Many years ago of working biomedically with autistic individuals has demonstrated to us the value of correcting the biochemical abnormalities in these young people, especially those involving the immune system. We were therefore gratified to see a recent report showing significant improvement in function with the use of sulforaphane, an extract of broccoli sprouts.
A group of 29 males with moderate to severe autism were treated with sulforaphane for 18 weeks and compared to a similar group given placebo. Using standard tests to score behavior, about 50% of those receiving sulforphane had significant improvement in social interaction, verbal communication and aberrant behaviors. The placebo group had no significant improvement.
During the experiment, 13 of the participants noticeably improved. Even before it was revealed which subjects received sulforaphane or placebo, caregivers reported a noticeable behavioral improvement. For instance, “some treated subjects looked them in the eye and shook their hands, which they had not done before.”
It was later revealed that all 13 of these subjects were receiving the sulforaphane.
Interestingly, the researchers noted that the improvements of those that took sulforaphane trended back to the original starting values once they stopped the doses. This supports the theory that sulforaphane is temporarily addressing an underlying cellular issue.
Sulforaphane improves antioxidant function, detoxification, and affects parts of the immune system related to fevers (which are known to often be associated with improved behavior in ASD). We have been using sulforaphane for years at Bock Integrative Medicine and, because of its excellent safety profile, have added it to the many interventions we use to treat this complex and challenging condition.