London: It may do no favours for your breath, but enjoying a diet rich in garlic, onions and leeks could reduce your risk of developing the most common form of arthritis.
Researchers at King's College, London and the University of East Anglia investigated possible links between diet and the painful joint disease, reports dailymail.co.uk.
They found that women who ate a lot of allium vegetables (in the garlic family) had lower levels of hip osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in adults, affecting around 8 million people in Britain, with women more likely to develop it than men.
It causes pain and disability by affecting the hip, knees and spine in the middle-aged and elderly population. Currently there is no effective treatment other than pain relief and, ultimately, joint replacement.
A relationship is known to exist between body weight and osteoarthritis but this was the first study to delve deeper into how diet could impact on development and prevention of the condition.
The study, funded by Arthritis Research Britain, the Wellcome trust and Dunhill Medical trust, looked at over 1,000 healthy female twins, many of whom had no symptoms of arthritis.
The team carried out a detailed assessment of the diet patterns of the twins and analysed these alongside x-ray images, which captured the extent of early osteoarthritis in the participants' hips, knees and spine.
They found that in those who consumed a healthy diet with a high intake of fruit and vegetables, particularly alliums such as garlic, there was less evidence of early osteoarthritis in the hip joint.
To investigate the potential protective effect of allium vegetables further, researchers studied the compounds found in garlic.
They found that a compound called diallyl disulphide limits the amount of cartilage-damaging enzymes when introduced to a human cartilage cell-line in the laboratory.
Frances Williams, lead author of the study said: "While we don't yet know if eating garlic will lead to high levels of this component in the joint, these findings may point the way towards future treatments and prevention of hip osteoarthritis."
"If our results are confirmed by follow-up studies, this will point the way towards dietary intervention or targeted drug therapy for people with osteoarthritis," he added.