Researchers in Gainesville, Florida have released the results of a brilliant experiment, essentially proving something that has been suspected for a long time – that certain spices have active ingredients which are absorbed into the body, meaning that these spices have real, tangible health benefits.
While researchers could have simply measured the change in antioxidant level in a person’s bloodstream before and after consumption, the assumption that you can gauge the bioavailability of spice by the appearance of antioxidant activity in the blood has a weakness – for instance, maybe more gets absorbed than we think, but it doesn’t show up on antioxidant tests because it gets bound up to proteins or cells.
Knowing this, researchers attempted to measure physiological changes in the blood instead. They were interested in whether herb and spice consumption would protect DNA strands from breaking up when attacked by free radicals. They also wondered if consumption of certain spices could alter the cellular inflammatory responses in the presence of damaged tissue caused by inflammation.
The levels of spices consumed by subjects in the study were based on the usual levels consumed in foods – for example, the oregano group was given half a teaspoon a day for a week.
At the end of the week, they compared the effects of the different spices used in the trial, drawing blood from study participants in the ten different study groups.
They then exposed their plasma – the liquid fraction of their blood – to human white blood cells in a petri dish that had been exposed to an inflammatory agent (in this case, oxidized cholesterol, which is present in the bloodstream after eating something like fried chicken) and measured how much tumour necrosis factor they produced in response.
Tumour necrosis factor is a powerful inflammatory cytokine, which plays a significant role in autoimmune attacks like inflammatory bowel disease. The following spices significantly stifled the inflammatory response, as compared to the blood of subjects who ate no spices for a week:
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The test was specifically designed to represent accurately what might happen when cells in our body are exposed to the levels of these spices that circulate in our bloodstream after normal daily consumption – not just mega-doses like you’d get from a pill; just the amounts found in a typical serving of spaghetti sauce or curry.
According to this study, everyday spices may be a cheaper, safer, and more accessible solution for people suffering from inflammatory diseases such as osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and psoriasis.
Other foods with anti-inflammatory effects may include mushrooms, nuts, and purple potatoes – along with plant-based foods in general. In fact, there is evidence that plant-based diets can be used to treat inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune diseases.
On the other hand, animal products like meat and dairy may actually increase inflammation through a variety of mechanisms, including endotoxins.
The results of this study are clear: a healthy diet rich in spices can significantly reduce inflammatory responses and promote overall health.