Broccoli Compound May Fight Osteoarthritis

Can sulforaphane slow cartilage breakdown?

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables may be foods that help bone health. When chewed, these foods produce a compound called sulforaphane. And researchers at the University of East Anglia now believe sulforaphane may slow cartilage destruction, a painful symptom of osteoarthritis.

In a study on mice, those that were fed a sulforaphane-rich diet showed less cartilage loss and osteoarthritis over time. The researchers attributed the improvement to a series of actions, including sulforaphane’s ability to block an inflammatory enzyme. Other trials on human cartilage cells and cow cartilage tissue support the team’s findings.

“Until now, research has failed to show that food or diet can play any part in reducing the progression of osteoarthritis,” said Arthritis Research UK medical director Alan Silman, “so if these findings can be replicated in humans, it would be quite a breakthrough.”

The University of East Anglia team is now planning a small human trial in which osteoarthritis patients will eat a type of broccoli bred for high levels of sulforaphane. If eating the broccoli before knee operations improves recovery, a larger trial will likely follow.

Broccoli and other crucifers have other bone-building nutrients, including calcium and vitamin K, but sulforaphane is particularly intriguing because of its sensitive nature.