Osteoarthritis is a debilitating disease caused by the breakdown and damage of joint cartilage. Cartilage acts as a protective shield for the joints in our body and when it gets damaged, it can lead to symptoms such as swelling, pain and severe discomfort. Depression is not uncommon amongst long time sufferers of the condition either. The medical community has been researching several ways to treat and prevent such painful arthritis for years now, exploring both scientific and holistic cures. One such study involves the use of broccoli to prevent the breakdown of cartilage.
Broccoli or rather the compound sulforaphane found in this cruciferous green vegetable is believed to help stop cartilage damage. Broccoli has long since been considered a super food. Experts and nutritionists encourage the inclusion of broccoli as part of a daily balanced diet for its various health benefits. Some of these benefits include lowering blood pressure, and reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. While scientific evidence for these claims are few and far between, there is no denying that broccoli does contain a whole host of healthy nutrients such as folate, vitamins A and C, calcium and insoluble fiber. Including broccoli in your recommended 'five a day' of vegetables can definitely do no harm.
A recent study conducted by a team of researchers from University of East Anglia, the University of Oxford, and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and published in the peer-reviewed journal, Arthritis and Rheumatism, studied the effects of broccoli or sulforaphane on cartilage. The research was based on the theory that sulforaphane possesses anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce the production of enzymes that lead to cartilage damage. It also investigated the effect of sulforaphane on chondrocytes – the cells responsible for the maintenance of cartilage in mammals.
The trials consisted of three different models to test the effects of the compound on cartilage health. In the first model, chondrocytes from cartilage of patients already affected with osteoarthritis were isolated and treated with high doses of sulforaphane. In the second model, cattle cartilage tissue was treated with sulforaphane before being introduced to inflammation-producing cytokines. Finally, in the third model, one group of mice was given a normal diet while a second group was fed a diet high in sulforaphane. Two weeks into the diet, both groups were operated upon and their joints were induced with osteoarthritis changes. Two weeks later, the same joints were studied for damage. Results indicated that all cartilage cells responded well to sulforaphane. There was a marked decrease in the amount of enzymes responsible for joint and cartilage damage as well as faster recovery from joint surgery (in the case of the operated mice).
If the results of this study are anything to go by, increasing your intake of broccoli can help relieve a number of unpleasant symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. However, while there is no harm in increasing the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables in your daily diet, doctors and experts are cautious about prescribing sulforaphane supplements in lieu of the same. Such supplements are available at most health shops but the long-term effects of taking such medication are still not clear. Sulforaphane supplements may also react with certain other medications such as blood pressure medication and anti-psychotic drugs. It is always best to check with your doctor before starting any new treatment or medical regime.
Researchers now plan to take the results of this study forward and investigate the effects of sulforaphane on humans. In these trials, a specially designed 'super broccoli' with high quantities of sulforaphane will be used. This will make quantifying the beneficial effects of broccoli on osteoarthritis much simpler.