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Neurology Today: Sulforaphane Improves Autism Symptoms

By Thomas R. Collins

Autism symptoms were significantly improved in patients taking sulforaphane, a compound found in broccoli and other plants, compared to those taking placebo, according to a preliminary analysis of a phase 2 trial presented at the Child Neurology Society annual meeting.

In a trial of 50 patients of children, age 3 to 12, six of the 20 patients (30 percent) taking sulforaphane showed improvements on the Ohio Autism Clinical Impressions Scale (OACIS) after 15 weeks. The scale includes questions about social interactions, aberrant behaviors, and other autism domains. That compared with two of 27 (7 percent) who improved on placebo (p=.048), reported Kanwaljit Singh, MD, MPH, instructor of pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts.

The researchers decided to research the compound based on reports that when children with autism had fevers, they got temporarily better — with more eye contact, better sociability, and less irritability.

They focused on sulforaphane, an isothiocyanate found in high concentrations in broccoli sprouts that activates the heat shock response, which also happens in cells during fever.

Commenting on the study, Jean-Baptiste Le Pichon, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, said that the open-label aspect posed problems for assessing the findings.

"There's so much of a placebo effect that to interpret any of these data is very difficult," he said.

Dr. Le Pichon said that examining sulforaphane based on the observation that children get better when they have a fever is "a reasonable thing." But he said the IL-6 findings — which Dr. Singh had said were a preliminary result and which might change on the final analysis — cast doubt on the reliability of the hypothesis.

He said the nature of the disease also makes it difficult to properly assess the findings.

"Autism is an incredibly variable disease, it's caused by a lot of different things."


Read the full story via Neurology Today

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