Research published in The Journal of Nutrition suggests that adding an array of spices to a meal may help lower inflammation markers. In a randomized, controlled feeding study, researchers from Penn State found that when participants ate a meal high in fat and carbohydrates with 6 g of a spice blend added, the participants had lower inflammation markers compared with when they ate a meal with fewer or no spices.
For the study, the researchers recruited 12 men, aged 40–65, with overweight or obesity, and at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. They used a blend of basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, oregano, parsley, red pepper, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric for the study. 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 2 g of the spice blend, and one with 6 g of the spice blend. The researchers drew blood samples before and then after each meal hourly for four hours to measure inflammatory markers.
“Additionally, we 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,” said Connie Rogers, associate professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State, in a university press release. “We think that’s important because it’s representative of what would happen in the body. Cells would encounter a pathogen and produce inflammatory cytokines.”
After analyzing the data, the researchers found that inflammatory cytokines were reduced following the meal containing 6 g of spices compared with the meal containing 2 g of spices or no spices. Rogers said 6 g roughly translates to between one teaspoon to one tablespoon, depending on how the spices are dehydrated.
While the researchers can’t be sure which spice or spices are contributing to the effect or the precise mechanism in which the effect is created, Rogers said the results suggest that the spices have anti-inflammatory properties that help offset inflammation caused by the high-carb and high-fat meal.
Additionally, Rogers said that a second study using the same subjects, conducted by Penn State researchers Penny Kris-Etherton and Kristina Petersen, found that 6 g of spices resulted in a smaller post-meal reduction of “flow-mediated dilation” in the blood vessels—a measure of blood vessel flexibility and marker of blood vessel health.
In the future, Rogers said she, Kris-Etherton, and Petersen will work on further studies to determine the effects of spices in the diet across extended periods of time and within a more diverse population.