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Broccoli Might Slow Down Arthritis, Researchers Report

Update Date: Aug 28, 2013 09:26 AM EDT

For the longest time, parents have told children to eat up all of their vegetables. Although children might not like the taste, vegetables are packed with nutrition that promotes a healthy body. In a new report, researchers found that broccoli could help slow down or prevent osteoarthritis in mouse models. The researchers are now in the midst of a new human trial to see if the effects of broccoli extend to humans.

For the initial study, a research team headed by Dr. Rose Davidson from the University of East Anglia utilized mouse models to test the effects of eating broccoli. They discovered that a key component in broccoli was capable of blocking a destructive enzyme in the mice's bodies that damages cartilage. This compound, glucoraphanin, is also found in Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

After making this discovery, the researchers recruited 20 patients who will be given a diet packed with Beneforte broccoli, which was bred to contain high levels of the compound. The patients will be on this diet for two full weeks. They will then have invasive surgery so that doctors can help repair their already arthritic knees. The researchers will examine the tissue samples post surgery to see if the broccoli had any effects on the people's joints. The researchers will compare these patients to 20 knee replacement patients who did not consume the broccoli-packed diet.

"We're asking patients to eat 100g [3.5oz] every day for two weeks. That's a normal, good-sized serving - about a handful - and it's an amount that most people should be happy to eat every day," Davidson said according to BBC News. "I can't imagine it would repair or reverse arthritis...but it might be a way to prevent it."

According to the mouse model study, researchers found that when the body intakes glucoraphanin and changes it into another compound called sulforaphane, the newer compound is capable of protecting the joints. Previous findings have tied sulforaphane to reducing inflammation and possibly preventing cancer. In the human clinical study, the researchers will be looking for any signs that the sulforaphane travelled to the joints and caused positive changes on a cellular level.

"Until now research has failed to show that food or diet can play any part in reducing the progression of osteoarthritis, so if these findings can be replicated in humans, it would be quite a breakthrough," commented Professor Alan Silman from Arthritis Research UK, the organization that is funding the new trial. "We know that exercise and keeping to a healthy weight can improve people's symptoms and reduce the chances of the disease progression, but this adds another layer in our understanding of how diet could play its part."

The study was published in Arthritis and Rheumatism

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