Myrosinase and sulforaphane - From plant defence to cancer defence
At Biomesight, we have just launched our new longevity section, which can be navigated to here or through the left-hand side menu after logging into your account. This section currently features the enzyme, myrosinase, which is vital for producing its product, sulforaphane.
We have made a walkthrough video of this section below. Alternatively, you can read on to see more specifically what myrosinase can do for you.
What is sulforaphane?
Sulforaphane is a powerful organic sulfur-containing phytochemical which is associated with many health benefits. This compound is commonly obtained from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and capers. However, to understand what sulforaphane is, we first need to understand the defence mechanisms utilised by these cruciferous vegetables.
Before becoming sulforaphane, this compound is stored inertly as glucoraphanin. Upon the plant taking damage, the cell walls break down, which causes this glucoraphanin to come into contact with the enzyme myrosinase from separate adjacent cells. This contact causes myrosinase to react with glucoraphanin, causing glucoraphanin to become sulforaphane, which deters insect predators.
However, it is important to note that this reaction only occurs when the plant is cut or chewed, but not when boiled or fried since this will cause a loss of glucoraphanin as well as causing a partial inactivation or denaturation of myrosinase, so when they make contact with glucoraphanin, no reaction occurs—because of this, steaming these vegetables has been found to be the best method to cook them since it causes the lowest loss of glucoraphanin and inactivation of myrosinase.
Despite this, when these vegetables are consumed after being boiled or fried, we still end up with sulforaphane, albeit a lower amount than raw versions of cruciferous vegetables. This is because our gut microflora possesses bacteria that produce myrosinase. This means that even when the vegetable’s myrosinase is denatured via cooking, glucoraphanin is still processed into sulforaphane by myrosinase produced by the gut microflora in humans.
One of the defining properties of cancer is unregulated cell growth and multiplication due to the loss of cell cycle regulation. Sulforaphane has been found to reduce this through multiple means.
- By blocking enzymes that convert substances into cancer-causing substances
- By blocking enzymes that would cause rapid cell growth and multiplication
- By increasing the number of enzymes that can detoxify and cause expulsion of cancer-causing substances
- By halting the rapid unregulated cell growth and multiplication of cancer cells (not including normal cells) by producing proteins which stop the cell cycle from progressing
- By producing specific proteins which cause the body to specifically kill cancer cells and not normal functional cells
While sulforaphane is also an anti-cancer compound, it is also anti-pathogenic to harmful bacteria, fungi, or viruses.
- Sulforaphane kills Helicobacter pylori, which is a harmful bacteria found to cause gastric cancer.
- Sulforaphane helps release a pre-existing protein, Nrf2, meaning that it can now block a receptor that SARS-CoV-2 would use to cause COVID-19.
Prevention of cardiovascular disease and anti-ageing
While sulforaphane releasing Nrf2 has been found to combat COVID-19, Nrf2 has also been found to prevent cardiovascular disease, as well as having anti-ageing properties.
- Nrf2 blocks the inflammation and plaque deposition in arteries, which would have normally led to atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure.
- Nrf2 blocks an enzyme that causes skin damage which is typically triggered by UV radiation.
- Nrf2 attenuates processes associated with neurodegeneration.
Sulforaphane releasing Nrf2 is again beneficial, this time against type 2 diabetes.
- Nrf2 blocks genes that code for enzymes associated with increased blood sugar levels
- Sulforaphane has been found to decrease fasting blood sugar levels, especially noticeable in patients with poor diabetes control.
- The increase of Nrf2 from sulforaphane has been proposed to be an emerging strategy to avoid diabetes if used while the patient is in the prediabetic state.
However, it should be noted that, although promising, these tests were primarily done on cell lines or in animal models, urging the necessity to perform more studies of sulforaphane on human subjects.
If you would like a more comprehensive list and explanations of how sulforaphane works, you can read my findings found here or at the end of the myrosinase description in the longevity section.
Myrosinase produces the compound sulforaphane, which is a compound not short of a miracle, providing a plethora of health benefits. This compound can be easily incorporated into people’s diets through consuming cruciferous vegetables for a strong health advantage. However, it should be noted that many of these findings have primarily been done on cell lines or animal models, so like Brussels sprouts, take this information with a pinch of salt.