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Keywords:

  • broccoli;
  • glucoraphanin;
  • phase II enzymes;
  • sulforaphane

Consumption of broccoli has long been considered to play a role in a healthy diet. Broccoli accumulates significant amounts of the phytonutrient glucoraphanin (4-methylsulfinylbutyl glucosinolate), which is metabolized in vivo to the biologically active sulforaphane. The preponderance of evidence available from in vitro, animal, and human studies supports the association of sulforaphane with phase II enzyme induction. This has provided impetus for developing varieties of broccoli, both sprouts and whole heads, that are rich in glucoraphanin. The cancer-preventive properties of cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli, have been studied for decades. However, evidence of broccoli directly affecting cancer incidence or progression is ambiguous, in part because of the presence of substantial polymorphisms in enzymes that metabolize sulforaphane. Since broccoli sulforaphane is one of the most potent inducers of phase II enzymes, exploration into broccoli's impact on other areas of human health, such as cardiovascular health and upper airway immunity, has been suggested. This review provides an update on evidence supporting phase II enzyme induction by sulforaphanes, with implications for breeding broccoli varieties with enhanced amounts of glucoraphanin. Early-stage human studies of consumption of broccoli with enhanced glucoraphanin are also discussed.