Broccoli may improve symptoms of autism
The study led by investigators at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine described how participants receiving a daily dose of sulforaphane showed improvement in both behavioral and communication assessments in as little as four weeks. The authors stressed that the results of this pilot must be confirmed in larger investigations before any conclusions can be drawn about sulforaphane’s therapeutic benefit.
The study enrolled 44 young men, ages 13 to 27, who were diagnosed with moderate to severe autism spectrum disorder, were randomly assigned to a daily dose of either sulforaphane – extracted from broccoli sprouts – or a placebo, with neither investigators, participants nor their caregivers knowing who was receiving the study drug.
Participants were assessed using standardized measurements of behavior and social interaction – some completed by caregivers, some by study staff – at the outset of the study and at 4, 10 and 18 weeks after treatment began. Treatment was discontinued after 18 weeks, and additional assessments of 22 participants were conducted 4 weeks later.
Study lead author Kanwaljit Singh, from the Lurie Center and UMass, said that among the 40 participants who returned for at least one evaluation, the average scores for each of the assessments were significantly better for the 26 participants receiving sulforaphane than for the 14 who received a placebo. Even at the 4-week visit, some caregivers reported a noticeable behavioral improvement, and by the end of the study period, both study staff and family members correctly guessed the assignments of many participants. Overall, 17 of the 26 participants who received sulforaphane were judged by their caregivers to have improvements in behavior, social interaction and calmness while on active treatment.
After 18 weeks of treatment, the average scores assessed of those who received sulforaphane had decreased 34 and 17 percent, respectively – indicating improvement in factors such as irritability, lethargy, repetitive movements, hyperactivity, communication, motivation and mannerisms.
Assessments using the Clinical Global Impression scale indicated that 46 percent of sulforaphane recipients exhibited noticeable improvement in social interaction, 54 percent in aberrant behaviors, and 42 percent in verbal communication. After 22-week another reassessment, supported the probability that changes had been the result of sulforaphane treatment.
The report was published online in PNAS Early Edition.
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