Broccoli Fights Arthritis
August 28, 2013

Broccoli Enzyme Helps In Fight Against Arthritis

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Famously disliked by President George H.W. Bush and kids across America, broccoli has been found to prevent or slow the progress of the most common form of arthritis, according to a new study in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

In the study, a compound found in broccoli called sulforaphane was shown to slow the destruction of cartilage in joints associated with the painful condition of osteoarthritis. After discovering that sulforaphane inhibits enzymes that cause joint destruction, the researchers wanted to see if the compound sufficiently penetrated joints, enough to be effective against the debilitating condition.

To calculate the beneficial effects of sulforaphane, the study researchers fed laboratory mice a diet rich in the compound and discovered that they had markedly less cartilage damage and osteoarthritis than control mice that were not fed the diet. The scientists also tested the compound's effect on humans and cow cartilage.

“The results from this study are very promising,” said lead author Ian Clark, a musculoskeletal expert at the University of East Anglia in the UK. “We have shown that this works in the three laboratory models we have tried, in cartilage cells, tissue and mice. We now want to show this works in humans. It would be very powerful if we could.”

“As well as treating those who already have the condition, you need to be able to tell healthy people how to protect their joints into the future,” he continued. “There is currently no way in to the disease pharmaceutically and you cannot give healthy people drugs unnecessarily, so this is where diet could be a safe alternative.”

“Although surgery is very successful, it is not really an answer,” Clark concluded. “Once you have osteoarthritis, being able to slow its progress and the progression to surgery is really important. Prevention would be preferable and changes to lifestyle, like diet, may be the only way to do that.”

Alan Silman, a medical director at Arthritis Research, said the study showed “promising results” since it indicates that a common food could significantly benefit people with osteoarthritis or protect others from developing the disease.

“Until now research has failed to show that food or diet can play any part in reducing the progression of osteoarthritis, so if these findings can be replicated in humans, it would be quite a breakthrough,” Silman said. “We know that exercise and keeping to a healthy weight can improve people's symptoms and reduce the chances of the disease progressing, but this adds another layer in our understanding of how diet could play its part.”

In a current study being funded by the Diet and Health Research Industry Club, researchers have recruited 40 volunteer osteoarthritis patients who are scheduled to have knee replacement surgery. Half of the study participants will be given broccoli engineered to be high in sulforaphane to eat for two weeks before their surgery. Once the operation has taken place the doctors will examine them to determine whether the compound has significantly altered joint metabolism and if it can be detected in the replaced joints.