Aug. 6, 2008 -- The spice cabinet may prove to be a source of help for
Some of the most commonly used dried herbs and spices may help block the
inflammation believed to drive diabetes and other chronic diseases, laboratory
studies conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia suggest.
The researchers tested extracts from 24 common herbs and spices and found
that many contained high levels of inflammation-inhibiting antioxidant
compounds known as polyphenols.
The early findings suggest that liberal use of cinnamon in your morning
oatmeal or Italian seasonings in your spaghetti sauce could have big payoffs
for your health, researcher James L. Hargrove, PhD, tells WebMD.
"We might all be better off if we used less salt and pepper, and focused
more on herbs and spices," Hargrove says. "I've started putting oregano
in my eggs. That's not a big change."
Hargrove and colleagues found that ground clove had the most
inflammation-calming polyphenols of any of the spice and herb extracts they
Cinnamon came in second, but because it is used more in cooking and in
larger amounts than ground cloves it has more potential to positively affect
health, he says.
So much has been written about the benefits of cinnamon for lowering blood
sugar that many diabetes patients now take cinnamon supplements.
But the research on cinnamon's effect on diabetes has been mixed.
Richard Anderson, PhD, was among the first modern researchers to link the
antioxidants in cinnamon to increased anti-inflammatory response and blood
sugar reductions in diabetes patients.
A scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Beltsville Human
Nutrition Research Center, Anderson tells WebMD that he made the connection
after finding that instead of raising blood sugar as expected, apple pie
lowered blood glucose in their test tube study.
"At first we thought it was the apples, but it soon became clear that it
was the cinnamon," he says.
In a 2003 study, Anderson and colleagues reported that as little as half a
teaspoon of cinnamon a day significantly reduced blood sugar and improved
cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes who took cinnamon in capsule form
But combined results from five other studies examining cinnamon
supplementation in diabetes patients showed little evidence of a benefit.
"Taking cinnamon supplements for the purposes of either improving
glucose control or improving cholesterol levels is not supported by the
evidence that is currently available," analysis co-author William L. Baker,
PharmD, of Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, tells WebMD.
But Baker adds that the combined studies included just 282 patients treated
with either a placebo or various doses of cinnamon.
"These were small studies," he says. "Larger studies may show
that supplementation is beneficial, but it seems unlikely."
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