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Cellular damage incurred by oxidative stress underlies the pathophysiology of many chronic health disorders, including neuropsychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia. Glutathione, an antioxidant compound produced by the body’s cells, helps prevent damage from oxidative stress. Evidence from a 2018 study suggests that sulforaphane increases glutathione in the brain.

Scientists typically rely on magnetic resonance spectrometry (MRS) for measuring glutathione levels in brain tissue. Evidence suggests MRS is inadequate, however, and often yields inconsistent results across studies. These inconsistencies have prompted some investigators to explore the reliability of glutathione level measurements in blood as an indicator of oxidative stress-associated brain changes.

The pilot clinical study involved nine healthy adults. Eight of the participants were between the ages of 21 and 26 years; one was 56 years old. Each of the participants took 100 micromoles of sulforaphane (from a standardized broccoli sprout extract) by mouth every morning for one week. The authors of the study collected urine and blood specimens from the participants and performed MRS scans on their brains prior to the first dose of sulforaphane and within four hours of the final dose.

At the end of the week-long study, the participants' blood cell glutathione levels increased 32 percent. The MRS scans revealed similar increases in the thalamus, a region of the brain involved in information processing and a key player in schizophrenia. These observations were consistent regardless of age, sex, or race of the participants.

These findings suggest that sulforaphane shows promise as a therapeutic strategy for modulating oxidative stress in the brain, an underlying feature of schizophrenia. Some evidence that moringin, an isothiocyanate compound derived from moringa, may be useful in treating some of the symptoms of schizophrenia. Watch this clip in which Dr. Jed Fahey describes the health benefits associated with moringin and discusses the chemical structure differences between it and sulforaphane.

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