Could Eating Broccoli Help to Treat Autism?

Sulforaphane for the Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

We all know that broccoli is good for us. But, could it be classed as an actual medicine? Well, the cruciferous vegetable, or, more specifically, the phytochemical Sulforaphane, which is found in relatively high concentrations in broccoli, is currently being researched as a possible treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

According to the CDC (2014) around 1% of the world's population has ASD and that number is increasing rapidly. The US has seen an increase of 119.4% in ASD diagnosed children between 2000 and 2010. From 1 in 150 in the year 2000 to 1 in 68 in 2010. [1] These statistics are shocking and as there is currently no effective drug-based treatment for improving ASD symptoms people affected are often left in less than desirable situations both financially and personally.

A 2014 study conducted in part by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has estimated that ASD costs the UK at least £32 billion every year in treatment costs, lost parental earnings and care support for children and adults with ASD. [2]

In the US, the costs per year have been estimated at between $11.5 billion and $60.9 billion. Of course, in the US you must also take into account that with a health care system unlike that in the UK, families of ASD children are footing the bills, which can be estimated to cost anywhere up to $70,709 per ASD child, per year. [1]

Wouldn't it be fantastic if there was a cheap and effective way to easily reduce ASD symptoms in at least some of these cases? Something which is readily available, has no ill side effects and doesn't cost the earth?

Well, a study carried out by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, the University of Massachusetts and the John Hopkins University School of Medicine may have identified just that!

The study has been published in the peer-reviewed medical journal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). And shows that the majority of ASD patients treated with Sulforaphane saw improvements in areas such as lethargy, hyperactivity, awareness, communication, motivation, irritability, and mannerisms. "There was often dramatic symptomatic improvement in 17 of the 26 sulforaphane-treated patients."[3]

So, where can we get our hands on this wonderful stuff which helps to alleviate ASD symptoms? The sulforaphane in this study was extracted from broccoli sprouts and the dose was between 50 and 150 µmol per day, depending on the participant's body weight. This dosage is equivalent to between 9mg and 25mg or about the amount you would get from consuming 65g of fresh broccoli sprouts (Psst... You can check out this site for information on how to grow your own broccoli sprouts). These can be added to salads, smoothies, curries or pretty much any other dish you can think of for a nutrient dense and sulforaphane rich boost. Keep in mind that heating, cooking or otherwise processing the raw sprouts may affect their sulforaphane quality and availability. To increase the bioavailability I always add ground mustard seeds to any dish I prepare containing broccoli or broccoli sprouts. It is also known that the process of mastication (chewing) increases the release of enzymes which convert precursor compounds found in broccoli into sulforaphane. [4]

The other health benefits of this wonderful substance are worth noting at this point. Sulforaphane boasts the ability to reduce inflammation, prevent certain types of cancer, improve brain function, offer neuro protective effects and prevent Alzheimer's, slow the aging process, and prevent cardiovascular disease.

Pretty impressive right. So it isn't just patients with ASD who could benefit from increasing their intake of this compound. Pretty much anyone could potentially benefit from incorporating this into their diet.

You can keep up with the latest research into the effects of Sulforaphane on ASD here.


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Could Eating Broccoli Help to Treat Autism?