Updated: Oct 20, 2020
What is Sulforaphane?
Sulforaphane has been a circulating topic for years now when talking about alternative medicine for autism spectrum disorder. For those that are not familiar with what sulforaphane is, it is a phytochemical that is rich in sulfur-containing compounds(1). Sulforaphane can be found in foods such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. Although, the highest source of sulforaphane in food is broccoli sprouts (3-4 day old broccoli plant). There are sulforaphane supplements out there as well, we will be reviewing the research on them later in this blog.
So what does sulforaphane do for autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? First off, it has a neuroprotective effect on the brain. It protects the brain by reducing toxin levels in the brain due to physical or environmental factors. Children are exposed to toxic chemicals every day that we don’t even think about. Things like household cleaning products, various foods that contain chemicals, and also personal care products like toothpaste. These environmental toxins cause about 40-50% of the variance in ASD. Exposure to these heavy metals can lead to huge developmental damage to the child, causing impaired brain function, heightened hyperactivity, and inattention. Another function sulforaphane has is that because it is plentiful in sulfur-compounds, it can provide the body with the sulfur that it is missing. Sulfur plays a huge role in our bodies. Sulfur compounds like homocysteine, cysteine, and glutathione are responsible for numerous processes at the cellular level as well as helping our cells function properly (2). People with ASD tend to have lower sulfur levels which cause abnormal levels of oxidative stress, glutathione, and cause mitochondrial dysfunction (3). Some more functions include reducing cell/tissue damage, prevents liver damage, and helps to preserve mitochondrial function (3).
A recently published systematic review found five studies using sulforaphane supplementation as a possible treatment intervention with children diagnosed with ASD . The results of the studies concluded an increase in social response, reduced aberrant behaviors, and improved verbal communication barriers. The studies also showed improvement in the Aberrant Behavior Checklist Scores (ABC) and Social Responsiveness Scale Score (SRS) (3). In studies that have been completed on humans using sulforaphane, some gave dosages of 50 umol per 100 pounds of body weight, some gave 150 umol per 100 pounds of body weight, and others gave 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight. A limitation of these studies was that they were all different in how long their study was conducted. The doses and length of duration for each study were a little inconsistent but all showed positive data. So as far as dosing goes, not enough consistent research has been completed to give a definite answer. There are a few side effects that sulforaphane has such as diarrhea, constipation, insomnia, and gas (3). It’s normal to see these side effects because vegetables are usually high in fiber, causing gas. Doing things like adding broccoli sprouts to your child’s meal has no harmful effects on them though.
Supplementation of sulforaphane has become increasingly popular which is great but it’s also very important to know what’s exactly in these supplements and if they’re worth the money. There have been a few products that I have researched and would recommend, the first one being the Smokey Mountain Nutrition Sulforaphane Broccoli Seed Extract. I really like how they are an FDA-registered and inspected facility and formulate their product to be gluten-free, vegetarian, HALAL certified, and are third-party tested. Another supplement I would recommend is Thorne Crucera SGS. This supplement is a bit more pricey but I really admired the fact that they included links to different cited articles explaining exactly what research went into making the formula for this product as well as when not to be taking the supplement. This showed me that they had compassion for their customer’s safety. The final supplement I wanted to share in this post is NeuroBiologix Extra Strength Sulforaphane. Their formula contains no gluten, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, or preservatives. It also contains about double the amount of sulforaphane for almost half the price compared to other brands available.
There are over 50 studies that are already published regarding clinical studies with broccoli, sulforaphane-rich broccoli beverages, powders, and dietary supplements. All of which show positive research outcomes and promising data (4). There are 50 more additional ongoing trials to continue conducting more research on sulforaphane as well (5). But still, there is much more research to be done on the long-term effects of sulforaphane’s effects on ASD. Only a few studies have started using humans to see the short-term effects that it has on them, all of which have gone well so far and I found at least five current clinical trials going on as we speak with sulforaphane and ASD. Cruciferous vegetables might not seem as powerful as pharmaceutical medicine but you’d be surprised.
Cairn Timko Nutritionist &
Greer McGuinness MS, RD, CDN, CLT
Founder of Biomedical Healing For Kids
I know that getting kids to eat vegetables is an incredibly daunting task but, I have gathered some recipes that I think are a great way to sneak those veggies in for your kids! Try these out and let me know what you guys think!