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Sulforaphane is a bioactive compound derived from certain cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli (especially broccoli sprouts) and kale. Robust evidence from epidemiological, clinical, rodent, and in vitro studies indicates that sulforaphane exhibits antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and may be beneficial against a wide range of chronic and acute diseases. Evidence from a recent study demonstrates that sulforaphane extends lifespan and healthspan in worms via insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) signaling.

The insulin and IGF-1 pathways play key roles in mammalian metabolism, physiology, and aging and ultimately influence the expression of a variety of antioxidant genes. IGF-1 inhibits the activity of FOXO3, a master regulator of many mammalian genes involved in oxidative stress tolerance and aging. Mice that lack the insulin receptor or the IGF-1 receptor live longer and are more resistant to oxidative stress than normal mice.

The authors of the study used C. elegans, a type of nematode worm that is commonly used in aging studies. They fed the worms a concentration of sulforaphane that roughly corresponded to 10 milligrams per kilogram of body weight – an amount commonly used in other animal models – and assessed several markers of the worms' health.

They found that sulforaphane consumption promoted the worms' health and extended their lifespan. The mechanisms that mediated these effects involved inhibition of insulin and IGF-1 signaling and the activation of a FOXO analog called DAF-16. The downstream effect of this inhibition was increased expression of antioxidant genes similar to those involved in oxidative stress tolerance and aging in mammals.

These findings demonstrate that sulforaphane shows promise as an anti-aging compound via its capacity to reduce oxidative stress. Learn more about sulforaphane in this Q&A featuring Dr. Jed Fahey.

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