Autism Spectrum Disorders are said to affect 1-2% of the World’s population, affecting men more than women. These conditions are characterised by various behavioural symptoms, including poor social interaction and problems with communication. Researchers think that they may have uncovered a surprising way to ease these problems. The report recently published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has provided evidence that sulforaphane, a chemical naturally occurring in broccoli, may hold the key.
Sulforaphane has already been studied for it’s potential benefits against certain kinds of cancer.
The recent report was based on a small short term clinical trial of more than 40 young men suffering with Autism Spectrum Disorders, aged 13 to 27. A control group was given a placebo, and the remainder were administered a daily dose of the chemical compound sulforaphane.
The young men took their prescribed medication every day for 18 weeks, and their behaviour was measured by their parents and study staff.
It was observed that in those taking sulforaphane many behaviours associated with their disorder improved. There was a reduction in irritability, lethargy, repetitive behaviour and hyperactivity. By week 18, 46% of the individuals taking the chemical compound were seen to improve in their social interaction, and 54% showed a reduction in ‘aberrant behaviours”.
The individuals that were taking the placebo showed no improvement in their social interaction, and only 7% demonstrated a decrease in ‘aberrant behaviour”.
In the 4 weeks following the close of the trial, the young men were observed to be returning to their earlier behavioural patterns, suggesting that sulforaphane provided a temporary crutch for the flawed cells that cause autism.
It has been documented that some children with autism seem to show a marked reduction in behavioural problems while suffering with a fever. This ‘fever-effect’ phenomenon occurs when the body has a heat shock response. This is a chain reaction of physiological events that protects the cells from stress caused by high temperatures. The researchers found that sulforaphane sparked and improved this same response in the laboratory, and that appears to be why symptoms faded in most of those taking the chemical compound.
Paul Talalay, M.D., professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences has researched vegetable compounds for more than 2 decades. He is quoted here:
“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.”
“The study was too small to prove that a broccoli extract can help treat autism”, said Dr. Paul Wang, head of medical research for the nonprofit Autism Speaks, yet he described the findings as "interesting and important.”
This study highlights the need to test the impact of sulforaphane on autism on a larger scale, but in the meantime we can harness the power of broccoli for ourselves for those with and without autism, as broccoli contains many important vitamins and minerals.
Reaping the Benefits at Home
The levels of sulforaphane present in different varieties of broccoli are highly variable, and the concentration of the chemical compound would be much lower in the vegetable itself, although there could still be great benefits to be gained from eating it.
However, in order to harness the chemical compound in levels that can have a positive impact on those suffering from autism it may be useful to try a broccoli rich supplement.
Once such example is Brocco Forte, a concentrated broccoli supplement that contains a number of beneficial phytonutrients. Besides the benefits discussed here, Brocco Forte is thought to have a number of other health advantages.
Besides the high dose of sulforaphane present in Brocco Fortre there are a further 6 plant extracts combined in the supplement, all hailed for their super-food abilities.
Other products that harness the power of sulforaphane are pHresh Greens, Field of Greens, Green Vibrance and Maximum vibrance. These supplements are nutrient dense, and allow you to reap the benefits of the chemical compound, as well as other essential vitamins and minerals in a no fuss-way.
These anti-oxidant packed powders and supplements can be easily incorporated into your diet, by simply adding to water and enjoying or putting into your blender when making a fresh smoothie or stirred into your freshly pressed juice.
Products that include Broccoli Sprout Powder are can be found in Green Food Supplements.