Sulforaphane is derived from broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and Bok choi.  There are several mechanisms identified to explain the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor effects of sulforaphane. A primary role is activating Nrf2 which has a powerful cascading effect.

Glucoraphanin in broccoli is converted by myrosinase to sulforaphane. Sulforaphane then activates Nrf2. “Nrf2 provides a powerful solution to overcome free radicals. It’s known as the “master regulator” of our body’s antioxidant response.”  writes Dr. Tracy Gapin (1) Nrf2 regulates antioxidant proteins and enzymes, increasing their production to neutralize free radicals (molecules that attack your cells). These powerful enzymes include catalase, glutathione, and superoxide dismutase (SOD).

Since sulforaphane can cross the blood brain barrier, studies evaluated the effects on the central nervous system both as an antioxidant and a detoxifying agent.

Ischemic stroke—Brain stroke may can cause long-term disability and is leading cause of death. ischemic stokes (lack of oxygen) is the most common type   Studies demonstrate that the antioxidant effect of sulforaphane offers neuroprotection. 

Hemorrhagic strokes are less common but have a higher rate of fatality.  In addition to relieving oxidative stress through the Nr2 activation, using sulforaphane may resolve hematomas using the same pathway.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a cause of death, long term disability with cognitive impairment. Oxidative stress contributes to the pathology. Sulforaphane may protect the neurons from oxidative cell damage.

Parkinson’s Disease is characterized by oxidative stress. Studies with sulforaphane showed protection of the dopaminergic cells from cytotoxicity.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized with increased oxidative stress and decreased cellular defense. Supplementation with sulforaphane improved interaction, abnormal behavior, and verbal communication. (3)

Studies with sulforaphane demonstrate neuroprotective effects that may benefit treatment for stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s, and Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Sulforaphane can cross the blood brain barrier and signal Nrf2 to initiate powerful antioxidant activity.  This powerful antioxidant effect serves to protect the neurons from free radical damage.

 

(1) https://drtracygapin.com/what-is-nrf2/(1)

(2) Yang, Sun T et al “Sulforaphane Protects against Brain Diseases: Roles of Cytoprotective Enzymes” Austin J Cerebrovasc Dis Stroke. 2017 ; 4(1): . doi:10.26420/austinjcerebrovascdisstroke.2017.1054

(#) Zimmerman et al “Sulforaphane Treatment of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – A Progress Report (N1.002”) Neurology April 10, 2018; 90 (15 Supplement) April 22, 2018 https://n.neurology.org/content/90/15_Supplement/N1.002

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