Conference Coverage

Sulforaphane for autism? Maybe


Key clinical point: The dietary supplement is showing benefit in an ongoing trial, but there are a lot of pills.

Major finding: The response rate at 30 weeks was 56%.

Study details: A randomized trial involving 50 children with autism.

Disclosures: The U.S. Department of Defense is funding the research. The investigators said they have no relevant disclosures.

Source: Zimmerman A et al. Neurology. 2018 Apr;90(15 Suppl.):N1.002.



The randomized portion is still blinded. But so far, 31% have responded positively at 15 weeks, meaning a much or very much improved score in at least two domains on the Ohio Autism Clinical Global Impressions Scale; domains cover social interaction, violent behavior, communication, and other areas.

Among the patients who have completed the study, the response rate at week 30 almost doubled, to 56%. “We don’t know which patients were on sulforaphane and which were on placebo” in the randomized phase, Dr. Singh said. “But we think because the response doubled” when the second half of the children were switched to sulforaphane, “there should probably not be a very large placebo effect here.”

Meanwhile, after the washout period, “some patients still do well, but many more [go] back to baseline,” added Dr. Singh, the senior investigator in the new trial.

The most common side effects are insomnia (28%), vomiting (19%), flatulence (17%), diarrhea (15%), and constipation (13%). A few patients have dropped out because of insomnia and diarrhea; more have dropped out because they simply didn’t want to take the pills – 125 mg of broccoli seed powder three to eight times a day, depending on weight.

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