UEA researchers link broccoli with delayed onset of Osteoarthritis

Pioneering research led by the University of East Anglia has found a compound in broccoli that significantly slows the progress of osteoarthritis.


The researchers found that mice fed on a diet rich in the compound, sulforaphane, had less cartilage damage and osteoarthritis than mice that were not. Sulforaphane, also found in cabbage and Brussels sprouts, blocks the enzymes that cause joint destruction. This research supplements previous findings, that the compound also has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

The study was funded by the medical research charity Arthritis Research UK, The Dunhill Medical Trust, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) and the Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC). This support enabled researchers from the University of East Anglia’s schools of Biological Sciences, Pharmacy and Norwich Medical School, along with the University of Oxford, and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to conduct their work.

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, afflicts roughly one million people in the UK every year. The degenerative disease affects joints in the body and is responsible for countless hip and knee replacements. According to Arthritis Research UK it costs the NHS £5.2 billion every year.

The research comes at a crucial point as it is predicted that the number of patients seeking treatment for osteoarthritis will almost double in the next twenty years. Professor Ian Clark, the lead researcher in the experiment and professor of Musculoskeletal Biology at UEA commented “[osteoarthritis] will get worse in an increasingly aging and obese population such as ours.”

To investigate the effects on a human joint, researchers from the School of Biological Sciences and Norwich Medical School will conduct a small scale clinical trial involving Osteoarthritis patients due to have knee replacement surgery. If the results are positive, it is hoped funding could be secured for a large scale clinical trial to show the effect of broccoli on Osteoarthritis, joint function and pain itself.


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May 2022
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