Posted on Wednesday May 1, 2013
Scientists at Pennsylvania State University have recently conducted a study to investigate how spices, such as cinnamon, oregano, basil and turmeric, can influence the blood levels of unhealthy fats. Published in the prestigious Journal Of Nutrition, their research reveals that the regular consumption of fresh, or freshly ground spices, can effectively reduce the body’s negative response to eating high-fat foods.
Associate professor of biobehavioral health, Sheila West, who led this investigation, explained that “when you eat a high-fat meal, you end up with high levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, in your blood.” She warned us “if this happens too frequently, or if triglyceride levels are raised too much, your risk of heart disease is increased.”
To test the effects of spices on the human body, West used a group of 6 overweight, but otherwise healthy, men between the ages of 30 and 35. She and her team prepared special meals for the subjects on two separate days. Each test meal was seasoned with two table tablespoons of 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.”, said Ann Skulas-Ray, a postdoctoral fellow who participated in this study. The control meals were identical to the test meals in every way, except that they did not contain any added spices. The science team drew blood every 30 minutes from all subjects, over a 3 hour period.
After the final data was collected for comparison, the researchers made some unique and encouraging discoveries. “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. West later added that the seasoned meals were also able to decrease the body’s insulin response by 20%.
Multiple studies in recent medical research indicate that oxidative stress plays a major role in the occurrence of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and other health complications. Professor Sheila West further revealed that “Antioxidants, like spices, may be important in reducing oxidative stress and thus reducing the risk of chronic disease.” She pointed out that as much as two tablespoons of spices are enough to provide the equivalent amount of antioxidants contained in 5 ounces of red wine or 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate.
As concerns about possible gastrointestinal sensitivity issues may be preventing individuals from consuming some healthful spices, doctoral fellow Skulas-Ray assures us that the mild spices and herbs used in this study did not cause any discomforts in tested participants. However, all participants had been notified ahead of time about the nature of the research and had agreed to consume highly spiced foods for this experiment.
West mentioned that she plans for further, more in-depth studies on the effects of antioxidant spices in the human diet, as well as on a new test of the hypothesis that smaller doses of spices can be used to achieve the same, or similar health results.
In addition to Professor West and doctoral fellow Skulas-Ray, the research ensemble also included several notable Penn State scientists: such as Penny Kris-Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition; Danette Teeter, former research assistant; and John Vanden Heuvel, professor of veterinary science. Tufts University Dr. Chung-Yen (Oliver) Chen, who primarily focused on the effects of antioxidants in nutrition, also participated in the research
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