Sunday, December 15, 2013

Broccoli supplements? Save your money by Jerry Brainum

"I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm president of the United States, and I'm not going to eat broccoli anymore."  With those words, President George H.W Bush likely gained the enmity of broccoli growers all across the country. He was not, however, alone in his dislike of broccoli. Many people express a distaste for broccoli, and other vegetables in the cruciferous class. These include cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, collards, turnips, and watercress. Some studies show that the dislike of these vegetables could have a genetic origin. But one thing is certain: not consuming these vegetables, especially broccoli, amounts to losing some of the most protective elements found in food.
    Although broccoli and other vegetables contain other nutrients, such as folic acid and vitamin C,among others, what makes broccoli stand out as perhaps the most healthful single vegetable that you can eat is its content of substances called isothiocyanates. These include sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol. Sulforaphane shows spectacular health benefits, and may block the onset of the two primary causes of death: cardiovascular disease and cancer. From an exercise and bodybuilding perspective, sulforaphane was recently found to lower levels of myostatin, a protein that works to block muscular growth. Other studies suggest that sulforaphane can lower the activity of aromatase, the enzyme that converts testosterone and other androgens into estrogen. The other key protective element in broccoli, indole-3-carbinol, is converted in the body into diiolymethane or DIM. DIM has the ability to convert the most active form of estrogen, 17-beta estradiol, into less active forms of estrogen, such as 2-methoxyestrogen. The significant of this is that the converted estrogens don't promote cancer, as does 17-beta estradiol.
    Sulphoraphane (SFN) is considered a nutrigenomic  element, in that it has the ability to influence the activity of genes, either turning them on or off. SFN is actually a weak pro-oxidant, but it is has a potent influence on activating NFR-2.  NFR-2 controls the activity of over 200 genes in the body and serves as a major cell defense element. It is sometimes called "the master antioxidant," since it stimulates the activity of several of the endogenous, or built-in antioxidant systems in the body. These systems are far more protective and powerful than any supplemental antioxidant, and when they decrease with age, many degenerative conditions related to increased oxidation begin to show up. These include Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's diease, and cancer. A recent study found that the areas of arteries most prone to atherosclerosis are where the artery bifurcates or curves. These areas lack NRF-2, which causes excessive oxidation.According to the new study, providing SFN permits the build-up of NRF-2 in the deficient areas of the artery, thus preventing the onset of atherosclerosis.
      Two problems related to ingesting broccoli are that some people are born with genetic mutations that cause them to excrete all the SFN they ingest. Another problem is that the SFN content of broccoli can vary widely, with some containing lots of SFN, others barely any. The preparation of frozen broccoli destroys the SFN content, thereby making it worthless as a source of SFN. Broccoli does not actually contain SFN. What it contains is glucoraphanin, which is converted by an enzyme in broccoli called myrosinase, into SFN. This is an important point, because without the presence of myrosinase, the precursor substance, glucoraphanin, isn't converted into SFN, and therefore provides zero protective effects. Myrosinase is activated when broccoli is chewed, with the exposure to moisture releasing the myrosinase.
    SFN offers health protection through activating NRF-2, and also by activating phase-2 enzymes in the liver that serve to detoxify various noxious substances that get into the body, including carcinogens. The knowledge of broccoli's SFN content and health benefits has led to the marketing of broccoli extract supplements, which often feature a "standardized" content of SFN. The problem with this is that SFN is very unstable, which means that in these broccoli extract supplements, there is no active SFN left. What you are ingesting are placebo pills with zero activity. You could supply glucoraphanin, the precursor to SFN, which is much more stable than SFN. But the problem here is that you would also need to provide myrosinase to convert the glucoraphanin  into active SFN. Current broccoli supplements do not provide myrosinase, since it, too, would break down and soon disappear.
    Broccoli sprouts contain the highest amount of glucoraphanin , containing 10 to 100-times more than the mature broccoli. The richest source are broccoli seed, and at least one company sells a supplement based on broccoli seeds. Again, however, without the presence of myrosinase to activate the glucoraphanin into SFN, the products are worthless. The seeds also contain erucic acid, a lipid or fat that is linked to causing various types of heart problems. While you would have to ingest a lot of the broccoli seed extract supplements to ingest enough erucic acid to cause heart problems, the fact that it's in there is still a problem. Another substance in broccoli called the epithiospecifier protein or ESP, can convert the glucoraphanin in broccoli into either SFN or SFN nitrile, with the latter having no protective effects. Clearly, any broccoli supplement should be completely devoid of ESP. However, it's not easy to deactivate the ESP in broccoli without also deactivating the myrosinase, or degrading the glucoraphanin content. Cooking broccoli also deactivates SFN. But if you steam broccoli for 1 to 3 minutes, it will destroy the ESP, but preserve the myrosinase, allowing the conversion of glucoraphanin into active SFN. Microwaving the broccoli for about a minute is nearly as good as steaming it for preservation of SFN content.
     So, for a broccoli extract supplement to provide the considerable health benefits of SFN, it must contain glucoraphanin, not preformed SFN, and also include myrosinase to convert the glucoraphanin into SFN. It should also be devoid of ESP to ensure that only the active form of SFN is produced. You would not want to include any other antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamins C or E, because they would nullify the activity of NRF-2, which is stimulated by oxidation. A problem with including both glucoraphanin and myrosinase in the supplement is that myrosinase is turned on by moisture, and a premature onset of myrosinase activity would convert the glucoraphanin in the product into SFN. Since SFN is not stable, it wouldn't last long. Current products contain only glucoraphanin, with no myrosinase, so are inactive and do not provide SFN at all.
    Companies that sell the broccoli seed extract claim that intestinal bacteria is capable of converting glucoraphanin into SFN. But when this effect has been tested, the amount of SFN produced was inconsequential. You need a lot of SFN to help protect against cancer, although smaller amounts do activate NFR-2. The amount produced by intestinal bacteria from ingested glucoraphanin does neither. When I wrote to the major company that produces broccoli seed extract about this problem, they refused to answer me. They are misleading consumers into believing that their product, with a retail cost of over $20 for 60 capsules, does provide active SFN in appreciable amounts. This, however, is a bold-faced lie. As it stands now, the only way to obtain the valuable SFN is to eat either lightly cooked or raw broccoli  and other cruciferous vegetables. All the broccoli extracts now on the market are completely worthless, and do absolutely nothing to improve health.


                                                 This broccoli supplement is labeled "sulforaphane glucosinolate," which is a meaningless term. In fact, it contains no active sulforaphane at all, just the inactive glucoraphanin precursor.

©,2013 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.

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I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.