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Herbs and spices in diet can enhance heart health: study

Posted:  Thursday, November 27, 2014

Herbs and spices in the diet are merely looked at as seasonings which help boost the taste. A new study by Penn State University nutritionists has found a renewed reason to sprinkle a generous helping of spice powder in the diet - it may enhance heart health. The team of researchers found that postprandial triglyceride levels could be reduced by as much as 30% when a unique spice blend is incorporated in a high fat diet. The spice blend included garlic powder, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, paprika, turmeric, ginger and black pepper.

The researchers published these interesting findings in the current issue of the journal Nutrition Today, based on papers presented at the McCormick Science Institute Summit held in May 2014.

The researchers initially reviewed studies that examined the benefits of standalone spices like cinnamon and garlic. They found that:

•   Cinnamon significantly reduced cholesterol and other blood lipids in patients with diabetes. However, it did not show any effect on non-diabetic patients.

•   A review of studies involving garlic preparations ranging from 9 mgs of garlic oil to 10 gms of raw garlic revealed an 8 percent decrease in total cholesterol with garlic consumption, which was associated with a 38 percent decrease in the risk of heart problems in 50-year-old adults.

The researchers later went on to conduct an intervention study using a spice blend. As part of the study, the researchers prepared meals for 6 overweight but healthy men between the ages of 30 and 65 on two separate days. The meals were identical consisting of chicken, bread and a dessert biscuit, except that the researchers added two tablespoons of the high-antioxidant culinary spice blend to the test meal. They followed the participants for three hours after each meal, drawing blood every 30 minutes.

They found that the antioxidant activity in the blood increased by 13% after the men ate the test meal as compared to the control meal. The researchers hypothesised that the spice blend may be causing the fat in the diet to be excreted. Talking about the study, the researchers said, “The metabolic effects of spices and herbs and their efficacy and safety relative to traditional drug therapy represent an exciting area for future research given the public health significance of cardiovascular disease."

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