The results of a recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that a blend of different spices not only adds flavor to food but also may benefit health.

Studies show that consumption of unhealthy meals, such as those high in saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, and sugar-sweetened beverages, may induce an inflammatory response. Prolonged inflammation, which is mediated by signaling molecules released by certain cells of the immune system, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Because meal-induced inflammation can exacerbate low-grade chronic inflammation, it is important to identify novel dietary strategies that do not elicit an inflammatory response. Spices such as turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon have been shown to confer anti-inflammatory effects. However, the effect of the consumption of a spice blend, as typically occurs in a meal, on inflammatory mediators has not been examined in a human randomized controlled trial.

A new study published in The Journal of Nutrition investigated the meal-induced effect of a blend of spices in a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal on inflammatory responses. A total of 12 nonsmoking men with overweight/obesity, elevated waist circumference, and one or more cardiovascular risk factors participated in this 3-period crossover study. In random order, participants consumed a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal, a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal containing 2 g of spice blend, or a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal containing 6 g spice blend. The spice blend consisted of basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, oregano, parsley, red pepper, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric.

Lead author Connie Rogers (The Pennsylvania State University) and colleagues concluded that a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal containing 6 g, but not 2 g, of spice blend induced an anti-inflammatory response compared with 0 g spice blend. These results suggest that bioactive components of spice consumption may have broad anti-inflammatory function. Therefore, the use of a combination of spices may reduce inflammation to a greater degree than any individual spice due to possible differences in bioactivity, duration of effect, and mechanism of action of the individual spices in the blend. This study was the first to demonstrate that consumption of a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal containing a spice blend could reduce meal-induced inflammation, which may concurrently reduce chronic low-grade inflammation.

A corresponding editorial by Arpita Basu (University of Nevada) comments that targeting meal-induced inflammation by adding spices to a typical Western meal is a novel and sustainable dietary approach to help reduce low-grade chronic inflammation. According to Basu, “Larger and longer controlled trials in high-risk individuals, as well as epidemiological studies on the habitual intake of spices and their associations with chronic diseases, are needed to further support these recommendations.”

References Oh ES, Petersen KS, Kris-Etherton PM, Rogers CJ. Spices in a High-Saturated-Fat, High-Carbohydrate Meal Reduce Postprandial Proinflammatory Cytokine Secretion in Men With Overweight or Obesity: A 3-Period, Crossover, Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 150, Issue 6, June 2020, Pages 1600–1609, DOI:

Basu A. Spices in Meals: A Novel Approach to Cool Down Inflammation. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 150, Issue 6, June 2020, Pages 1348–1349, DOI:

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