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eat your vegetables

A chemical found in broccoli could be the key to treating autism

A preliminary study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University has found a surprising source of hope for the treatment of autism: broccoli. The quintessential good-for-you vegetable might be adding a new health benefit to its résumé because it contains the chemical glucoraphanin.

Glucoraphanin itself isn't the chemical that could help treat autism, which is one of the most difficult disorders to treat because its symptoms are varied and its causes mysterious. Instead, the key is a chemical called sulforaphane, which isn't actually present in broccoli — but which is produced after the body's bacteria interact with broccoli's glucoraphanin.

Because sulforaphane tricks brain cells into thinking the body's temperature has risen, the chemical might be effective in lessening autism symptoms, which have been anecdotally reported to be ameliorated when the patient has a fever. The Johns Hopkins study tested 40 patients against this theory and found that the severity of symptoms in patients given a dose of sulforaphane extract was significantly less than for those who were given a placebo.

While the results of the study were encouraging, it must be replicated on a larger scale before doctors around the world prescribe broccoli as a cure-all. Read more at CBS News.