A new study found that a chemical in broccoli sprouts is able to temporarily improve symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The research was a collaboration between researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and it was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Those with ASD generally have higher than normal levels of oxidative stress within their cells, and previous research has shown that about half experience an improvement of behavioral symptoms when experiencing a fever. This effect is only temporary, as the symptoms return after the fever subsides. Andrew Zimmerman and his team at Mass. General were not sure why this happened, and set out to discover the mechanism. The current study used sulforaphane, a chemical extracted from broccoli sprouts.Broccoli sprouts, along with other cruciferous veggies, contain precursors of a chemical called sulforaphane. This molecule has been studied for its ability to help combat oxidative stress in cells. Cells that have been damaged by this stress can display abnormalities in cell signaling, and can even develop inflammation leading to chronic diseases like cancer. Previous research by co-author Paul Talalay of Johns Hopkins found that sulforaphane helps the body’s heat-shock response, which protects cells when faced with fevers or other sources high temperatures.
“Over the years there have been several anecdotal reports that children with autism can have improvements in social interaction and sometimes language skills when they have a fever,” explains Andrew Zimmerman, MD, a co-corresponding author of the current report who also published a 2007 paper documenting the fever effect. “We investigated what might be behind that on a cellular level and postulated that it results from fever's activation of the cellular stress response, in which protective cellular mechanisms that are usually held in reserve are turned on through activation of gene transcription.” Affiliated with the MGHfC Department of Neurology, Zimmerman is now based at UMass Memorial Medical Center.
Sulforaphane was first isolated in the 1990s by Paul Talalay, MD co-corresponding author of the PNAS Early Edition paper and now a professor of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at Johns Hopkins and his group also found that the chemical supports key …
If you have a child with Autism, don’t base their entire diet off of broccoli sprouts just yet. Not everyone is able to obtain the sulforaphane from the vegetables in the same way, and it would be incredibly hard to eat enough greens to hit the amounts found in these treatments anyway.
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