A compound extracted from broccoli sprouts may improve some social and behavioral problems that affect people with autism, a new study suggests. The study was short-term and small, including just over 40 teenage boys and young men with autism. And experts stressed that no one is saying broccoli — or its extracts — is a magic bullet. “This is just one study, and it's a preliminary study,” said lead researcher Dr. Kanwaljit Singh, of Massachusetts General Hospital for Children. It's also important to note that not everyone responded to the treatment. About one-third of those treated with the compound didn't have a positive response, according to the study.
Broccoli Compound May Improve Symptoms of Autism
While limited in scope, the study still shows that food is an important part of the treatment plan for autism, and can have a significant impact on behavior. A total of 44 boys and men diagnosed with autism were enrolled in the study.
Some received sulforaphane in capsule form, while the controls received a placebo. As reported by Time Magazine:2The compound was chosen because it can help trigger a heat-shock response, a series of biological events that protect cells from stress during fevers; some people with autism have been known to see improvement in regard to repetitive behaviors, for example, during fevers.
Around 80 percent of the participants had a history of experiencing the fever effect.
Positive results were observed within as little as four weeks. Communication improved, as did symptoms of hyperactivity and irritability. By the end of the 18-week …
The extract used in this study is not commercially available, but there are sulforaphane supplements on the market. Singh noted that those supplements are not standardized, and “you wouldn't know how much sulforaphane it would actually contain.”
Johns Hopkins University, where two of the study authors work, stands to benefit from any future sales of the extract used in the research. Under a licensing agreement with Brassica Protection Products, the university is entitled to royalty received on sales of the product, according to a university news release.
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