Urinary Metabolites Correlate with Autism Symptom Improvements after Treatment with Sulforaphane from Broccoli
We partnered with psychiatry and autism experts at the University of California, San Francisco, and industry experts, to treat children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They were given a supplement that produces sulforaphane from the glucoraphanin in broccoli, daily for 12 weeks. All subjects were treated (there was no placebo group) and symptoms improved overall. Most exciting, we identified 77 urinary metabolites (small molecules that are excreted and easy to measure) that correlated with symptom changes. They cluster into pathways of oxidative stress, amino acid and gut microbe metabolism, neurotransmitters, hormones, and sphingomyelin metabolism. The discovery that improvements in behavior correlated with increased urinary levels of seven different chemical forms of sphingomyelin was particularly exciting, since these compounds are intimately involved in the sheaths around nerve cells, and they are converted into potent signaling molecules. Abnormalities in sphingomyelin levels have been associated with other CNS disorders such as ALS, depression, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s. The supplement (Avmacol®) that was provided to children in this small pilot study is being used in at least four other ongoing, larger, placebo-controlled interventions in children with ASD in the US and China.
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