Best Foods for Autism

Best Foods for Autism
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The sulforaphane found in five cents’ worth of broccoli sprouts has been shown to benefit autism in a way no drug ever has in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

You may remember my series of videos about the engine-of-aging enzyme, TOR. Well, kids with autism tend to have higher TOR activity in their bodies, and this “hyperactive…TOR…signaling” may actually play a role in causing autism, making TOR a potential target to treat autism—or even theoretically reverse it, if we could target downstream TOR signaling, like between TOR and S6K1. Well, that’s actually one of the ways broccoli compounds kill off prostate cancer cells—by inhibiting the “signal transduction between…TOR and S6K1.” Breast cancer too; sulforaphane is “a potent inhibitor” of breast cancer cells, because “it targets downstream elements of the [TOR] pathway.”

So, if we gave broccoli to those with autism, if it blocks TOR, maybe it would block some of the synaptic dysfunction that contributes to the features of autism. And, that’s in addition to blocking autism pathways four other ways: “oxidative stress and lower antioxidant capacity, [the] mitochondrial dysfunction,” the brain inflammation. And, not just in a petri dish: “sulforaphane can cross the blood-brain-barrier.” You eat broccoli, and sulforaphane “quickly reach[es your brain] to exert its protective effects”—in theory, but you don’t know, until you put it to the test.

But now, you can understand why such a study could attract researchers from leading institutions: Harvard, Hopkins, and get published in one of our most prestigious journals: PNAS (the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). But what did they find? Well, first, what did they do? A “placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial, young men (aged 13–27) with moderate to severe [autism] received…sulforaphane…from broccoli sprout[s], or [an] indistinguishable [sugar pill].” They “were dosed according to body weight.” Those under 100 pounds got about a tablespoon of broccoli sprouts worth of sulforaphane a day, which is about a cup’s worth of broccoli. Between 100 and 200 pounds got about two cups of broccoli’s worth, or two tablespoons of fresh broccoli sprouts, and the big boys got three cups’ worth a day, or a little under a quarter-cup of broccoli sprouts. Why didn’t they just use actual broccoli, or actual sprouts? Because then you couldn’t have a blinded study; the patients, doctors, and parents would know who’s getting the special treatment and who’s not, and that could introduce bias just through the placebo effect. So, instead, no one knew, until the end, who got the sulforaphane, and who just got nothing in a pill.

They chose dietary sulforaphane because of its “capacity to reverse” oxidation, dysfunction, and inflammation. Yeah, but, when put to the test, did it actually work? Well, the placebo didn’t. Give people with autism nothing, and nothing much happens. But, effectively, secretly sneak them some broccoli, and “substantial…improvement…in [behavior], social interaction,…and verbal communication.” But, it all disappeared once the broccoli stopped.

Let me show you what it looks like. This is the ABC score, the “Aberrant Behaviour Checklist,” which includes things like repetitive behaviors. In the placebo group, no big change, which is what you’d expect. But the abnormal behaviors plunged in the sulforaphane group—the group that got the sulforaphane found in about five cents’ worth of broccoli sprouts a day. But, the study ended on week 18, and a month later, things were heading back to where they started.

Similar findings for a “Social Responsiveness Scale”—significant improvements until the treatment was stopped, and then caught right back up to how poorly those in the placebo group continued to function. And, these weren’t just scores on a page. “The substantial improvements…were conspicuous;” the doctors could see them; their parents and caregivers could see the improvements. No drug has ever been shown to have these kinds of effects. And, look, these were young men, starting at age 13. One could imagine it working as well, or even better, for younger children, because their brains are still developing.

And look, what’s the downside? “Broccoli sprouts are widely consumed…all over the world…without any reports of adverse effects.” Now, remember, we’re talking about whole foods, not broccoli or sulforaphane supplements. Remember, I did videos about them. Broccoli sprouts work; commercial broccoli sprout supplements hardly at all. Broccoli has sulforaphane—florets more than the stems. 

Broccoli sprouts have like ten times more, but broccoli pills, powders, and supplements have little or none. So, broccoli and cruciferous vegetables for all kids—autism or not—and hey, maybe pregnant women as well, for potential “prenatal prevention” of autism in the first place.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Kristina DeMuth. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

You may remember my series of videos about the engine-of-aging enzyme, TOR. Well, kids with autism tend to have higher TOR activity in their bodies, and this “hyperactive…TOR…signaling” may actually play a role in causing autism, making TOR a potential target to treat autism—or even theoretically reverse it, if we could target downstream TOR signaling, like between TOR and S6K1. Well, that’s actually one of the ways broccoli compounds kill off prostate cancer cells—by inhibiting the “signal transduction between…TOR and S6K1.” Breast cancer too; sulforaphane is “a potent inhibitor” of breast cancer cells, because “it targets downstream elements of the [TOR] pathway.”

So, if we gave broccoli to those with autism, if it blocks TOR, maybe it would block some of the synaptic dysfunction that contributes to the features of autism. And, that’s in addition to blocking autism pathways four other ways: “oxidative stress and lower antioxidant capacity, [the] mitochondrial dysfunction,” the brain inflammation. And, not just in a petri dish: “sulforaphane can cross the blood-brain-barrier.” You eat broccoli, and sulforaphane “quickly reach[es your brain] to exert its protective effects”—in theory, but you don’t know, until you put it to the test.

But now, you can understand why such a study could attract researchers from leading institutions: Harvard, Hopkins, and get published in one of our most prestigious journals: PNAS (the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). But what did they find? Well, first, what did they do? A “placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial, young men (aged 13–27) with moderate to severe [autism] received…sulforaphane…from broccoli sprout[s], or [an] indistinguishable [sugar pill].” They “were dosed according to body weight.” Those under 100 pounds got about a tablespoon of broccoli sprouts worth of sulforaphane a day, which is about a cup’s worth of broccoli. Between 100 and 200 pounds got about two cups of broccoli’s worth, or two tablespoons of fresh broccoli sprouts, and the big boys got three cups’ worth a day, or a little under a quarter-cup of broccoli sprouts. Why didn’t they just use actual broccoli, or actual sprouts? Because then you couldn’t have a blinded study; the patients, doctors, and parents would know who’s getting the special treatment and who’s not, and that could introduce bias just through the placebo effect. So, instead, no one knew, until the end, who got the sulforaphane, and who just got nothing in a pill.

They chose dietary sulforaphane because of its “capacity to reverse” oxidation, dysfunction, and inflammation. Yeah, but, when put to the test, did it actually work? Well, the placebo didn’t. Give people with autism nothing, and nothing much happens. But, effectively, secretly sneak them some broccoli, and “substantial…improvement…in [behavior], social interaction,…and verbal communication.” But, it all disappeared once the broccoli stopped.

Let me show you what it looks like. This is the ABC score, the “Aberrant Behaviour Checklist,” which includes things like repetitive behaviors. In the placebo group, no big change, which is what you’d expect. But the abnormal behaviors plunged in the sulforaphane group—the group that got the sulforaphane found in about five cents’ worth of broccoli sprouts a day. But, the study ended on week 18, and a month later, things were heading back to where they started.

Similar findings for a “Social Responsiveness Scale”—significant improvements until the treatment was stopped, and then caught right back up to how poorly those in the placebo group continued to function. And, these weren’t just scores on a page. “The substantial improvements…were conspicuous;” the doctors could see them; their parents and caregivers could see the improvements. No drug has ever been shown to have these kinds of effects. And, look, these were young men, starting at age 13. One could imagine it working as well, or even better, for younger children, because their brains are still developing.

And look, what’s the downside? “Broccoli sprouts are widely consumed…all over the world…without any reports of adverse effects.” Now, remember, we’re talking about whole foods, not broccoli or sulforaphane supplements. Remember, I did videos about them. Broccoli sprouts work; commercial broccoli sprout supplements hardly at all. Broccoli has sulforaphane—florets more than the stems. 

Broccoli sprouts have like ten times more, but broccoli pills, powders, and supplements have little or none. So, broccoli and cruciferous vegetables for all kids—autism or not—and hey, maybe pregnant women as well, for potential “prenatal prevention” of autism in the first place.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Kristina DeMuth. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Doctor's Note

This is the big finale to my initial three-part video series on autism. For the background that led researchers down this path of clues, check out Fever Benefits for Autism in a Food and Fighting Autism Brain Inflammation with Food.

Prevent Cancer from Going on TOR is the video to which I alluded.

My video Broccoli: Sprouts vs. Supplements underscores the importance of plants over pills, and Biggest Nutrition Bang for Your Buck tells you how to grow your own.

After producing my initial series on autism, I’ve made even more videos on the topic:

I have videos on autism coming out pretty regularly. Find all of the latest here.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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