Adding a blend of spices to your meal can make it flavourful, but new research from Penn State suggests doing so may also increase its health benefits.
In a randomized, controlled feeding study, the researchers found that when participants ate a meal high in fat and carbohydrates with six grams of a spice blend added, the participants had lower inflammation markers compared to when they ate the meal with less or no spices.
Chronic inflammation has previously been associated with many different chronic conditions including cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
The findings can’t point to one spice in particular; it was the specific blend that seemed to be beneficial.
The researchers used a blend of basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, oregano, parsley, red pepper, rosemary, thyme and turmeric for the study.
Previous research has linked a variety of different spices, like ginger and turmeric, with anti-inflammatory properties.
Researchers have found that inflammation can spike after a person eats a meal high in fat or sugar. While it is not clear whether these short bursts -- called acute inflammation -- can cause chronic inflammation, it's suspected they play a factor, especially in people with overweight or obesity.
The researchers wanted to explore whether a combination of spices that people are already familiar with and could fit in a single meal could have a positive effect.
About the study
For the study, the researchers recruited 12 men between the ages of 40 and 65, who were overweight or obese, and had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
In random order, each participant ate three versions of a meal high in saturated fat and carbohydrates on three separate days: one with no spices, one with two grams of the spice blend, and one with six grams of the spice blend. The researchers drew blood samples before and after each meal hourly for four hours to measure inflammatory markers.
The researchers also cultured the white blood cells and stimulated them to get the cells to respond to an inflammatory stimulus, similar to what would happen while your body is fighting an infection, which is representative of what would happen in the body. Cells would encounter a pathogen and produce inflammatory compounds.
After analyzing the data, the researchers found that inflammatory cytokines were reduced following the meal containing six grams of spices compared to the meal containing two grams of spices or no spices. Six grams roughly translates to between one teaspoon to one tablespoon, depending on how the spices are dehydrated.
The results suggest that the spices have anti-inflammatory properties that help offset inflammation caused by a high-carbohydrate and high-fat meal.
Source: The Journal of Nutrition, March 25, 2020.
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