Researchers led by the University of East Anglia found that sulforaphane slows down the destruction of cartilage in joints associated with painful and often debilitating osteoarthritis - a degenerative disease affecting the hands, feet, spine, hips and knees in particular. (Agencies)
Sulforaphane is released when eating cruciferous vegetables such as brussels sprouts and cabbage, but particularly broccoli.
The researchers found that mice fed a diet rich in the compound had significantly less cartilage damage and osteoarthritis than those that were not. They discovered that sulforaphane blocks the enzymes that cause joint destruction by stopping a key molecule known to cause inflammation.
The study, which also examined human cartilage cells and cow cartilage tissue, involved researchers from UEA's schools of Biological Sciences, Pharmacy and Norwich Medical School, along with the University of Oxford and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
"This is an interesting study with promising results as it suggests that a common vegetable, broccoli, might have health benefits for people with osteoarthritis and even possibly protect people from developing the disease in the first place," said Arthritis Research UK's medical director Professor Alan Silman.
"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.
"The results from this study are very promising. 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," said lead researcher Ian Clark, professor of musculoskeletal biology at UEA.
Researchers from the School of Biological Sciences and Norwich Medical School are now embarking on a small scale trial in osteoarthritis patients due to have knee replacement surgery, to see if eating broccoli has similar effects on the human joint.
Researchers led by the University of East Anglia found that sulforaphane slows down the destruction of cartilage in joints associated with painful and often debilitating osteoarthritis - a degenerative disease affecting the hands, feet, spine, hips and knees in particular.