Pile on the pepper: Study says spices are good for your heart

Pile on the pepper: Study says spices are good for your heart

By Kiersten Willis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren for CNT

It turns out seasoning your food can benefit more than just the taste.

Two new studies show consuming herbs and spices can benefit cardiovascular health.

Healthline reported researchers from Penn State University and Clemson University presented the findings at Nutrition 2021 Live Online last week.

One study found that seasoning meals could help lower blood pressure in people with a risk of heart disease. The other found a link between spice supplements and decreased cholesterol in people who have Type 2 diabetes.

The first study followed 71 participants who had obesity and other heart disease risk factors. They rotated through a different version of a typical American diet every four weeks: low spice, medium spice and high spice. They each had 0.5 grams, 3.3 grams and 6.6 grams per day of mixed herbs and spices respectively.

Results showed participants had lower 24-hour blood pressure levels when they consumed the high spice diet. No differences were seen in cholesterol or blood sugar levels.

“This is likely because we added the herbs and spices to a diet similar to what the average person in the United States consumes, which is not as nutritious as diets that are recommended for health and heart disease prevention,” Kristina Petersen, assistant research professor in the Cardiometabolic Nutrition Research Lab at Penn State College of Health and Human Development, told Healthline. “It remains important to eat a healthy diet, including lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.”

The second study involved 28 randomized controlled trials. Participants with Type 2 diabetes had turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, curcumin, or curcuminoid supplements. The latter two spices come from turmeric.

The trials ran from one to three months. Different spices and supplement dosages produced different results. Supplements produced no noticeable effects in around 30% of the trials.

“These results signify the importance of dosages used in research studies when evaluating results and suggest a need for dose-response studies,” Sepideh Alasvand, a Ph.D. student in the department of food, nutrition, and packaging sciences at Clemson University in South Carolina, told Healthline.

More research is needed to understand the exact health effects of herbs and spices.

Spices offer other benefits, too, according to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“There are more than 100 common spices used in cooking around the world. Spices are concentrated sources of antioxidants,” Johns Hopkins registered dietitian Diane Vizthum said on the website. “But some have been more studied for their therapeutic properties than others.”

Studies have shown cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes patients. Curcumin has been linked to decreased brain inflammation.

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By Troy Warren

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