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A chemical found in broccoli sprouts may be a natural way to treat symptoms of autism.

A chemical found in broccoli sprouts may be a natural way to treat symptoms of autism.

Autism presents a variety of symptoms that can be difficult to manage. A recently published study from Johns Hopkins and Harvard hospitals offers new hope that those symptoms can be treated holistically. According to the study, authored by Dr. Paul Talalay of Johns Hopkins Hospital, broccoli sprout contains a chemical that might accomplish just that.

The study examined 40 males with autism over a period of 18 weeks. Of this group, 26 consumed the broccoli extract, called sulforaphane, and subsequently showed significant reduction in hallmark symptoms of the autism disorder spectrum.

Talalay and his research team cited the group of 26 as having "'much improved' or 'very much improved' social interaction, hyperactivity, repetitive behaviors and verbal communication, and more than half exhibited less aberrant behavior" within four to 18 weeks of ongoing treatment. Additionally, the study found that the positive effects of the sulforaphane diminished after four weeks when the subjects stopped ingesting it. In contrast, the 14 subjects treated with a placebo did not experience any improvement in behavioral symptoms.

Dr. Crystal Agi of the ABC News Medical Unit recommends that caregivers of those with autism consult their physician before treating symptoms with sulforaphane, though Talalay confirms that the chemical is regarded as safe, as it is derived from nature.

While Talalay indicates that eating more broccoli may not be the answer to treating symptoms of autism, as it's difficult to gauge the sulforaphane content of broccoli and the other cruciferous vegetables that contain the chemical compound, he does suggest that this finding provides new avenues of discovery in the realm of autism symptom management.

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