human brain
Pixabay

In a recent study, scientists figured out how to tweak the levels of glutamate using a compound derived from broccoli sprouts, which has been believed to trace the origins of schizophrenic symptoms.

They speculate that broccoli sprouts, which contain high levels of the chemical sulforaphane, may help reduce the doses of traditional antipsychotic medicines needed to manage schizophrenia symptoms. This will help reducing unwanted side effects of the present medicines.

Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental disorder which can affect how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, reduced expression of emotions, reduced speaking, trouble paying attention, poor mental functions and many more.

Drugs used to treat schizophrenia don't work for everyone, and can cause a variety of unwelcome side effects, like metabolic problems increasing cardiovascular risk, involuntary movements, restlessness, stiffness and "the shakes."

Researchers wanted to see if sulforaphane, the extract, could change glutathione levels in healthy people's brains and if this could potentially aid people with mental disorders. Glutathione is made of cysteine, glycine and glutamate, and is currently a potential cure.

For their study, researchers recruited nine healthy volunteers (four women, five men) to take two capsules of sulforaphane daily as broccoli sprout extract for seven days. It was reported that a few of them were gassy and some had stomach upset when eating the capsules on an empty stomach, but overall the sulforaphane was relatively well tolerated.

Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) was used to monitor the brains of the healthy volunteers before and after taking sulforaphane. After seven days, there was an increase in average glutathione levels in the subjects' brains.

However, further research is needed to learn whether sulforaphane can safely reduce symptoms of hallucinations in people with schizophrenia, said researchers as their study does not mean to demonstrate the value of using commercially available sulforaphane supplements to treat or prevent schizophrenia. Patients should consult their physicians before trying any kind of over-the-counter supplement.

Akira Sawa, Director of the Johns Hopkins Schizophrenia Center said, "It's possible that future studies could show sulforaphane to be a safe supplement to give people at risk of developing schizophrenia as a way to prevent, delay or blunt the onset of symptoms."

World Health Organisation has stated that schizophrenia affects about 21 million people worldwide. Solutions to it can drastically improve mental health worldwide. With this study, a solution may arise.

The study was published in journals JAMA Psychiatry, PNAS and Molecular Neuropsychiatry.