Antioxidant Spices Are Good For You

Unhealthy Effects of Fatty Foods Lowered with Antioxidant Spices.

The body’s negative reactions to high-fat meals are reduced by the use of antioxidant spices like turmeric and cinnamon, reports a new  study by researchers from Penn State.

Sheila West, associate professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State and lead author of the study, said, “Normally, when you eat a high-fat meal, you end up with high levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood. If this happens too frequently, or if triglyceride levels are raised too much, your risk of heart disease is increased. We found that adding spices to a high-fat meal reduced triglyceride response by about 30 percent, compared to a similar meal with no spices added.”

Six men, aged between 30 and 65, who were overweight but otherwise in good health, were served meals prepared by the research team on two separate days during the study. The test meal was chicken curry, Italian herb bread, and a cinnamon biscuit, to which two tablespoons of culinary spices had been added. The control meal was the same, but no spices were used. After they had eaten, the participants had blood drawn every half hour for three hours. The findings were published in the current issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

Ann Skulas-Ray, postdoctoral fellow and team member, described the spices. “In the spiced meal, we used rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika. We selected these spices because they had potent antioxidant activity previously under controlled conditions in the lab.”

After eating the spiced meal, the men showed antioxidant blood activity 13% above levels recorded after the control meal, and insulin response lower by about 20%.

According to West, many scientists think that oxidative stress contributes to heart disease, arthritis and diabetes. “Antioxidants, like spices, may be important in reducing oxidative stress and thus reducing the risk of chronic disease,” she said, adding that the spice dose they used provided the equivalent amount of antioxidants contained in 5 ounces of red wine or 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate.

Current thinking among many scientists in the field, says West, is that oxidative stress is a factor in heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. She said, “Antioxidants like spices may be important in reducing oxidative stress and thus reducing the risk of chronic disease”, and added that the amounts of spice used in the test had antioxidant value similar to 5 ounces of red wine or 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate.

No stomach distress was experienced by the subjects who ate the food with 2 tablespoons of spices, said Skulas-Ray. “They enjoyed the food and had no gastrointestinal problems.” She added, “The participants were notified ahead of time that they would be eating highly spiced foods and they were willing to do so.”

West’s plan for future study includes discovering whether similar results can be obtained with smaller spice amounts.

Besides West, other Penn State researchers in this study include: Ann Skulas-Ray, graduate student; Penny Kris-Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition; Danette Teeter, former research assistant; and John Vanden Heuvel, professor of veterinary science. Chung-Yen (Oliver) Chen, scientist, Tufts University, also was involved in the study. The study received support from The McCormick Science Institute and National Institutes of Health.

Source: August 11, 2011, Science Daily.

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