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Common Spices May Help Diabetes

Study Shows Herbs and Spices May Help Block Inflammation

Cinnamon and Diabetes continued...

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 after meals.

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."

Herbs and Spices: Variety Is Best

The newly published study by Hargrove and colleagues appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Medicinal Food.

Hargrove tells WebMD that he purchased the 24 spices used for the study at a nearby Wal-Mart.

"We showed that herbs and spices are powerful sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents," Hargrove says. "About a teaspoon of cinnamon, for example, is plenty to get these beneficial effects."

When blood sugar levels are high a process known as protein glycation occurs, which produces compounds that promote inflammation. These are known as AGE compounds (advanced glycation end-products). The researchers found a strong correlation in polyphenol content in herbs and spices tested and their ability to block the formation of AGE compounds.

Spices -- derived from seeds, berries, bark, or roots -- tended to have higher levels of polyphenols than dried herbs, derived from plant leaves.

Of the herbs tested by the researchers, oregano, marjoram, and sage had the highest polyphenol levels, followed by thyme, Italian seasoning, tarragon, mint, and rosemary. Black pepper had the lowest polyphenol content of any of the tested herbs and spices.

But researcher Diane Hartle, PhD, says it is best not to focus on any single herb or spice, suggesting that seasoning foods with a variety of spices is best.

In a news release, Hartle noted that different polyphenols have different mechanisms of action within the body. "If you set up a good herb and spice cabinet and season your food liberally, you could double or even triple the medicinal value of your meal without increasing the calorie content."

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