Our results indicate that both the development and reversal of OCD-like behaviors involve neuroplasticity resulting in circuitry changes in BLA-DLS and possibly elsewhere.”

The researchers explored two genetic models of OCD, showed why these insufficiently explained observed phenomena, then followed up with epigenetic investigations. They demonstrated how and the degree to which histone modifications and DNA methylation regulated both the development and reversal of OCD symptoms.

However, the researchers also carelessly cited thirteen papers outside the specific areas of the study to support one statement in the lead paragraph:

“Novel studies propose that modulations in gene expression influenced by environmental factors, are connected to mental health disorders.”

Only one of the thirteen citations was more recent than 2011, and none of them were high-quality studies. “Amelioration of obsessive-compulsive disorder in three mouse models treated with one epigenetic drug: unraveling the underlying mechanism”