Andrew Zimmerman, MD, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at UMass Memorial Medical Center, says a compound found in broccoli sprouts seems to mimic something called the fever effect in the body, it's what protects cells in times of stress, according to Medical Breakthroughs by Ivanhoe.
"Sulforaphane is one compound that performs many of these functions by kick starting or up-regulating those functions in the cells" Dr. Zimmerman said.
The idea came from a previous study showing when kids with autism get a fever, their symptoms improve.
Dr. Zimmerman explained, "They're more sociable and they make more eye contact."
The 18-week trial, 40 young men with severe to moderate autism either got the drug or a placebo. By week four researchers saw improvements.
"They were calmer, more sociable" Dr. Zimmerman said.
By the end, half of participants had better social interactions and two-thirds improved behavior. Some made eye contact for the first time or like Ryan, were able to go out in public.
Once the trial ended and patients stopped taking Sulforaphane, they reverted back to their old behaviors. Dr. Zimmerman says sulforaphane can be found in all cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, kale and brussel sprouts. While you can't eat enough sulforaphane from natural sources, it could still be a healthy addition to your diet.