The effects of a chemical derived from broccoli sprouts can have overwhelming positive effects on the symptoms of those with Autism, says a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study was a joint effort by scientists at Mass General Hospital for Children and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. It involved 40 teenage boys and young men, ages 13 to 27, with moderate to severe autism, and how they responded to the chemical sulforaphane, which is derived from broccoli sprouts, according to The Independent. The study published in PNAS reported that many of those who received a daily dose of the chemical sulforaphane experienced substantial improvements in their social interaction and verbal communication, along with decreases in repetitive, ritualistic behaviors, compared to those who received a placebo.
Paul Talalay, professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences, who has researched these vegetable compounds for the past 25 years, indicated that the results of the study point towards a day when autism will be curable.
“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.”
Experts estimate that ASD (or autistic spectrum disorder) affects one to two percent of the world’s population. They also say that the rate of ASD is much higher in boys than girls. The behavioral symptoms include poor social interaction and verbal communication. The symptoms of ASD were first described 70 years ago by Leo Kanner, the founder of pediatric psychiatry at John Hopkins University.
Andrew Zimmerman, co-investigator on the study and a professor of pediatric neurology at UMass Memorial Medical Center, warned against high hopes, but he was optimistic of the results.
“We are far from being able to declare a victory over autism, but this gives us important insights into what might help.”
The utilization of broccoli in the fight against cancer has already been well documented. In 1992, Talalay’s research group discovered that sulforaphane has the ability to build up a person’s natural defenses against oxidative stress, inflammation and DNA damage. The chemical later turned out to improve the body’s response to heat-shock, a common bodily response experienced when people have a high fever.
Coincidentally, Talalay said that researchers have found that when patients with autism experience a fever, their symptoms often dissipate and their behavior improves significantly. Then, when the fever lessens, their symptoms reappear.
Just like the occurrence of a fever, Talalay said that when the sulforaphane was discontinued on the test subjects with autism, their symptoms and previous behaviors returned.
“It seems like sulforaphane is temporarily helping cells to cope with their handicaps.”
This study marks a great improvement in the understanding of autism and brings sufferers of ADS one step closer to a cure.
image via livingmaxwell