Broccoli may not be everyone’s favorite vegetable, as will be vehemently confirmed by any adolescent child, but a number of high-profile studies seem to suggest it may provide a number of beneficial properties, potentially protecting against a slew of cancers and cardiovascular diseases. However, recent research also tentatively suggests a role of super broccoli in thwarting arthritis.
According to a group of scientists, working at the University of East Anglia (UEA), a component within broccoli can slow the degenerative, and highly debilitating, progression of arthritis.
Sulforaphane is a component of broccoli, manufactured by an enzyme when plants from the cabbage family experience physical damage (while being chewed, for example); its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer uses have already been well-documented in scientific literature.
UEA scientists latest research efforts represent the first time broccoli’s influence on joint health has been investigated, the conclusions of which have been published in the journal of Arthritis & Rheumatism.
Researchers aimed to establish whether the miraculous compound, sulforaphane, could enter the joint in sufficient quantities to reduce inflammation, thereby offering an effective form of treatment for arthritis sufferers.
There are many forms of arthritis, ranging from osteoarthritis to rheumatoid arthritis. A common feature of all arthritic disease states involves inflammation of the joints and resultant pain, particularly of the hands, feet, knees and hip. Thwarting the inflammatory forms of arthritis typically involves the administration of oral or topical anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or diclofenac, alongside physical therapy regimes. But could super broccoli hold the key to improved treatment strategies?
The group specifically looked at osteoarthritis in their mouse models, a mechanical abnormality that results in both cartilage and bone damage and causes joint pain and stiffness. It’s estimated that 27 million people across the United States have been struck down by the debilitating condition. The rise in incidence is believed to culminate from an aging population, and a sharp increase in obesity rates, both factors that contribute to disease progression.
Ultimately, the study explored the influence of the broccoli component on mouse models, establishing that it was capable of impeding the activity of harmful enzymes, belonging to the metalloprotease family, that have a destructive effect on the cartilage that surrounds and protects joints. Administration of a sulforaphane-rich diet to mouse models resulted in a perceptible slowing of cartilage erosion, when compared to mice that were not provided with the same diet.
Ian Clark, the group’s lead researcher, was brimming with confidence over his team’s latest work, and explained the findings justified further investigative research to see whether the same phenomenon could be observed in humans:
“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.”
Indeed, in the wake of these astounding findings, researchers at UEA’s School of Biological Sciences and the Norwich Medical School plan to conduct clinical trials into sulforaphane’s medicinal benefits. Taking a small sample of osteoarthritis patients, waiting to undergo knee replacement surgery, the scientists aim to explore the impact of a broccoli-rich diet on joint health.
The group will provide 40 percent of osteoarthritis participants a food source, known as “super broccoli,” which is modified to contain high doses of sulforaphane. These patients will receive this diet two weeks prior to their knee surgeries. Following the successful knee replacements, the removed joints can then be studied to identify any changes to joint metabolism and health, resulting from the broccoli-based diet. These results will be compared to subjects who had not been fed a diet of super broccoli to determine any tangible difference.
The information gleamed from this work could spell the potential for future treatments against arthritis, and will also inform patients of the need to have a healthy diet, infused with powerful super broccoli. It may even spur on research into other components of food to identify alternative sources of benefit, which may potentially thwart arthritis.
By: James Fenner