A compound found in broccoli – sulforaphane – slows down the destruction of cartilage in joints associated with painful and often debilitating osteoarthritis. Broccoli could be a key to preventing or slowing the progress of the most common form of this arthritis – osteoarthritis.
The researchers found that mice fed a diet rich in the compound had significantly less cartilage damage and osteoarthritis than those that were not.
The study, which also examined human cartilage cells and cow cartilage tissue, was funded by medical research charity Arthritis Research UK, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC) and The Dunhill Medical Trust.
Sulforaphane is released when eating cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and cabbage, but particularly broccoli. Previous research has suggested that sulforaphane has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, but this is the first major study into its effects on joint health.
The researchers discovered that sulforaphane blocks the enzymes that cause joint destruction by stopping a key molecule known to cause inflammation. They wanted to find out if the compound got into joints in sufficient amounts to be effective and their findings are published today in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.
More than 8.5 million people in the UK have osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease affecting the hands, feet, spine, hips and knees in particular. According to Arthritis Research UK, the annual cost of the condition to the NHS is £5.2 billion. In 2011, more than 77,000 knee and 66,000 hip replacements were carried out due to osteoarthritis – approximately one every four minutes.
Aging and obesity are the most common contributors to the condition and due to their effects, the number of people in the UK consulting a GP about knee osteoarthritis alone could rise from 4.7 million in 2010 to 8.3 million by 2035. Currently one in five people over the age of 45 has osteoarthritis in their knee. There is no cure or effective treatment for the disease other than pain relief, which is often inadequate, or joint replacement.
The study 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.
Source: University of East Anglia, UK