There's new hope in the search for a way to help slow or prevent arthritis: eating broccoli. Researchers in England are examining evidence suggesting that sulforaphane, a compound in broccoli, helps deter the arthritic process and provides long-term benefits for joint health. Initial laboratory research indicated that sulforaphane can block the enzymes that cause joint destruction. The same substance is also thought to suppress tumors, which would make it protective against cancer as well. We know that eating broccoli leads to a high level of sulforaphane in the blood, but the British researchers want to determine how it gets into joints, and how much would be needed to prevent or treat osteoarthritis, a joint disease that gradually destroys cartilage leading to pain, swelling and loss of mobility. The same British team is also investigating the effects of other dietary compounds on arthritis, including diallyl disulphide, which is found in garlic.
My take? Every child is aware that eating broccoli is good for you. Population studies have shown that people who eat a lot of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have lower rates of cancer than those who don't. We don't yet know, however, which constituents in these vegetables are responsible for their protective effects. It may be indole-3 carbinol, which some lab studies show inhibits growth of some types of cancer, the carotenoid pigments, vitamin C, or the sulforaphane. The cancer-protective effects observed could also be due to two or more of these components acting together. I'll be interested in the outcome of the British study, but in the meantime, eating plenty of broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables) seems a simple and prudent strategy to support a healthy lifestyle.
Find broccoli recipes in my healthy kitchen.