A small yet still important study contributes to the importance of the complementary role of a health diet in the successful management and treatment of Autism Spectrum Conditions.

Really, for any fan’s of ‘God’s Pharmacy’, the clues are there in the sacred geometry  and beautiful Fibonacci patterns however it is great when the science emerges to back it up, even if it is just to hush up the sceptics :).

On a small cohort of 40 males between the ages of 13 and 27,  all who had moderate to severe autism.  The study revealed that a component of broccoli and broccoli sprouts (sulforaphane) can help give autistic patients a significant boost to social skills and verbal communication… naturally!

26 received broccoli sprout extract (50 to 150umol daily) and 14 received placebo and measured the results after 18 weeks.

The results were impressive — almost half showed measurable improvement in several different areas including social and verbal skills.

46 % of participants had measurably improved social and verbal skills after taking broccoli-sprout extract for over 4 months, compared to only 3% of the placebo group.

 Among the statistically significant benefits:

  • – improved social interactions
  • – improved eye contact
  • – improved verbal communication
  • – decreased repetitive movements
  • – decreased irritability
  • – decreased hyperactivity

Parents and caregivers used the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) and the Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC) and physicians used the Clinical Global Impression Improvement scale (CGI-I) to measure a range of behaviors and objectively measure outcome.

Dietary sulforaphane (found in both broccoli and broccoli sprouts) is healthy and has a recognized low toxicity profile, so it appears to be very safe to recommend a broccoli rich diet to patients with Autism.
The effects appear to be directly and measurably related to the sulforaphane rich broccoli-sprout extract and benefits wear off after the sulforaphane is discontinued.
Hopefully this positive and encouraging but small study will be repeated on a larger scale, for a longer period of time, and with female autistic patients as well.

The science behind why it might work:

A number of biochemical and molecular abnormalities have been associated with Autism Spectrum conditions, including oxidative stress, reduced antioxidant capacity and inflammation in the brain.  It is unsure whether these are root cause or a symptom however correction has been linked to improved behaviour.

Sulforaphane has a therapeutic potential to up-regulate the genes that influence a cell’s ability to protect against oxidative stress and inflammation, which under basal conditions do not operate at capacity.


Moral of the story –  eat more broccoli!




Sulforaphane treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Singh et al. 2014. PNAS 111(43): 15550-15555.