Researchers at the University of East Anglia have observed that sulforaphane, a compound released when eating cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, is able to block certain enzymes in the body associated with joint destruction.
Sulforaphane was found to inhibit the creation of metalloproteinase enzymes in chondrocytes and synovial cells, two types of cell found in joints. These enzymes are involved in the destruction of cartilage associated with arthritis, so inhibition of them should help prevent the condition.
Tests so far have shown that the compound in broccoli does indeed reduce the destruction of cartilage, both in vitro and in vivo in animal models of the condition. The researchers saw that a diet rich in sulforaphane reduced the degree of arthritis in animal models, and trials are underway now to ascertain whether the same is true in human osteoarthritis sufferers.
Test subjects have been given 100g of ‘super broccoli’ (specially bred to be high in sulforaphane) to eat every day for two weeks. They are then due to have surgery on afflicted joints, at which point the researchers will be looking to see if there is any evidence of improvement or if the quantity of metalloproteinase enzymes has diminished.
Should the test be successful, it may provide a way for healthy people to protect against arthritis, as well as slowing down the progression of the disease in those already suffering from it.