Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), characterized by both impaired communication and social interaction , and by stereotypic behavior , affects about 1 in 68 , predominantly males .
The medico-economic burdens of ASD are enormous, and no recognized treatment targets the core features of ASD. In a placebo-controlled , double-blind , randomized trial , young men (aged 13–27) with moderate to severe ASD received the phytochemical sulforaphane (n = 29)—derived from broccoli sprout extracts—or indistinguishable placebo (n = 15) .
The effects on behavior of daily oral doses of sulforaphane (50–150 µmol) for 18 wk , followed by 4 wk without treatment , were quantified by three widely accepted behavioral measures completed by parents/caregivers and physicians: the Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC) , Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) , and Clinical Global Impression Improvement Scale (CGI-I) . Initial scores for ABC and SRS were closely matched for participants assigned to placebo and sulforaphane . After 18 wk , participants receiving placebo experienced minimal change (<3.3%) , whereas those receiving sulforaphane showed substantial declines (improvement of behavior) : 34% for ABC (P < 0.001 , comparing treatments) and 17% for SRS scores (P = 0.017) .
On CGI-I, a significantly greater number of participants receiving sulforaphane had improvement in social interaction , abnormal behavior, and verbal communication (P = 0.015–0.007). Upon discontinuation of sulforaphane, total scores on all scales rose toward pretreatment levels . Dietary sulforaphane, of recognized low toxicity, was selected for its capacity to reverse abnormalities that have been associated with ASD , including oxidative stress and lower antioxidant capacity , depressed glutathione synthesis , reduced mitochondrial function and oxidative phosphorylation, increased lipid peroxidation , and neuroinflammmation .