Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 16th 2014 Contents B44
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, October 16, 2014
A chemical derived from broccoli sprout could
help treat symptoms of autism, according to a new
study from Johns Hopkins and Harvard hospitals.
The study authors say it is an "intriguing" first
step that could lead to a better life for those with
autism spectrum disorders, which affect one in 68
children in the United States and currently have no
cure or medical treatment.
"If you tell people that you ve treated autism with
broccoli, they would say that that is a very far-fetched
idea," said study author Dr Paul Talalay, a professor
of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Johns
Talalay and his team treated 40 autistic boys and
men with autism over 18 weeks. Twenty-six of them
took pills with sulforaphane, a broccoli sprout extract,
and the rest received a placebo.
Study authors found that patients who took sul-
foraphane improved. Almost half of the patients
treated with sulforaphane had "much improved" or
"very much improved" social interaction and verbal
communication, and more than half exhibited less
aberrant behaviour. When the patients stopped taking
the extract, they returned to baseline levels for these
symptoms within four weeks.
Those who took the placebo did not show any
improvement, according to the study.
Talalay said the way in which this extract might
work in autistic patients has
yet to be fully understood, but
past research suggests that
sulforaphane can cause the
body to react as it would to a
fever. Since fevers have been
associated with a temporary
improvement of symptoms in
about a third of autism
patients, sulforaphane may
work in a similar way, accord-
ing to the study authors.
The findings appear in the
October issue of Proceedings
of the National Academy of
Autism experts not involved
with the research said the findings are encouraging,
but cautioned that there are still many unanswered
"The trial needs to be replicated and evaluated in
larger and more age-diverse samples," Dr Susan
Hyman, chief of neurodevelopmental and behavioural
paediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical
Centre, said in an e-mail to ABC News. "But the
data is certainly worth pursuing."
Dr Max Wiznitzer, a paediatric neurologist at UH
Rainbow Babies & Children s Hospital in Cleveland,
"The results are intriguing because there is an
improvement in some of the subjects," Wiznitzer
said. "However, (the authors) have not shown that
they have treated the core essence of autism."
Still, Wiznitzer said these findings would be "fas-
cinating if true."
"It might give us a whole new group of treatments
to use in these individuals," he said.
Given the lack of effective treatment options avail-
able for people with autism, the results of this study
deserve a closer look. The good news is that sul-
foraphane is associated with very few side effects
and is generally regarded as a safe chemical given its
natural origins, according to Talalay.
But Hyman said she would not encourage families
to administer sulforaphane without guidance from
their doctor because it s unclear whether there are
potential drug interactions and long-term side effects.
So should parents force their kids to eat more
broccoli? Not so fast.
"It s very difficult to get this amount of broccoli
in your diet," Talalay said. "You have to know which
broccoli you re eating because the variability of (sul-
foraphane) is enormous."
Instead, he said he believes that the study provides
an "insight" into the mechanism of autism.
effects and is
regarded as a
Study authors found that almost half of the patients treated with sulforaphane
had "much improved" or "very much improved" social interaction and verbal
communication, and more than half exhibited less aberrant behaviour.
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and advice
Broccoli sprout extract may
help curb autism symptoms
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