It was observed that in those taking sulforaphane many behaviours commonly displayed in 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’.
Researchers and parents noticed significant changes in 13 of the participants before they knew which were taking the placebo. The improvements included looking others in the eye and shaking hands for the first time. When the trial was complete, it was revealed that each of those mentioned had indeed been taking sulforaphane.
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.
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.
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