Sulforaphane is a sulfur containing molecule that is found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cabbage. They are called “cruciferous” vegetables because their flowers form in the shape of a cross. Sulforaphane is known to have anti-oxident, anti-cholesterol, and anticancer properties. Studies have shown that a 1 week intake of broccoli sprouts decreased LDL and total cholesterol in healthy humans and broccoli consumption is also associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Now a recent report in Obesity, the journal of The Obesity Society, a scientific society dedicated to the study of obesity, showed that in the laboratory, sulforaphane inhibited the development of pre-adipocytes into adipocytes that can store fat. (1) These pre-adipocytes, labelled 3T3-L1 cells, come from Swiss mouse embryos and can be bought from commercial vendors. They can be grown and studied in the laboratory. They are probably like human pre-adipocytes.
You can be obese because your fat cells have too much fat stored in each one or because you have too many fat cells storing a smaller amount or both. Having cells that are too full of fat stores can instigate the growth of new fat cells from pre-adipocytes. Having too many fat cells is harder to fight than having fat cells that are too full.
This does not prove that eating broccoli would keep you from gaining weight from fat but it would be an easy thing to study. However, the Supreme Court has recently ruled that the government can’t make you eat broccoli.
1.Kyeong-Mi C. et al. Sulforaphane inhibits mitotic clonal expansion during adipogenesis through cell cycle arrest. Obesity 2012; 20:1365-71.