Sulforaphane and Mental Health

May is mental health awareness month, so we thought it fitting to dig into the research behind a common food that has long been hailed as a brain-boosting superstar – broccoli.   Not only is it packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, but it has certain bioactive compounds, including a sulfur-containing chemical called sulforaphane, that research has shown may have an interesting link to schizophrenia.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), schizophrenia affects more than 21 million people worldwide.  And remarkably, according to a recent study, the sulforaphane in broccoli may also be a safe way to manage schizophrenia.

In a series of recently published studies, researchers at the John Hopkins Schizophrenia Center in Baltimore, MD, have found that sulforaphane may help correct a chemical imbalance of glutamate in the brain, which researchers believe may be responsible for schizophrenia. Current schizophrenia treatments rely on antipsychotic drugs, however, they do not work for everyone and come with unwanted side effects that can include cardiovascular issues and what is commonly known as “the shakes.”

According to the director of Johns Hopkins Schizophrenia Center, future studies may show sulforaphane to be a safe nutritional supplement to give people at risk of developing schizophrenia as a way to delay or blunt the onset of symptoms and thus reduce unwanted side effects of the medications.  So, chalk up another one for broccoli, you are indeed a star!

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(1) Broccoli Can Possibly Help Fight Schizophrenia, Study Suggests.

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(5) Sedlak, Thomas W., et al. “Sulforaphane Augments Glutathione and Influences Brain Metabolites in Human Subjects: A Clinical Pilot Study.” Molecular Neuropsychiatry, vol. 3, no. 4, 2017, pp. 214–222., doi:10.1159/000487639.

(6) Sedlak, Thomas W., et al. “The Glutathione Cycle Shapes Synaptic Glutamate Activity.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 116, no. 7, 2019, pp. 2701–2706., doi:10.1073/pnas.1817885116.