Broccoli and Osteoarthritis

Broccoli and osteoarthritisMarion Hauser, MS, RD

In Nature’s Scientific Reports, researchers in the United Kingdom reported on their continuing studies on the effects of broccoli on osteoarthritis.

The research team lead by the School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich and with the University of Liverpool had previously reported that sulforaphane, a dietary isothiocyanate (a sulfur based chemical group found in broccoli), derived from its glucosinolate precursor (glucose,amino acid) can prevent cartilage destruction in cells. These results were reported in animals and in laboratory experiments.

In the next phase of this research, the researchers enrolled 40 patients with knee osteoarthritis undergoing total knee replacement into a proof-of-principle trial. (A first phase study that suggests benefits in humans. Knee replacement patients were chosen because they clearly had degenerative knee disease.)

Patients were randomly divided  to either a low or high glucosinolate diet (broccoli) for 14 days prior to surgery.

The researchers found dietary isothiocyanate in the synovial fluid of the high glucosinolate group, but not the low glucosinolate group.

Here is how the study concluded:

“results provide the first evidence that following broccoli intake, the bioactive constituent isothiocyanates reach the synovial fluid at concentrations with biological impact on the articular joint tissues, and alter the synovial fluid protein profile.

This study clearly demonstrates that a dietary bioactive with chondroprotective properties can penetrate the knee in osteoarthritis.”(1)

Simply, eating broccoli helped patients with knee osteoarthritis by protecting the knee cartilage.

There have been many studies on the benefits of sulforaphane from Broccoli ranging from helping children with autism, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other immune disorders. In part, this is due to Broccoli’s antioxidant effects and its ability to change the cellular environment from disease to healing.

In an earlier study from 2011, researchers at the University of Bologna in Italy publishing in the Journal of cellular physiology found that sulforaphanes could stop cartilage cell death by exerting pro-survival and anti-apoptotic (anti-death) actions and influence signaling pathways in a variety of experimental conditions employing chondrocyte cell lines and osteoarthritic chondrocytes treated with a range of death stimuli.(2)

What does all this mean?

Our body’s immune system is programmed to kill invaders (bacteria, virus, fungus infections), mutations (cancer and immune disorders) and damaged tissue as in osteoarthritis. This is one of the reasons our cartilage breaks down and we go bone-on-bone. The body removes damaged cartilage faster than we can regrow or repair it.

The Italian research team found that sulforaphanes slowed this premature kill off of cartilage cells which allowed healing to take place. The fascination subject of cartilage cell survival is discussed further in Extracellular matrix in osteoarthritis – The soup of healing.

Broccoli is yet another food that can help your joints change from a diseased joint environment to a healing joint environment.

I also invite you to read some of my other articles on the healing aspect of nutrition in chronic joint pain.

1 Davidson R, Gardner S, Jupp O, Bullough A, Butters S, Watts L, Donell S, Traka M, Saha S, Mithen R, Jeffers M. Isothiocyanates are detected in human synovial fluid following broccoli consumption and can affect the tissues of the knee joint. Scientific Reports. 2017 Jun 13;7.

2 Facchini A, Stanic I, Cetrullo S, Borzì RM, Filardo G, Flamigni F. Sulforaphane protects human chondrocytes against cell death induced by various stimuli. Journal of cellular physiology. 2011 Jul 1;226(7):1771-9.


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