Broccoli sprouts have been discovered to contain seven times more polysulfides than mature broccoli.
Remember when your parents used to say, “Eat your greens, they are good for you”? Well, they were really onto something. Several studies have shown that higher intakes of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, one of the most widely consumed vegetables in the United States, are associated with reduced risks of diseases such as diabetes and cancer, thanks to their organosulfur compounds, such as glucosinolates and isothiocyanates that exhibit a broad spectrum of bioactivities including antioxidant activity. However, few studies have focused on the endogenous content of polysulfide in broccoli sprouts.
Research on Polysulfides in Broccoli Sprouts
A research team led by Assistant Professor Shingo Kasamatsu and Professor Hideshi Ihara of the Graduate School of Science at Osaka Metropolitan University, investigated the amount of polysulfides in broccoli sprouts during the process of their germination and growth. Building upon their previous work, where the research team demonstrated the abundance of polysulfide molecules in cruciferous vegetables.
The team found that total polysulfide content in broccoli sprouts significantly increased during germination and growth, with an approximately 20-fold increase in polysulfides on the fifth day of germination. Furthermore, they discovered a number of unknown polysulfides with indeterminate molecular structures. These findings suggest that the abundance of polysulfides in broccoli sprouts may contribute to their well-known health-promoting properties.
Polysulfide Health Benefits
Polysulfides are organic compounds that consist of chains of sulfur atoms. They are predominantly found in some vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables like garlic, onions, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Here are some of the potential nutritional benefits and health implications of polysulfides:
- Antioxidant Properties: Polysulfides can act as antioxidants, helping to neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. This can help reduce oxidative stress, which is implicated in aging and various chronic diseases.
- Cardiovascular Health: Some studies suggest that polysulfides can help in relaxing and dilating the blood vessels, potentially improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure. This can contribute to better cardiovascular health.
- Anti-cancer Properties: There’s some evidence that polysulfides may have anti-cancer properties. They might help in inhibiting the growth of certain cancer cells and inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death) in tumor cells.
- Detoxification: Polysulfides can support the liver in detoxifying harmful chemicals from the body. They might assist in converting certain toxins into water-soluble forms that can be easily excreted.
- Neuroprotective Effects: Some polysulfides, particularly those found in garlic, may have neuroprotective effects, potentially aiding in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.
- Anti-inflammatory Effects: Polysulfides may help reduce inflammation in the body, which can be beneficial in managing or preventing various inflammatory conditions.
- Antimicrobial Properties: Polysulfides have been shown to exhibit antimicrobial activities against certain pathogens, potentially supporting the immune system.
- Protection against Heavy Metal Toxicity: Some studies suggest that polysulfides, especially from garlic, can help protect against heavy metal toxicity, aiding in the reduction of lead and other heavy metals in the body.
It’s worth noting that while these potential benefits are promising, more comprehensive research is needed in many areas to fully understand the role and impact of polysulfides on human health.
Implications and Future Prospects
Dr. Kasamatsu stated, “The discovery of the significant increase in polysulfide content during the sprouting process from broccoli seeds was completely by chance and very surprising. This finding suggests that polysulfides may play an important role in the process of plant germination and growth. Further investigation of the pharmacological function of these unknown polysulfides could lead to the development of new preventive and therapeutic approaches and medicines for neurodegenerative diseases, stroke, cancer, inflammation, and other oxidative stress-related diseases.”
The results of this research were published in Redox Biology.
Reference: “Untargeted polysulfide omics analysis of alternations in polysulfide production during the germination of broccoli sprouts” by Shingo Kasamatsu, Takuma Owaki, Somei Komae, Ayaka Kinno, Tomoaki Ida, Takaaki Akaike and Hideshi Ihara, 6 September 2023, Redox Biology.
Funding: Ministry of Education, Sciences, Sports, Technology (MEXT), Japan, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Smoking Research Foundation, Fuji Foundation for Protein Research, Asahi Group Foundation, Osaka Metropolitan University.