Broccoli Improves Autistic Social and Verbal Behaviors

broccoli sproutSeveral weeks ago, a study was released that emphasized how the intake of certain vegetables can actually improve several symptoms of autism. Now, scientists are stating that a specific extract from broccoli sprouts may be used to curb these symptoms. This new study is a first step towards potentially providing effective treatment for those on the spectrum.

Johns Hopkins Hospital, in conjunction with Harvard, conducted a study over the course of 18 weeks, treating 40 autistic males. Twenty-six of these males took pills with sulforaphane, an extract from broccoli sprouts, with the remainder receiving a placebo. Dr. Paul Talalay, professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Johns Hopkins, study author, found that patients who took sulforaphane improved significantly. Almost half of the patients treated with the extract had “much improved” social interaction and verbal communication. Furthermore, more than half exhibited less erratic behaviors.

Upon completion of the series of taking the extract, the researchers found that the participants returned to their baseline levels for their symptoms within four weeks, signaling a need to continue with the extract to achieve the optimal benefits. Dr. Talalay states that although further research needs to be done to study how sulforaphane reacts in the body, their previous research suggests that the extract can cause the body to react as it would to a fever. Fevers are typically associated with temporary improvements in over a third of individuals with autism, so the researchers believe sulforaphane may work similarly.

Dr. Susan Hyman, chief of neurodevelopmental and behavioral pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, states, “The trial needs to be replicated and evaluated in larger and more age-diverse samples, but the data is certainly worth pursuing”. With the lack of effective treatments for individuals on the spectrum, the results of this study provide hopeful news. Sulforaphane is associated with very few side effects and is considered highly safe due to its natural origins. However, families should not administer sulforaphane to an individual on the spectrum without medical guidance.

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