Could Broccoli Be the Key to Fighting Arthritis?

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broccoliThis article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

Nutritionists have long extolled the health benefits of broccoli, citing its cancer-fighting properties as well as its rich content of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Now, scientists may be able to add anti-arthritic properties to broccoli’s impressive list of health benefits.

Sharing this benefit with broccoli are other members of the cruciferous vegetable family, such as cabbage and Brussels sprouts. However, interestingly, researchers confirm that broccoli is the best cruciferous for arthritis.

How Does Broccoli Help Reduce Arthritis Symptoms?

Published in Arthritis and Rheumatism, the study found that a sulfur compound present in broccoli slows down the erosion of cartilage in the joints, a malady associated with the pain and frequent debilitation of osteoarthritis. Researchers at the University of East Anglia discovered that mice fed a diet plentiful in this nutrient had a significant reduction in cartilage destruction and osteoarthritis compared to the control group of mice. Results from tests involving human cells and cow cartilage cells were equally promising.

The key to this benefit is that the sulfur compound reduces inflammation, which is the culprit that causes the cartilages protecting bones to wear away. By blocking a destructive enzyme that leads to inflammation, the sulfur can help prevent arthritis and slow its progression.

Since all three types of tests in the study involving the sulfur compound had good results, scientists are currently conducting a small trial involving patients who are in need of knee replacement surgery. If they determine that eating broccoli has similar effects, they hope it will lead to a large scale clinical trial to ascertain the vegetable’s effect on osteoarthritis.

The Need for Alternatives to Traditional Treatment

An estimated 12.4 million Americans are afflicted with arthritis, a degenerative condition that particularly affects the hands, feet and spine, as well as hips and knees. The illness is so widespread that 50 percent of the populace is expected to develop arthritis symptoms in the knee by the time they reach the age of 85.

Hundreds of thousands of patients undergo hip and knee replacement surgery each year. Other than surgery, no effective treatment exists for the illness other than pain medications, which frequently fail to provide adequate relief.

“Although surgery is very successful, it is not really an answer. Once you have osteoarthritis, being able to slow its progress and the progression to surgery is really important,” lead author Ian Clark says. “Prevention would be preferable and changes to lifestyle, like diet, may be the only way to do that.”

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