Could a chemical in broccoli help treat a child with Autism?

Could a chemical call sulforaphane find in broccoli help treat kids with Autism? According to a clinical trial done by John Hopkins University School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, this chemical called sulforaphane is delivering positive results in improving some behavioral symptoms of autism. The findings are that this particular chemical could help with behavioral issues relating to autism by addressing them at the cellular level.

Sulforaphane is a chemical found in most of the following vegetables: broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

The results of this clinical trial are in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Dr. Paul Talalay, coauthor of this study in some of his past studies noticed that the sulforaphane had the ability to help aid a heat-shock response in the body. It is similar to when cells in the body are protected from high temperature caused by things like a fever. Dr. Talalay also noted that many parents observed that Autistic children’s behaviors improved when they would have a fever. The team of researchers then wondered if the sulforaphane could be used to create the same heat-shock response in these children with autism and alleviate these behavioral symptoms.

The trial consisted of enrolling 40 teenagers and young men ranging from ages 13-27 all of whom were on the Autism Spectrum. 26 of these subjects were given a dose of the sulforaphane while the other 14 subjects given a placebo. The trial lasted about 18 weeks. Over the length of the trial, the participants were assessed through various ASD scales to observe autism-related behaviors during the trial.

What did they find? The clinical trial found improvement in behaviors within four weeks of treatment and those who received the chemical had improvements in their social behaviors. The progression in behaviors continued to improve throughout the 18 weeks.

About 46% of the subjects who were administered the sulforaphane showed noticeable improvements in social interaction. Another 54% improved in irregular behaviors such irritability, repetitive movements, and hyperactivity. The lead researchers stressed that a study with a much larger sample size needs to be performed, but the results of this particular study are encouraging. It is important to note that 1/3 of the participants also showed no sign of improvement. It is important to look at this in future clinical trials.

As far as my take is concerned I am glad to see that we may be finally making progress in developing a drug that may help with treating for autism. Currently, there are no drugs in the marketplace that can help treat it. It’s also important to keep in mind that developing drugs for autism are probably still years away. We have just begun to scratch the surface on possible pharmaceutical treatments for this issue.

I have always maintained that if you have an interest in treating a child with autism it’s always important to look at their diet and environment. My personal experience with my son who deals with autism has taught me that nutrition and the environment that they are in are the keys to improving their overall behaviors. If you have any questions on dealing with a child that has Autism, please feel free to contact my office to setup an appointment.

Dr. Shah, MD
Sources:

http://www.techtimes.com/articles/17861/20141014/broccoli-compound-alleviates-autism-symptoms-study.htm