Can Broccoli Sprouts Help Treat Autism?

Doctor Holding Broccoli in OfficeA recent 18-week, 40 person study “Sulforaphane treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)” was carried out by pharmacology and molecular sciences professor Dr. Paul Talalay of Johns Hopkins Hospital and Andrew Zimmerman of Massachusetts General Hospital for Children.

The study (located on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) showed some positive results in regards to taking sulforaphane for the treatment of autism. Specifically, 46% of participants receiving the treatments showed noticable improvements in social interaction and 54% showed a decrease in abnormal behaviors.

In fact, the changes were so noticable that the researchers were not surprised when they compared results of sulforaphane-takers to those in the placebo group at the end of the study.

So, does that mean if you eat broccoli sprouts or take broccoli sprout extract that you can relieve autism symptoms? Well, it may be too early to tell. While the study showed significant improvement in many patients, 30% did not show any improvement at all.

According to Paul Wang, Senior VP for Medical Research at Austism Speaks, the sulforaphane administered in the study was significantly higher than what a normal person would get in a serving (or even a few servings) of broccoli sprouts daily. Therefore, the same results cannot be expected. That said, these greens are safe and nutritious to eat.

There is a possible side effect that showed up in the study, however. Liver enzymes were slightly elevated, although none of the participants in the study showed any symptoms. This may signify that sulforaphane may cause some level of liver inflammation.

As a potential natural remedy for the treatment of autism – and one that has also show positive results in the prevention of skin cancer – studies of this powerful nutrient in broccoli sprouts will continue using larger groups of participants.

Through their research, scientists have noticed that people with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) typically have high levels of oxidative stress. Sulforaphane has shown to have a positive impact by boosting the human body’s ability to fight off oxidative stress

Plus, autism is a growing concern. ASD experts estimate that this ailment affects 1-2 percent of the population, yet the root cause still has yet to be determined. For a condition that does not currently have a cure or effective treatment and is not fully understood itself, this research demonstrates lots of positive potential with virtually no negative side effects.

What’s even more promising news is that sulforaphane is showing to have an impact on the root cause of the disease rather than just treating the resulting symptoms.

Participants in the study were given sulforaphane in the form of extract rather than the food version, like bunches of broccoli sprouts. Broccoli seed extract (brassica oleracea) is available in health food stores and online in the form of pills, powders or liquid tinctures, although the products are not regulated by the FDA.

Use due diligence and do your research on natural product companies before you make a purchase. Check with your doctor before using extracts and tinctures such as this. And when in doubt, grow your own broccoli sprouts!


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