1. 1

Estrogen may protect the brain against autism.

Children with autism have fewer estrogen receptors in their brains than children without the disorder, a 2014 study found. The children had low brain levels of proteins involved in estrogen signaling, as well.

Researchers analyzed brain tissue from healthy children and children with autism who had died from non-natural causes. Specifically, they quantified the expression of the estrogen receptor-beta and related proteins in tissue from the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain involved in social behavior and cognition.

They found that children with autism had 35 percent lower estrogen receptor-beta expression in their brains compared to healthy children. Children with autism also had 38 percent less aromatase, a protein that converts testosterone to estrogen. Levels of other proteins involved in estrogen metabolism were also low.

Estrogen receptor-beta plays important roles in the human brain, where it participates in aspects of movement, behavior, and learning. Evidence suggests estrogen is neuroprotective, and low levels of estrogen contribute to cognitive dysfunction.

Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, behavioral problems, and poor communication. It typically manifests in early childhood and is more common among boys than girls.

These findings demonstrate that low brain levels of the estrogen receptor-beta and its related proteins are associated with a greater risk of autism, likely due to impaired neuroprotection from estrogen. In clinical trials, sulforaphane, a compound derived from broccoli and broccoli sprouts, reduces the characteristic behaviors associated with autism. Learn more in this clip featuring sulforaphane expert Dr. Jed Fahey.

  1. You must first login , or register before you can comment.

    Markdown formatting available

This news story was included in a recent science digest.

The science digest is a special email we send out just twice per month to members of our premium community. It covers in-depth science on familiar FoundMyFitness related topics.

If you're interested in trying out a few issues for free, enter your email below or click here to learn more about the benefits of premium membership here.

Verifying email address...