Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a multi-factorial syndrome resulting from both genetic and non-genetic risk factors and characterized by challenges with repetitive behaviors, speech, social skills, and nonverbal communication.

Many families with a child suffering from autism pursue dietary and nutritional approaches as components of treatment. Pharmacological interventions are mainly aimed at reducing symptoms—to calm them or help them sleep, for example—but have no effect on ASD’s core symptoms, like social withdrawal. Only two drugs have been approved, and both merely target an associated symptom, irritability, rather than the disorder’s core deficits. Both drugs also have significant side effects, including weight gain and sedation, so it’s no surprise parents seek alternative therapies.

Unfortunately, upon testing, many have been found to be ineffective, like secretin. However, there are some dietary interventions that appear to successfully help treat autism, such as sulforaphane, which is formed almost exclusively in cruciferous vegetables.

Not only can crucifers, like broccoli, potentially prevent DNA damage and metastatic cancer spread, activate defenses against pathogens and pollutants, help to prevent lymphoma, boost your liver detox enzymes and target breast cancer stem cells, and reduce the risk of prostate cancer progression, but they may also help protect your brain and your eyesight, reduce nasal allergy inflammation, manage type 2 diabetes, and successfully help treat autism. The component responsible for these benefits is thought to be sulforaphane, which is why cruciferous vegetables get their own spot on the Daily Dozen.

A placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial of boys with autism found that about two to three cruciferous vegetable servings’ worth of sulforaphane a day improves social interaction, abnormal behavior, and verbal communication within a matter of weeks, thought perhaps due to sulforaphane’s role as a detoxicant.

For substantiation of any statements of fact from the peer-reviewed medical literature, please see the associated videos below.

Image Credit: Matt Beckwith. This image has been modified.

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