Sulforaphane Improves Autism Symptoms

Normally, I would be sharing a new blog post with you today. In fact, I already had one lined up about the link between antidepressants and weight gain (which I hope you’ll check back for in a few days). However, just this week a press release from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found its way to my inbox, and I was so caught by the results of the study they reported, that I want to immediately share it with all of you. What this study means for the treatment of autism is groundbreaking. 

Read MGH’s press release below, copied in its entirety, and view the original study here, for your reference. You can learn more about sulforaphane, the subject of this groundbreaking research as it relates to Parkinson’s disease, in this 2013 study.

BOSTON – A small study led by investigators at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has found evidence that daily treatment with sulforaphane – a molecule found in foods such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage – may improve some symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. In their report being published online in PNAS Early Edition, the investigators describe how participants receiving a daily dose of sulforaphane showed improvement in both behavioral and communication assessments in as little as four weeks.

The authors stress that the results of this pilot study – conducted at the MGHfC-affiliated Lurie Center for Autism – must be confirmed in larger investigations before any conclusions can be drawn about sulforaphane’s therapeutic benefit. “Over the years there have been several anecdotal reports that children with autism can have improvements in social interaction and sometimes language skills when they have a fever,” explains Andrew Zimmerman, MD, a co-corresponding author of the current report who also published a 2007 paper documenting the fever effect. “We investigated what might be behind that on a cellular level and postulated that it results from fever’s activation of the cellular stress response, in which protective cellular mechanisms that are usually held in reserve are turned on through activation of gene transcription.” Affiliated with the MGHfC Department of Neurology, Zimmerman is now based at UMass Memorial Medical Center.  Continue reading

How About a Broccoli Detox?

By: Austin Perlmutter, MD, Medical Student, Miller School of Medicine

Since childhood we’ve been told to eat our broccoli, a request usually based on the claim that “it’s good for you.” Though we now have substantial research to back up this statement, new data from Johns Hopkins scientists may be one of the best reasons to keep this vegetable on the top of our shopping lists.

Recently, broccoli has been the subject of many papers on cancer prevention. Containing a unique chemical called sulforaphane, broccoli helps fight off malignant cells in the body. But now, researchers have taken this property one step further. This fascinating data measures the ability of broccoli to detoxify the body of cancer-inducing chemicals before they get a chance to cause problems.  

In this new study, published in the journal Cancer Prevention, scientists selected participants living in an area of China with substantial air pollution. They first assessed the amount of pollutant found in the participant’s urine, and then assigned some participants to consume a beverage made of broccoli sprouts. Afterward, the scientists found that people who drank the broccoli beverage were able to get rid of substantially higher levels of the environmental pollutants than those who did not. Continue reading