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How Sulforaphane Supports Estrogen Metabolism & Detoxification

Sulforaphane is an organosulfur compound found in plants belonging to a group of micronutrients called polyphenols. It is found almost exclusively in broccoli but also in small amounts in other cruciferous vegetables, especially in their seeds and sprouts. The bioavailability of sulforaphane is unusually high, with over 80% of ingested sulforaphane rapidly being absorbed in controlled trials.1 Once absorbed, sulforaphane is an anti-inflammatory and boosts levels of antioxidants such as glutathione and supports Phase II Detoxification.2 3 Of particular interest is the potential for sulforaphane to act as a powerful anti-cancer agent through the numerous pathways that it targets that are chemopreventive, including estrogen metabolism.

Estrogens are one of the sex hormones fundamental for both women and men that regulates features of metabolism such as glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity, body fat distribution, bone density, cardiovascular and cognition health, as well as being the main driver of reproduction.4 Estrogens are synthesized and metabolized in the reproductive organs and non-reproductive organs such as the liver, bones, and tissues.

There are three major forms of estrogens: estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3).5 The proper balance and cycling of these forms within the body is critical to a healthy reproductive system and optimal cellular function. Additionally, estrogen can sometimes contribute to breast and ovarian cancer cell growth and proliferation, especially when levels are high.

These processes that synthesize and metabolize estrogens are very complex but it is important to understand that as a result of estrogen metabolism the body produces both "good" and "bad" estrogen metabolites. The bad estrogen metabolites, when in excess, can contribute to diseases and imbalances as well as stress the body’s detoxification pathways.

Recent research has demonstrated that some of the polyphenols in plants have the ability to assist the body in metabolizing estrogen, leading to a reduction in the production of bad estrogen metabolites. Polyphenols also have the added benefit of boosting the body’s detoxification processes and helping to remove any existing bad estrogen or toxins. This is where sulforaphane is especially effective. Studies have shown that sulforaphane can inhibit the formation of bad estrogen metabolites, reducing their levels in the body.6

In a group of postmenopausal women, even minor increases in broccoli consumption improved their ratios of good metabolites to bad metabolites.7 Broccoli consumption, as measured by sulforaphane markers in the urine, has also been linked to lower rates of breast cancer among Chinese women.8

There is additional evidence that sulforaphane down-regulates estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells helping to slow tumor growth and spread.9 In conjunction with eating more broccoli and cruciferous vegetables, sulforaphane supplementation is a great way to increase your intake of this powerful micronutrient.

Sulforaphane, along with a host of other polyphenols, are found in the newly released happy being nourished™ Meal Replacement Shake (formally called the THRIVE shake), Thorne's Crucera-SGS, and also in Pure Encapsulation’s DIM Detox.


1 Hanlon, N., Coldham, N., Gielbert, A., Kuhnert, N., Sauer, M. J., King, L. J., & Ioannides, C. (2008). Absolute bioavailability and dose-dependent pharmacokinetic behavior of dietary doses of the chemopreventive isothiocyanate sulforaphane in rats. The British journal of nutrition, 99(3), 559–564.

2 Sedlak, T. W., Nucifora, L. G., Koga, M., Shaffer, L. S., Higgs, C., Tanaka, T., Wang, A. M., Coughlin, J. M., Barker, P. B., Fahey, J. W., & Sawa, A. (2018). Sulforaphane Augments Glutathione and Influences Brain Metabolites in Human Subjects: A Clinical Pilot Study. Molecular neuropsychiatry, 3(4), 214–222.

3 Liang, W., Greven, J., Fragoulis, A., Horst, K., Bläsius, F., Wruck, C., Pufe, T., Kobbe, P., Hildebrand, F., & Lichte, P. (2022). Sulforaphane-Dependent Up-Regulation of NRF2 Activity Alleviates Both Systemic Inflammatory Response and Lung Injury After Hemorrhagic Shock/Resuscitation in Mice. Shock (Augusta, Ga.), 57(2), 221–229.

4 Cui, J., Shen, Y., & Li, R. (2013). Estrogen synthesis and signaling pathways during aging: from periphery to brain. Trends in molecular medicine, 19(3), 197–209.

5 Cui, J., Shen, Y., & Li, R. (2013). Estrogen synthesis and signaling pathways during aging: from periphery to brain. Trends in molecular medicine, 19(3), 197–209.

6 Cao, S., Wang, L., Zhang, Z., Chen, F., Wu, Q., & Li, L. (2018). Sulforaphane-induced metabolomic responses with epigenetic changes in estrogen receptor positive breast cancer cells. FEBS open bio, 8(12), 2022–2034.

7 Jay H. Fowke, Christopher Longcope, James R. Hebert; Brassica Vegetable Consumption Shifts Estrogen Metabolism in Healthy Postmenopausal Women 1. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 1 August 2000; 9 (8): 773–779.

8 Fowke, J. H., Chung, F. L., Jin, F., Qi, D., Cai, Q., Conaway, C., Cheng, J. R., Shu, X. O., Gao, Y. T., & Zheng, W. (2003). Urinary isothiocyanate levels, brassica, and human breast cancer. Cancer research, 63(14), 3980–3986.

9 Marcela Cortes Ramirez, Keith Singletary, Regulation of estrogen receptor α expression in human breast cancer cells by sulforaphane, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, Volume 20, Issue 3, 2009, Pages 195-201, ISSN 0955-2863,