From Johns Hopkins Medicine News:
Chemical Derived from Broccoli Sprouts Shows Promise in Treating AutismImprovements were seen within four weeks and generally persisted during treatment durationRelease Date: October 13, 2014———————-
- Forty boys and young men, ages 13 to 27, with moderate to severe autism, were treated for 18 weeks with a daily dose of either a placebo or sulforaphane, a plant chemical derived from broccoli sprouts.
- Researchers say that many of those taking sulforaphane substantially improved in several aspects of their behavior during treatment.
- In contrast to most previously tested remedies that work to ameliorate the behavioral manifestations of autism, sulforaphane seems to target the basic mechanisms of the disorder.
Results of a small clinical trial suggest that a chemical derived from broccoli sprouts — and best known for claims that it can help prevent certain cancers — may ease classic behavioral symptoms in those with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
The study, a joint effort by scientists at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, involved 40 teenage boys and young men, ages 13 to 27, with moderate to severe autism.
In a report published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of Oct. 13, the researchers say that many of those who received a daily dose of the chemical sulforaphane experienced substantial improvements in their social interaction and verbal communication, along with decreases in repetitive, ritualistic behaviors, compared to those who received a placebo.
“We believe that this may be preliminary evidence for the first treatment for autism that improves symptoms by apparently correcting some of the underlying cellular problems,” says Paul Talalay, M.D., professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences, who has researched these vegetable compounds for the past 25 years.
“We are far from being able to declare a victory over autism, but this gives us important insights into what might help,” says co-investigator Andrew Zimmerman, M.D., now a professor of pediatric neurology at UMass Memorial Medical Center.
In 1992, Talalay’s research group discovered that sulforaphane has some ability to bolster the body’s natural defenses against oxidative stress, inflammation and DNA damage. In addition, the chemical later turned out to improve the body’s heat-shock response — a cascade of events used to protect cells from the stress caused by high temperatures, including those experienced when people have fever.
Intriguingly, he says, about one-half of parents report that their children’s autistic behavior improves noticeably when they have a fever, then reverts back when the fever is gone. In 2007, Zimmerman, a principal collaborator in the current study, tested this anecdotal trend clinically and found it to be true, though a mechanism for the fever effect was not identified.
Because fevers, like sulforaphane, initiate the body’s heat-shock response, Zimmerman and Talalay wondered if sulforaphane could cause the same temporary improvement in autism that fevers do. The current study was designed to find out.
Most of those who responded to sulforaphane showed significant improvements by the first measurement at four weeks and continued to improve during the rest of the treatment. After 18 weeks of treatment, the average ABC and SRS scores of those who received sulforaphane had decreased 34 and 17 percent, respectively, with improvements in bouts of irritability, lethargy, repetitive movements, hyperactivity, awareness, communication, motivation and mannerisms.
After 18 weeks of treatment, according to the CGI-I scale, 46, 54 and 42 percent of sulforaphane recipients experienced noticeable improvements in social interaction, aberrant behaviors and verbal communication, respectively.
Talalay notes that the scores of those who took sulforaphane trended back toward their original values after they stopped taking the chemical, just like what happens to those who experience improvements during a fever. “It seems like sulforaphane is temporarily helping cells to cope with their handicaps,” he says.
Zimmerman adds that before they learned which subjects got the sulforaphane or placebo, the impressions of the clinical team — including parents — were that 13 of the participants noticeably improved. For example, some treated subjects looked them in the eye and shook their hands, which they had not done before. They found out later that all 13 had been taking sulforaphane, which is half of the treatment group.
Talalay cautions that the levels of sulforaphane precursors present in different varieties of broccoli are highly variable. Furthermore, the capacity of individuals to convert these precursors to active sulforaphane also varies greatly. It would be very difficult to achieve the levels of sulforaphane used in this study by eating large amounts of broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables.
Also see Dr. Mercola’s excellent discussion: