Some of the worst behavioural patterns of autism can be minimised by eating broccoli sprouts. A chemical from the vegetable helps autistic children to interact better, and improves their verbal skills, a new study has found.
The chemical, sulforaphane, has already been promoted as a possible cancer preventative, but researchers also think it could help children with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.
They've tested it on a group of 40 teenage boys and men, aged between 13 and 27, with moderate to severe autism, and found that most given a daily dose of sulforaphane saw "substantial improvements" in their social interaction and verbal communication, while repetitive and ritualistic behaviours, common in autism, decreased, compared to those given a placebo instead.
Sulforaphane seems to have a similar effect as fever does on autism. Parents have noticed that their child's autism improves temporarily while he or she has a fever, and sulforaphane seems to have a similarly beneficial effect at the cellular level.
(Source: PNAS, October 13, 2014; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1416940111)