An interesting study recently conducted by Penn State researchers has revealed that diets rich in spices and herbs may effectively help lower fat levels in the blood, in addition to reducing the body’s insulin response. The study was featured in the Journal of Nutrition and it is supported by both the McCormick Science Institute and National Institutes of Health.
According to the research team led by associate professor of biobehavioral health, Sheila West, regularly consuming common spices and herbs such as cinnamon, basil, oregano and turmeric can supply the body with valuable antioxidants that are useful against a variety of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and many more.
Professor West also mentioned that elevated levels of triglycerides can increase the risk of heart disease, which makes antioxidant-rich spices a very useful addition to our diets. Her findings reveal that two tablespoons of spices can supply the body with a quantity of antioxidants similar to that in 5 ounces of red wine or 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate.
The science team tested their hypothesis on a group of six overweight, but otherwise healthy, men between the ages of 30 and 35, who had been given specially prepared foods during a two-day trial period. Test meals were seasoned with spice mixes that included black pepper, paprika, rosemary, cloves, turmeric, cinnamon, oregano and garlic powder. Control meals were very similar to test meals, with the exception that they did not include any spices or herbs.
On the choice of adding this specific culinary spices mix, doctoral fellow Ann Skulas-Ray commented “We selected these spices because they had potent antioxidant activity previously under controlled conditions in the lab.” To keep an accurate track of the changes that occur as a result of adding spices to food, West and her team periodically sampled blood from all 6 test subjects over a 3 hour period.
“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.”, said West. In addition, insulin levels decreased by approximately 20% after the consumption of spice seasoned meals. The study also documented the subjects’ tolerance to the various spices added in the meals, and fellow researcher Skulas-Ray remarked that none of the participants had experienced any gastrointestinal discomfort, while all had provided their informed consent regarding the consumption of spice-rich foods for experimental purposes.
Professor Sheila West revealed that she is interested in further exploring the health benefits of spices, and that she plans to test whether similar results can be obtained by using smaller quantities of spices.
The research team for this particular study counted several prominent researchers at Penn State, including 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.