by Marion Nestle
Nov 5 2019

Broccoli: the vegetable v. its antioxidant sulforaphane

Thomas Björkman, Professor of Vegetable Crop Physiology at Cornell University wrote to ask me what I thought about this new review article about the benefits of sulforaphane, an antioxidant in broccoli.  He explains:

It is a review by Jed Fahey et al on the value of sulphoraphane in broccoli. Go right to section 4, where they discuss the ins and outs of making dietary or clinical recommendations, and getting relevant research to inform those recommendations. They are pretty thoughtful and detailed about the issues so it seems like a good vehicle for discussion on your blog and elsewhere.

They particularly note, “the clinical studies that we have performed with broccoli and broccoli sprouts have already strained the academic system to the breaking point. The food industry needs to step up.”  That idea pushes against a couple of the arguments I see you making…I just figure that access to better broccoli will mean that people eat more vegetables, and that is generally good for public health.

This was easy to respond to.  I wrote about Jed Fahey’s work on broccoli 22 years ago.

Nestle M.  Broccoli sprouts as inducers of carcinogen-detoxifying enzyme systems: clinical, dietary, and policy implications [Commentary].  Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1997;94:11149-11151.

I think my arguments hold up pretty well, even after all this time.  See if you agree.

At the time I wrote the article, Fahey was involved in a company promoting and selling broccoli sprouts and sulforaphane supplements.  According to a unit at Johns Hopkins, that is no longer the case.

As you may know, in the late 1990s Drs. Paul Talalay and Jed Fahey founded a company to promote broccoli sprouts and other chemoprotective foods.  This company, Brassica Protection Products, no longer is involved with broccoli sprouts in the USA, but they do sell broccoli seed extracts to the supplement industry.  Paul and Jed removed themselves from any and all management, advisory, or financial relationships with that company many years ago because it created a conflict of interest with their continuing work on broccoli sprouts.

Good for them.  Smart decision.