Purpose: Studies on broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) indicate beneficial effects against a range of chronic diseases, commonly attributed to their bioactive phytochemicals. Sulforaphane, the bioactive form of glucoraphanin, is formed by the action of the indigenous enzyme myrosinase. This study explored the role that digestion and cooking practices play in bioactivity and bioavailability, especially the rarely considered dose delivered to the colon.
Methods: The antimicrobial activity of sulforaphane extracts from raw, cooked broccoli and cooked broccoli plus mustard seeds (as a source myrosinase) was assessed. The persistence of broccoli phytochemicals in the upper gastrointestinal tract was analysed in the ileal fluid of 11 ileostomates fed, in a cross-over design, broccoli soup prepared with and without mustard seeds.
Results: The raw broccoli had no antimicrobial activity, except against Bacillus cereus, but cooked broccoli (with and without mustard seeds) showed considerable antimicrobial activity against various tested pathogens. The recovery of sulforaphane in ileal fluids post soup consumption was < 1% but the addition of mustard seeds increased colon-available sulforaphane sixfold. However, when sulforaphane was extracted from the ileal fluid with the highest sulforaphane content and tested against Escherichia coli K12, no inhibitory effects were observed. Analysis of glucosinolates composition in ileal fluids revealed noticeable inter-individual differences, with six “responding” participants showing increases in glucosinolates after broccoli soup consumption.
Conclusions: Sulforaphane-rich broccoli extracts caused potent antimicrobial effects in vitro, and the consumption of sulforaphane-enriched broccoli soup may inhibit bacterial growth in the stomach and upper small intestine, but not in the terminal ileum or the colon.