Break Out the Broccoli
In 1990, then-president George H. W. Bush set off a minor firestorm when he went out on a limb and told the unvarnished truth during a press event. “I do not like broccoli,” he proclaimed, “and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.”
Growers and health professionals protested, while comedians applauded the windfall of new material. Jokes about the president’s refusal to eat his broccoli entered the pop culture. But the real joke is on anyone who agrees with Mr. Bush and suffers from osteoarthritis. As it turns out, broccoli helps prevent the progression of arthritis. A chemical in broccoli and its relatives (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.) effectively halts or slows the erosion of cartilage.
Osteoarthritis is usually linked to advancing age; obesity makes it worse. It entails the gradual erosion of cartilage in the joints, resulting in pain, stiffness, and eventual loss of mobility. We know that the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and its cousins) are rich sources of compounds that fight cancer and inflammation.
Now, say British researchers, we know that a specific compound in broccoli—sulforaphane—blocks the activity of enzymes that breaks down joint cartilage. Millions of people around the world suffer from osteoarthritis, and the numbers are expected to continue rising as the Baby Boom generation ages. Current treatments for arthritis address its symptoms, not the underlying condition. Eating broccoli could change that, perhaps helping millions of people avoid expensive surgery and painful rehabilitation. Mother was right: Eat your broccoli!
Rose K Davidson, Orla Jupp, Rachel de Ferrars, Colin D Kay, Kirsty L Culley, Rosemary Norton, Clare Driscoll, Tonia L Vincent, Simon T Donell, Yongping Bao, Ian M Clark. Sulforaphane represses matrix-degrading proteases and protects cartilage from destruction in vitro and in vivo. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/art.38133