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New Research has found Schizophrenia May Be Treated by Broccoli Sprout Extract

Kimberly England's picture
Schizophrenia treatment

New research has found that a chemical called sulforaphane could reduce and prevent symptoms of schizophrenia without side effects. Yes, that’s right, a chemical (Sulforaphane) found in vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower may very well benefit a person in their everyday life.


Sulforaphane has many uses in addition to Schizophrenia. It promotes the death of prostate cancer and other types of cancer cells. So, to benefit a person with schizophrenia is not so far-fetched.

Generally, schizophrenia is treated by antipsychotic drugs that come with unwanted side effects, ranging from cardiovascular issues to what is commonly called "the shakes" and many more. Characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and other cognitive difficulties, schizophrenia can often be a lifelong struggle, but usually appears in late adolescence or early adulthood. Those generally with the condition may find it hard to seek treatment. Twenty-one million people are affected by schizophrenia according to The World Health Organization (WHO).

Researchers at the John Hopkins Schizophrenia Center in Baltimore, MD, believe that a chemical imbalance in the brain may be responsible for schizophrenia, and they used a supplement extracted from broccoli sprouts to alter it. They have recently published several studies that examine this imbalance as seen below.

Differences in the brain:
The first stage of their analysis, the findings of which appear in JAMA Psychiatry, involved studying brain differences between people with schizophrenia and people without it.

In total, they examined 81 people with schizophrenia from the John Hopkins Schizophrenia Center, as well as 91 people who did not have schizophrenia. Those in the former group had had their first psychosis episode within the past 2 years.

The researchers used a magnet to measure five brain regions, and they extracted magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) data. These procedures showed the levels of various chemicals in the brain.

On average, people with schizophrenia had 4% less of the chemical glutamate in the anterior cingulate cortex region. Glutamate is responsible for transmitting signals between nerve cells.

A theory has existed since the 1980s that glutamate plays a role in the onset of schizophrenia; since then, researchers have found scientific evidence confirming such a link.

Glutamate is also present in the chemical glutathione. In the recent research, the scientists found that people with schizophrenia had lower levels of glutathione in a brain region called the anterior cingulate cortex and in the brain's thalamus.

Specifically, people with schizophrenia had 3% less glutathione in the anterior cingulate cortex and 8% less glutathione in the thalamus.

Controlling chemicals:
The second study, the results of which appear in the journal PNAS, focused on the management of glutamate and whether the brain uses glutathione to store this particular chemical. If this was the case, the researchers also wanted to see whether they could use a drug to release and store glutamate when needed.

The scientists used a drug called L-Buthionine sulfoximine on rat brain cells. Adding this drug prevented an enzyme that transforms glutamate into glutathione from working, resulting in the brain using more glutamate.

By doing this, nerve cells sent more signals to other cells, mimicking the brain pattern of people with schizophrenia.

Altering this method to store glutamate, instead of using it up, required something a little different. Broccoli sprouts contain a chemical called sulforaphane, which can switch on a gene that can create more of the enzyme that turns glutamate into glutathione.

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When glutathione encountered the rat brain cells, the signals sent by the cells slowed down. This behavior is the opposite of what occurs in people with schizophrenia.

The final study, which appears in Molecular Neuropsychiatry, tried to replicate the glutathione effects of sulforaphane in healthy human brains.

Four women and five men took two 100-micromole daily doses of sulforaphane for 7 days in a row. The capsules came in the form of broccoli sprout extract.

MRS data examining three brain regions before and after taking the supplement showed that, after a week, there was a 30% rise in glutathione levels.

A potential prevention method:
Much more research into dosages and timings will be necessary to see whether sulforaphane is a safe and effective way to reduce schizophrenia symptoms, say the scientists.

Their small-scale study did find, however, that the only negative side effects were stomach upsets. This effect only occurred if participants took the capsule on an empty stomach.

Sulforaphane supplements are currently available to buy, but the team cautions against doing this without consulting a doctor, as it is not yet known whether commercial versions will be effective.

However, in time, the researchers are hopeful that sulforaphane could become a replacement for the current antipsychotic drugs that treat schizophrenia.

The supplement could even go further in managing the condition, says Dr. Akira Sawa, Ph.D., director of the John Hopkins Schizophrenia Center.

To put it in perspective, many of us do or don’t know a person with schizophrenia. It can be a difficult disease to manage, but treated under the right conditions, a person with this disease can live successfully. Here are some key facts, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) on schizophrenia:

Key facts:
• Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder affecting more than 21 million people worldwide.
• Schizophrenia is characterized by distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self and behavior. Common experiences include hallucinations - hearing voices or seeing things that are not there and delusions – fixed, false beliefs.
• Worldwide, schizophrenia is associated with considerable disability and may affect educational and occupational performance.
• People with schizophrenia are 2-3 times more likely to die early than the general population. This is often due to preventable physical diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease and infections.
• Stigma, discrimination and violation of human rights of people with schizophrenia is common.
• Schizophrenia is treatable. Treatment with medicines and psychosocial support is effective.
• Facilitation of assisted living, supported housing and supported employment are effective management strategies for people with schizophrenia.

Looking at some of the science behind schizophrenia, we can see a shift in paradigm into the possibilities which are endless in researching alternatives to drugs. Simply put, could you juice the chemical (sulforaphane) out of broccoli sprouts and other cruciferous veggies since juicing breaks down all the cells? The answer is yes, and there are alternatives.

Warm broccoli sprouts gently to 60 degrees C which increases availability of sulforaphane by 69% or;

Treating broccoli sprouts with HPP Pressure increases sulforaphane by 85%.

The wonder of juicing never ceases to amaze me. It’s a constant health benefit to many and a wonder of healing that is already at our disposal. Most cruciferous vegetables are a good source of sulforaphane, not only for schizophrenia, but sulforaphane also helps with arthritis and osteoarthritis and many other symptoms. So, make sure to include a lot of them in your juicing diet: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower; everything counts. Raw and fresh juicing is best as you need the enzyme myrosinase to react with glucoraphanin to produce sulforaphane and remember, heat destroys live enzymes, so if juicing is not your thing, try it as a soup, but go with a gentle and slow warming to the recommended 60 degrees C.

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