Season 1, Episode 4

Detoxing with Broccoli Sprouts

Dr. Jed Fahey is a nutritional biochemist from the Cullman Chemoprotection Center at Johns Hopkins University and cofounder of Brassica Protection Products. He’s one of the world’s leading experts on detoxing with broccoli sprouts and specifically, sulforaphane. His work lead to the discovery that broccoli sprouts are an exceptionally rich source of inducers of the enzyme that detoxifies carcinogens. Whether we like it or not, we all have some exposure, whether it be air pollution, carcinogens in plastics, or even in the food that we eat.

I met Jed at Hopkins, where I learned of his work.  And he’s here today to give you all you need to know based on his 27 years of research. This episode is packed with evidence-based tips on how to incorporate simple habits on the daily to help you live a healthy life.


Detoxing with Broccoli Sprout Expert

“That evidence indicated that this massive antioxidant effect and detoxifying effect, indeed, spares cell from developing mutations. And when sulforaphane or other similar inducers enter the cell, they activate this compound, they release it actually and it migrates to the nucleus and it upregulates or turns on a whole bunch of protective genes.”

Dr. Jed Fahey

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Detoxing with broccoli sprouts

JF: That evidence indicated that this massive antioxidant effect and detoxifying effect, indeed, spares cell from developing mutations. And when sulforaphane (SF) or other similar inducers enter the cell, they activate this compound, they release it actually and it migrates to the nucleus and it upregulates or turns on a whole bunch of protective genes.

JH: Today’s guest is Dr. Jed Fahey. Jed is a nutritional biochemist from the Cullman Chemoprotection Center at Johns Hopkins University and cofounder of Brassica Protection Products. He’s one of the world’s leading experts on broccoli sprouts and specifically, SF. His work lead to the discovery that broccoli sprouts are an exceptionally rich source of inducers of the enzyme that detoxifies carcinogens. Whether we like it or not, we all have some exposure, whether it be air pollution, carcinogens in plastics, or even in the food that we eat.

I met Jed at Hopkins, where I learned of his work.  And he’s here today to give you all you need to know based on his 27 years of research. This episode is packed with evidence-based tips on how to incorporate simple habits to help you live a healthy life.

JH: Welcome Jed.

JF: Thank you. Thanks for having me, Jessica.

JH: Absolutely. We’re excited to have you here. And before we dive into the meat of our discussion today, I want to spend a few minutes getting to know you. I personally know you. You are my former professor, so it’s exciting to have you on. But, I want our listeners to get to know you a bit. So, before we go into our broccoli sprout discussion, can you give us some insight on who you are, where you started out, where you were before you started your work on broccoli sprouts. We want to really get to know you.

Before Detoxing with Broccoli Sprouts was a thing…there was Mars

JF: I initially, in high school, I thought I was going to work in an oyster farm, and aquaculture farm growing oysters, and I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau. This was back when Jacques Cousteau was a really popular character. He had just invented the Aqua-Lung and the diving saucer and that’s where I wanted to be. I then wound up, I played the cello, classical instrument, and I was pretty good if I do say so myself, and by the time I got to the point at which you would audition for music schools, I had decided to do that, and audition at the Juilliard and other places that were on the horizon. And I dropped an air conditioner on one of my fingers on my left hand and for 6 months, I couldn’t play the cello. So, I sort of adapted and applied to college instead. And I went to Johns Hopkins University as an undergraduate, and I studied marine plankton ecology there. Because remember my first love was to be a Jacques Cousteau, a marine biologist. And I then got a master’s degree at the University of Maryland in plant physiology. And I was going to save the world by feeding everybody spirulina. That’s what I worked on for my masters. And I got out of that program and there were no jobs. There were no jobs in marine biology. So, long story short, I wound up working in the biotech industry for about 15 years. And worked on a variety of things, including life on Mars.

JH: That’s pretty cool.

JF: Well there is no life on Mars that we know of.

JH: But the pathway to get us there, the studying of it, is pretty amazing.

JF: Well I can actually call myself an exobiologist for about a year. But the founder of the little company I worked for had designed one of the packages that went up on the Viking Lander to see if there was life on Mars. And we were doing simulations back on Earth in glove boxes, anaerobic glove boxes. So, I spent a year with my hand in a glove box. Obviously, I didn’t help him confirm that there was life on Mars or you would have heard about it.

JH: I probably wouldn’t know you at this point. You’d be so famous or I’d see you on TV all of the time and wouldn’t have had the experience that I had in graduate school.

JF: I was very much under the command of this guy. I was a lowly technician and that was fine. So yeah, we didn’t discover life on Mars. And I had various biotech jobs, and I wound up at Johns Hopkins in 1993. I was brought there by Paul Talalay, who is a very famous pharmacologist and entomologist, and he and colleagues had just rediscovered SF in broccoli. And his challenge to me was, hey can you find us some more potent broccoli that has more SF in it. And as a plant physiologist it seemed logical that I should try that. And one of the things I realized as soon as I got to Hopkins, is that needed or wanted a PhD if I was going to stay there and essentially get any respect or autonomy. Because it’s one of those places where the atmosphere is pretty highly charged and there a lot of good people there.

JH: You have to pave a path for yourself.

JF: Yeah, you have to have the business card and it has to be real. So yeah, I got my doctorate while my wife and I were raising our son. And I did it part time, while I was working full time, and I could have gone and received my diploma on the same day that my son graduated from college. So late in life, I was 50. And so, I’ve been at Hopkins and working there for 27 years. And I just retired virtually at the end of June, because I was locked down up in Maine where my wife and I live now very close to that son that I told you graduate at the same time that I did, and his wife and 2 daughters.

JH: It’s great to be closer to family, I’m sure. And Maine is not a bad place to be locked down – in June for sure. In the winter, maybe not so much.

JF: Totally not. Even in the winter. I don’t mind it. I’m not complaining.

JH: Come visit us down in Florida when it gets to be too much.

JF: I’m ready and vice versa.

JH: So, I want to fast forward a few years. You’re at Hopkins now full time, starting to research broccoli sprouts and SF. Tell us, before we dive in a little more deeply, what is this, why is it important to us? And then we can talk about how it might be used in sort of the practical application. But the A + B = C version of your work.

JF: Sure. This is one of those moments where it would be helpful to be standing in front of a white board or a power point presentation, but on the other hand, I tend to get too much into the details, or too granular when I do that. So, the sort of, broad brush strokes are that back in the late 80’s, early 90’s, I mentioned his name, Paul Talalay had determined, he’s really one of the grandfathers of this field that was just starting then, called chemoprotection. He had determined that there are some compounds that upregulate our bodies’ protective mechanism, meaning they crank up the mechanism for detoxification, the antioxidant mechanisms, or some of them in your body, anti-inflammatory mechanisms. And their initial discovery, and really it was literally a handful of people around the world that were interested in this at the time. And they were approaching it from the perspective of cancer, suggesting that if you could delay the onset of cancer or prevent cancer, that would be a huge win for everybody. Certainly, it would be. No question about that.

So, they actually found some chemicals, some compounds like BHT and BHA, which are commonly used preservatives, antioxidants and preservatives. And they found that these compounds upregulated systems in cultured cells and animals. They looked at the epidemiologic literature on fruits and vegetables and meats and fish and, you know, food, wondering to themselves, is it possible that there is a compound in some foods that actually upregulates these protective systems too. And it was a logical question, because it had already been observed by the late 80s that there were some types of foods that were much more protective against certain diseases. And again, they were looking primarily at cancer.

And the detoxing with broccoli sprouts race was on…

But from a population standpoint or an epidemiologic standpoint, foods that were more protective, and so they started zeroing in on some of them. And broccoli was one of them. And Yueshing Zhang was a physician and PhD student at the time with Paul, and Yueshing and Paul discovered SF in broccoli. Just a tiny bit. And that’s the point at which Paul hired me to come and look, more in depth, at broccoli. And so, we did and I discovered that broccoli sprouts had much higher levels of this compound, and we can come back and talk about that in a minute. But what happened in parallel is that over the decade or decade in a half following that discovery, there was a great search starting with people at Hopkins with Tom Kensler, Paul Talalay, people in Japan, Masi Yamamoto and others, and in England. But again, a small number of people saying ok, this compound is hotter than hell, it really works well in upregulating the bodies protective systems.

How does it do it? And they eventually identified and put on the map, what now turns out to be one of, probably the most important detoxification systems. It’s a nuclear transcription factor called NRF2. What that means is it’s a compound that’s present in the cytoplasm of the cell. And when SF or other similar inducers enter the cell, they activate this compound, they release it actually, and it migrates to the nucleus and it upregulates or turns on a whole bunch of protective genes. And that was the mechanistic discovery of SF. And over the years, and in sort of in parallel to that fleshing out of the NRF2 system, it was discovered that, wow, SF also is fantastic, in and of itself, as a modulator or damping agent of inflammation. And it upregulates the heat shock response, which is a protein protective response, and it’s got direct antibacterial effects against some bacteria and its quite selective. And it actually has antiviral effect, and it detoxifies a variety of toxins and even allergens.

So, all these, sort of, parallel universes started to evolve that SF was actually very good at dealing with. And so, it now turns out that if you try to map, I’ve done this recently. If you try to map out all the interconnections and the pathways and the modes of action, it’s pretty much a spider web of metabolic pathways that SF upregulates. And it does it very well. So therefore, the potential protection, the protective effect extends not just to some cancers, but to a variety of other conditions that we can talk about later.

But it offered so much more than we ever imagined.

JH: That’s incredible. I think this finding is probably much more impressive than, really, I even realized when I started working with you as a grad student. The potential for broccoli sprouts to have protective effects within your whole body in substantial.

And I really want to talk about the microbiome first. This, sort of, foundational aspect of whole body system health. Because it is important for absorption and digestion of SF, and even really metabolizing it when you get this sort of precursor for SF. The microbiome is relatively new to the general public, but has been known for a while in the scientific community. Many of the studies if we look back over history of medical research is certain new. But we’re learning more and more about it. And what we know to be true is that priming our microbiome is important to the functionality of pretty much every system within our body. So, if you could start out describing why we need the microbiome for this NRF2 pathway to occur and how it promotes digestion and absorption of the precursors to SF. And helps us achieve an optimal level of SF within our body.

JF: Sure. Well there are few points of intersection of this system, SF, within the microbiome. The first one is one that you didn’t ask about. So, let me just dispense with that first. And it may be a lot more important that we think. SF, as I mentioned, has some direct antibacterial effect. Mechanism not totally clear. This is one of the things that I discovered and published in 2002 with a French collaborator. We discovered that SF is a potent antibiotic against helicobacter pylori, which causes gastric ulcers, and does lead in many cases to stomach cancer. And at least, 20 years ago when we started working on this, something like 55% of the world’s population carried helicobacter, asymptomatic in a lot of people, in most people probably, but eventually over time, it caused gastritis and irritation, ulceration, inflammation, which could lead to cancer. So, in a test tube, helicobacter was wiped out by SF, as well as a few other isothiocyanates. These are related compounds all found in cruciferous vegetables or in the plant, moringa, which is a tropical tree. So, they had a selective antibiotic effect. They killed helicobacter which was single and double resistant to the antibiotics that are typically used to treat it. But then when we took it to clinical trial in Japan. It didn’t do a great job. Some other people, friends, people who became friends after we learned of their work did similar work. And it some cases they found that it wiped out the helicobacter in some cases in others, it just seems to have reduced infection. So, I got off on that tangent because it gives me an opportunity to point out that a selective effect on bacteria in the gut. Now helicobacter grows in the stomach. And just about nothing else will, but hopefully, further down in the gut, the small and large intestine, as you know, as I’m sure all your listeners now know, have billions and trillions and zillions of bacteria. I think 10 times more cells than you have in your body. A bigger genome.

JH: It’s that cool. It’s pretty amazing to think that something that we are just learning has such an implication on our entire system.

JF: Totally. And you know, I think the estimates have been reduced over what they were when I first got tuned into the microbiome. But I know at one point, by doing experiments with antibiotic mice, meaning mice that had been grown from scratch without any microbiome, they were sterile essentially. Doing those feeding experiments with them, estimates were that about 30% of your caloric intake or your nutritional requirements was met by stuff that was hydrolyzed exclusively by the bacteria in your gut. As I say, those estimates have been changed many times since I first read them. But it’s a hugely important organ, and the genome of the microbiome is bigger than your human genome, which is also pretty incredible. You’re young enough so that you could become a microbiomologist if you wanted to, I’m too old to get retrained. But if I had it to do over again, that’s where I’d be.

JH: Definitely for me, it’s just understanding it more and maybe delivering to this audience in a more digestible way as we learn more and more about it. Because it so important our health, and feeding our microbiome for the effects with SF and so many other nutrients in general. It’s a really important for us, especially for mothers who are starting their kids out with certain types of food and developing their food preferences, thinking through what’s important for my child to have so that in adulthood it’s easy for them to make these decisions.

Because we don’t know a tremendous amount about personalization of the microbiome, in terms pulling different levers to grow certain strains of microflora in our body. Really what we say is eat the rainbow. We think about it the same as when we talk about fruits and vegetables [in terms of getting in the right pre and probiotics]. Because having a variety of microflora present.

So, thanks for setting the stage in the microbiome, because it’s important for us to be able to digest and absorb SF. And our gut, as I understand it, has some amount of the enzyme necessary for the conversion into SF.

JF: Yes. So, we’re not done with the microbiome yet, by a long shot. But let me just draw a circle around what we were talking about and that is, it’s very clear that SF and other related isothiocyanates from cruciferous vegetables or moringa may have, and I say it’s very clear, 100% it might be, that they may have an effect on the composition of the microbiome. So, this is what you were alluding to I think. Everybody’s got a different microbiome. We all have something on the order, and I’m not an expert but I know you have had or will have a microbiome expert on I’m sure on another podcast. Estimates when you took my class that there were about 15 hundred taxa or different discrete types of microbes, of bacteria I should say, because there are also fungi and viruses in the gut. And the mix is different for every single person. And it changes. And it changes with diet. And it changes certainly with antibiotic use. So, we do think that eating cruciferous vegetables will push that microbiome one way or another. And, frankly, I’m convinced that one of the reasons good diets are good diets – Mediterranean diet, Blue Zones diet, or pick your good diet of choice, one of the reasons that I think they are good is because of that they must do to the composition of the microbiome. Meaning favoring bacteria that are good for you, bacteria that are not pro inflammatory and so on. But you asked about the enzyme. And part of the story we haven’t touched on is that in the plant itself, so in broccoli or market stage florets that you buy typically in super market or farmers market, those have a precursor of SF called glucoraphanin. The names don’t matter. It’s just that it’s a bigger molecule. It’s very water soluble and it’s not reactive at all. And it doesn’t do anything for you. It just passes through. But if you chew on broccoli, or chop it up, or mash it, or blend it when its raw, when its fresh, then you release an enzyme – it’s called myrosinase, and again the names don’t matter, but you release this enzyme which is also present in the plant and it converts glucoraphanin to SF. And SF is where the petal meets the metal. The rubber meets the road. That’s what’s biologically active in human beings. So, that’s what happens when you chew it. I told you that. I promise you it’s true. But what if you cook your broccoli? Well it’s like cooking an egg. You denature the proteins in it. And enzymes are proteins and the enzyme is denatured and inactivated. So then, you’re counting on the bacteria in your gut to make the conversion [which is why priming the microbiome is so important]. And it does turn out that every single person we’ve tested, and we’ve test hundreds, have some of the enzyme in their microbiome. It’s not a human enzyme. It’s a bacterial enzyme and plant enzyme, of course. So pick a hundred people off the street. Every one of them is going to have myrosinase activity, but they are all going to have a different amount. And so, if you give that 100 randomly selected people each the same dose of the same broccoli, they are going to get a spectrum of different benefits from it, because they are going to make more or less SF [based on how much of the enzyme is present due to their individual microbiome makeup]. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand that and trying to document it and trying to make it better, so that people are low converters, so to speak, have more bioavailability of SF. And that’s a work in progress. It’s a reason that some people prefer to take supplements that have preformed SF or glucoraphanin with myrosinase or just glucoraphanin.

But let me stop there. So, there are two things we are talking about:

  • Does SF and these compounds from broccoli, do they modify the microbiome? And do they affect absorption of other nutrients?
  • If you give the precursor, what happens to that when it gets in the gut?

So hopefully, I’ve given you a little flavor for both of those things.

JH: That’s a great description of how it works. So, what we are looking for is the bioavailable form, SF. And we can either convert it with the enzyme that’s available in gut bacteria to a limited degree in some, higher degree in others. But in an ideal world, providing some myrosinase, the enzyme to activate glucoraphanin and make it much more bioavailable for us – in the usable form – so that we can activate these NRF2 pathways and get the result, hopefully, that we’re looking for.

JF: Right. It’s an insurance policy, so to speak.

JH: And that leads me to the next line of questions around SF and the protective mechanisms in disease outcomes. So we know what and why it’s important. And now I want to talk about the conditions, as you alluded to earlier, that we found SF to be protective in some cases. So, let’s start out with cancer. You spoke a little bit about it at the beginning.

And one point that I want to make clear on this podcast was when we think about broccoli sprouts and SF, we’re talking about protection from development of certain cancers potentially, not necessarily the treatment of active cancers.

JF: Yes, absolutely. And neither you nor I are physicians and we are not and should not be trying to diagnose or suggest treatment of conditions that people may have. People like us who don’t have a patient standing in front of us, and we’re talking loosely like we are, I mean we’re talking facts, but we’re talking loosely, somewhat in generalities, we certainly can’t get granular on the details of any specific person’s health, even if they are apparently healthy. And so, making radical changes, it’s always a good idea to check with your physician. And if you don’t have a good physician, get another one. I mean, as we both know, a lot of physicians have almost no training in nutrition. So they don’t know. So they wave their hands, and they point to people like us. So it’s a bit of a mess.

Cancer was the first of many conditions in the science behind detoxing with broccoli sprouts

JH: As research [and medical training in general] evolves, hopefully, we’ll get better at this. But I want to point out that really what we’re talking about is the protective effect against the development of cancers

JF: Yep, so as I think I mentioned earlier, the very first work that was done with these compounds was centered on protection against cancer. And to do that animal models were used, where you take an animal [most often a mouse or a rat], you feed it a bunch of broccoli or SF directly, and you either have a genetic model, a cancer model. In other words, an animal that is predisposed to certain tumor types or you give it a carcinogen. And you watch over its lifespan and see the ones that weren’t treated or were treated with placebo developed more cancers or not. So all of that evidence suggested very strongly, as did the cell culture evidence, and now we are starting to see this in the human condition, but it indicated that this massive antioxidant effect and detoxifying effect, indeed, spares cells from developing mutations. Is it all or nothing? Absolutely not. I’m really not a cancer biologist, although I’ve worked with them plenty. But you develop mutations in the cells of your body all the time, every day, thousands and thousands of them. And almost all of them are fixed by protective machinery in your body. But a lot of that damage comes from, so called, reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species, radicals that are a byproduct of metabolism, of aerobic metabolism. And we don’t have any choice but to breathe, and that oxygen throws off some toxic byproducts. It’s the way things go. There are also some carcinogens in the air, benzene, things like that. So all of those things can cause mutations and initiate cancer. And even though I just told you we have protective mechanisms that fix that broken DNA or that mutated DNA all the time, obviously it’s not perfect. So damage, incidents of damage, sneak by. So the less damage you have in the first place, the better off you are. That’s the theory behind the antioxidant and detoxification effect. Just let less damage happen and there’s less to worry about for the body to fix itself.

JH: So the idea is, sort of, I once heard [at a conference] a physician say, I can’t change your genetic makeup right now, but I can help you slow down the possibility of the development of whatever your genes are coded for – meaning give you more quality of life years versus making you live forever.

JF: That’s sort of behind what has entered the popular literature lately, and that’s healthspan. Enhancing healthspan. So live longer and just don’t wake up one day when you’re 110, and boy it was a good run. Rather than declining, and having your vigor and health decline slowly with multiple chronic illness over decades. Which is, frankly, what happens to most of us.

JH: And we’re seeing a global health crisis right now in chronic disease development and managing that. So I think it’s important for us to understand, and frankly, we should have been having this discussion a long time ago. But now it’s, sort of, in our faces. And understanding how to navigate that is important.

JF: Well you know, Jessica, I think it’s so sad that everything seems to be driven by economics, but you’re absolutely right. 20, 30, 40 years ago, these things were somewhat understood and it was more fun. And everybody understands, when you put it in crass terms, it’s much more fun to be active and vigorous and then just drop dead one day than to decline and feel miserable. That’s a no brainer. But that sort of touchy feely humanistic social aspect of it didn’t get enough attention. And as you say, now dollars and cents are driving decisions, and hopefully, decisions by insurance companies and policy makers, but it’s a damn shame that really it takes that to make people sort of open their eyes.

JH: Right. I think insurance companies are now saying that their largest spend is on 5% of their members. And it’s the members that have these chronic diseases that are now because they didn’t necessarily know to or have preventative healthcare measures in place. Now insurance companies are seeing that they are spending a lot of money supporting people who need the intervention from a treatment standpoint.

And I think, when we talk about SF and disease outcomes, really what we are trying to do, and correct me if I’m wrong, but essentially it kind of puts your cells in fight mode when faced with a foreign invader. It gives your cell the ability to fight it off in a way.

JF: Yes, potentially more quickly and more robustly. And, actually, your phrasing it that way reminds me that, I mentioned this massive mobilization of an antioxidant and detoxification response. Most people in the health field now are aware of this and have heard this word. But there is a compound called glutathione which is present in your body and it is your body’s most abundant natural antioxidant. And it turns out that it’s a very cool system. It’s a molecule that toggles between being oxidized and being reduced. And what that means is basically it can detoxify a reactive oxygen, it can conjugate molecules to essentially help flush them from the body. And it can be recycled first of all. And the system for making glutathione can be upregulated by NRF2, massively. And we see that all the time in cell cultures, and we see it in people. We can measure it in people’s blood cells, white blood cells. Glutathione is a simple molecule. It’s three amino acids strung together. But as I say, it’s present in incredibly high levels in the retina, in the back of the eye, its present in the brain in high levels, and for example in the retina its involved in protecting or it is thought to be very protective against macular degeneration and some other eye conditions.

And in the brain, and we don’t have proof of this, but the implication is very strongly that it is involved in Autism, Alzheimer’s, perhaps even Parkinson’s, perhaps schizophrenia, a series of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative conditions. And what happens is this antioxidant that you have in your body helps to detoxify stuff that would otherwise screw up the neuronal connections, the synapses between nerve cells. This is not my area of expertise, although I’ve done some clinical studies with collaborators in Autism and schizophrenia, but it’s very, very clear that the importance of maintaining glutathione levels is the brain shouldn’t be overlooked. Whether its causative, whether its curative, or therapeutic I don’t know, and nobody knows yet really, but it’s a hot area of research.

JH: It’s definitely something that I think mothers are interested in hearing about, especially when it comes to autism, maybe ADHD. And even a lot of times mothers of young children are often caring for other members of their family, their mothers, their aunts, etc. And so, it kind of hits them on both ends. So maybe their child has a condition that their looking for something to help, maybe could they take SF. Can you talk to us a little bit about Autism and childhood development and SF and then a little bit more about the aging process and what we all might be dealing with one day as we [ourselves] age.

JF: Yeah, let’s take the aging part first because there is less that I can say based on personal experience. There were trials both in looking at Alzheimer’s and at Parkinson’s that Paul Talalay and I were contacted about collaborating on using SF as a potential treatment. Neither of them materialized because of funding and a multisite European center, and funding just didn’t come together. But the animal models for both of those conditions, as well as schizophrenia, strongly suggest that there is a protective effect of SF on those neurodegenerative conditions, well Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s anyway. From the neurodevelopmental side, which is Autism. There is an interesting story if we have time. Can I take a few minutes to tell it to you?

JH: Absolutely

JF: Back a long time ago, at least, 10 years ago, now good friend, wonderful guy, by the name of Andrew Zimmerman, who was at Harvard and the Mass General at the time, and had been at Hopkins too. He came to Paul Talalay and me and was interested in the use of SF in Autism, as a potential treatment in Autism. The reason for his interested was that he and collaborators had discovered that SF, they codified, or they put down in scientific literature the fact that many mothers and fathers of autistic kids already knew, and that was that there was a substantial percentage or high percentage of Autistic kids who when they get a fever, their conditions get better. And the estimate is anywhere around 30-40% of people with Autism, this happens in. So, this is something that’s been called the heat shock response, or fever response And some of the anecdotes are fascinating. You have families that have an autistic kid and high functioning siblings and parents. And the whole family would come down with the flu or a bad cold, and it was the autistic kid who was taking care of everybody else. Everybody else was vegged out. And it was the autistic kid started to function and started to speak and verbalize more than they had been. This is obviously remarkable and notable, to parents in a case like that. And it was well known. So, Dr. Zimmerman did a trial and put some numbers to it and documented it. And then, fast forward a few years, Andi came to Paul and I and said this happens and we’ve published it. And we also know that you guys, meaning those of us in the SF research community, have shown that SF upregulates or enhances the heat shock response. And the question is then, wouldn’t it be cool if those things are connected and this could help Autism.

And so, without doing a bunch of animal trials, which are frustrating, but sometimes you have to do them, we were able to launch into a clinical study with SF because its broccoli. And there’s a history of people eating a lot of broccoli. And at the time that we started this study, it was already present in the supplement market. And there were plenty of people taking it as a supplement. I actually wound up making the doses out at a freeze-drying factory in Oregon, but bottom line is, we were able to jump from some clinical observations that may or may not have been related and some cell culture studies directly to a small clinical study. And we published the results in 2014. And there was a significant, rather dramatic effect on a subset of children, these were all boys, all males. Of course, Autism is male predominant, but this was a group that was 13-30 years old. And a significant number improved with SF. And then when they went off SF, they went back to baseline behavioral levels using a bunch of behavioral metrics.

We’ve just done a follow up trial funded by the Department of Defense, as opposed to the first trial which was done on a shoestring. And in this follow up trial, we have both boys and girls. Younger group, 3-13 as I recall. There were some positive results that I won’t talk about now because we’re waiting to get feedback on the paper. But there were 5 other trials that have been done at the same time in different places. One big one in China and 3 others in the US. And I have to say they are all showing effects, either large or not so impressive.

JH: It’s really an incredible subject to understand more and your findings with SF. Mothers are desperate to help their children. And having something that they can look to as a treatment for their child. And I think I’ve heard you say they can take it as supplements, even if they don’t like the taste, [or if they can’t swallow a pill] you can crush it up and mix it in food. So, there are ways to help children get this, if they are opposed to broccoli or the bit of broccoli sprouts.

JF: In fact, I wouldn’t recommend people use broccoli sprouts in a case like Autism. A lot of people especially younger ones have real strong feeding preferences and taste aversions. And besides, with broccoli sprouts, there can be some risk of food borne illnesses associated with some sprouts. It’s never happened with broccoli sprouts that I’m aware of, but between the, sort of, weird texture, the potential for food borne illness, and just the fact that I doubt you’re going to get many people to eat them, I would air toward a supplement in those cases.

Brain health, neurologic protection and so much more….coming up in Part 2 of Detoxing with Broccoli Sprouts

Sulforaphane supplementation


Detoxing with Broccoli Sprout Expert

Part 2

“If you’re going for protein, sustaining life, a sort of central piece of your nutritional plate, then I think moringa takes the cake. No question.”

Dr. Jed Fahey

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Detoxing with broccoli sprouts Part 2

Transcript coming soon…

Hosts & Guests

Jessica Houston

Dr. Jed Fahey


Connect with Jed

twitter @jedosan

insta @jedfahey

Jed Fahey

Johns Hopkins Chemoprotection Center

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