Broccoli Could Help Fight Arthritis

Medically Reviewed by Sheena Meredith, MD on August 28, 2013

Aug. 28, 2013 -- A compound found in broccoli could help prevent or slow the progress of the most common form of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease caused by the breakdown of cartilage and bone in joints. It most often affects the hands, feet, spine, hips, and knees. The main symptoms are pain and stiffness.

New research in mice shows that the compound sulforaphane slows down the destruction of cartilage in joints.

Eating cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and cabbage, and particularly broccoli, releases sulforaphane.

The researchers from the University of East Anglia in the U.K. say that previous studies have suggested that sulforaphane has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, but this is the first major study into its effects on joint health.

The study, published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, found that sulforaphane blocks the enzymes that cause joint destruction. (Enzymes are proteins that cause chemical changes in your body.)

Human Study

Researchers from the university are now testing their findings on osteoarthritis patients due to have knee replacement surgery. If successful, they hope it will lead to funding for a large clinical trial to show the effect of broccoli on osteoarthritis, joint function, and pain.

"The results from this study are very promising,” researcher Ian Clark says in a statement. “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."

'Super Broccoli'

In the human study, half the 40 patients enrolled will be given "super broccoli," specially grown to be high in sulforaphane. They will eat it for 2 weeks before their surgery. Once the surgery has taken place, the researchers will look at whether the compound has affected the joint.

"Although surgery is very successful, it is not really an answer," Clark says. "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, medical director at Arthritis Research U.K., says in a statement that the study has “promising results.”

"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."

Show Sources


Clark, I. Arthritis and Rheumatism.

News release, University of East Anglia.

Arthritis Research UK.

NHS Choices: "Osteoarthritis."

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