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What is sulforaphane? Why do we need it?

Sulforaphane is a compound that was discovered quite by accident by a group of scientists in the United States in the mid-1990s.

At the time, scientists were researching the anticancer compounds in broccoli, when they discovered that broccoli sprouts contain between 30 and 50 times the concentration of protective compounds compared to mature broccoli plants. One of those compounds was sulforaphane.

Sulforaphane is considered an antioxidant, and also helps promote the production of detoxifying enzymes, which are believed to reduce the risk of cancer. Animal studies have shown that sulforaphane extracts can reduce the frequency, size and amount of cancerous tumors in rats, but these results have yet to be duplicated in humans. Some studies suggest that an increased intake of broccoli and broccoli sprouts that contain sulforaphane may dramatically reduce one's risk of cancer.

How much sulforaphane should I take?

Although recommended daily intake levels have not been established, some providers recommend between 200 and 400 micrograms of sulforaphane daily.

What forms of sulforaphane are available?

Sulforaphane is available in broccoli and broccoli sprouts. Sulforaphane extracts are also available in some nutritional stores.

What can happen if I take too much sulforaphane? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Because sulforaphane is not an essential nutrient, deficiency and toxicity levels have not been established. However, many practitioners recommend between 200 and 400 micrograms of sulforaphane daily. As of this writing, no side-effects or drug interactions with sulforaphane have been reported; however people taking prescription drugs should consult with a licensed health care provider before taking sulforaphane supplements. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care practitioner before taking sulforaphane or any other dietary supplement or herbal remedy.


  • Fahey JW, Zhang Y, Talalay P. Broccoli sprouts: an exceptionally rich source of inducers of enzymes that protect against chemical carcinogens. Proc Natl Acad Sci 1997;94:10367-72.
  • Nestle M. Broccoli sprouts as inducers of carcinogen-detoxifying enzyme systems: clinical, dietary, and policy implications. Proc Natl Acad Sci 1997;94:11149-51.
  • Plumb GW, Lambert N, Chambers SJ, et al. Are whole extracts and purified glucosinolates from cruciferous vegetables antioxidants? Free Radic Res 1996;25:75-86.
  • Talalay P, Zhang Y. Chemoprotection against cancer by isothiocyanates and glucosinolates. Biochem Soc Trans 1996;24:806-10.
  • Verhoeven DT, Goldbohm RA, van Poppel G, et al. Epidemiological studies on brassica vegetables and cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 1996;5:733-48.
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