Broccoli Could Prevent or Slow Down Onset of Osteoarthritis - Scientific Study

by KathleenDuffy

According to scientists at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, broccoli might slow down or prevent the development of osteoarthritis

People suffering from painful osteoarthritis, usually but not always the elderly, have been given new hope recently by scientific researchers at the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia (UEA). A three-year study was launched at the University in 2010, funded by Arthritis Research UK and the Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC). The research could be reaching its conclusions soon.

Whilst broccoli has been thought by some scientists to reduce the risk of cancer, this new research at UEA will investigate ways in which certain aspects of this popular vegetable might positively affect osteoarthritis.

Sulforaphane in Broccoli and Osteoarthritis

Examples of Cruciferous Vegetables
Examples of Cruciferous Vegetables

The key to potential benefits for osteoarthritis sufferers from broccoli is sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is a chemical compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. It is thought that the sulforaphane present in broccoli may helps to slow down or even prevent the onset of osteoarthritis.

How could sulforaphane benefit arthritis sufferers? Broccoli increases the sulforaphane levels in the blood and this, in turn, blocks enzymes which cause the painful and debilitating joint destruction associated with osteoarthritis.

However, scientists at UEA want to find out if enough sulforaphane is entering the joints to actually fight the arthritis. In 2010, this was not clear. Therefore, this three-year study was launched with funding of £650,000, which will eventually enable vital patient trials to be undertaken. The results could lead to safe ways of administering sulforaphane to osteoarthritis sufferers.

Osteoarthritis Leading Cause of Disability in the UK


In the United Kingdom osteoarthritis brings misery to approximately six million people. (In the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control, twenty-seven million people live with the disease).

Professor Ian Clark of UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, who is leading the research, has pointed out that apart from the very real suffering of people with osteoarthritis, the UK also has a rapidly aging population. It is therefore vitally important to ensure a good life for the elderly, but equally important that research is carried out that will ultimately reduce the cost of elderly health care in the future.

Osteoarthritis and Garlic


At the same time as researching the beneficial effects of broccoli, Professor Clark and his team will be looking into garlic which has high amounts of diallyl disulphide. Diallyl disulphide is another dietary compound found in garlic which, like sulforaphane in broccoli, is thought to slow down the destruction of cartilege.

UK Arthritis Research Welcomed

 Osteoarthritis, depending on the severity, can limit the lives of those who suffer from it. Movement of joints, often in the arms, hands, wrists, knees and hips, can be limited by pain and disability. Depression can be a side effect.

Any research that can bring about the effective relief of the painful symptoms of this degenerative joint disease will be good news for sufferers, not only in the United Kingdom, but worldwide.

An Update on the Research

According to Professor Clark, contacted by the author in May 2013, the researchers are re-submitting their findings around all the laboratory models for publication in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism

They are also embarking upon a ‘proof-of-principle’ study in man, to make sure that the active compound in broccoli gets to the human joint and can have an effect.  They aim to start that very soon, and the results should all be analysed by early 2014. 

Whilst acknowledging that this research is 'all very slow',  Professor Clark adds, '...but we are definitely making progress!'.

It's really good to know that this kind of work is going on.  Let us hope that in the near future there could be good news for all those who suffer from this painful and debilitating condition. 


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.


Eating broccoli could guard against arthritis (University of East Anglia - Communications Office, 15 Sep 2010)

Fighting Arthritis With Broccoli by MyHealthNewsDaily Staff, 15th September 2010.

E-mail from Professor Clark to the Author, 31st May 2013.


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Updated: 06/18/2013, KathleenDuffy
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frankbeswick on 08/10/2019

A good article. Here is a tip for growers. Broccoli is resistant to frost until minus 18, so if you live in a frost prone area take precautions,such as protecting it by cloches.

Mira on 08/10/2019

I didn't know this about broccoli. So many people, younger or older, are struggling with osteoarthritis in the knees. A few years ago I had pain in one knee when I walked up some stairs. Then it went away. I did take various pills to regenerate cartilage in the body, though, as I also have two hernias in my back. Anyway, good news about the broccoli, especially as it's an easy go-to ingredient for me when I make pasta :)

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