The results of the study have appeared in the latest issue of Journal of Medicinal Food. On testing extracts from 24 common herbs and spices the researchers have arrived at a conclusion that antioxidant rich spices prevent tissue damage and inflammation caused due to high blood sugar levels.
Apart from noticing the presence of high levels of phenols (the anti-oxidant rich compounds), the researchers found a direct link between the phenol content and the ability of the extracts to block the formation of compounds that contribute to damage by diabetes and aging.
The Co-author of the study, and the Associate Prof. of Foods and Nutrition, UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences, James Hargrove, said “The herbs and spices have low calorie content, and therefore are inexpensive. But, they are the best means to get the required antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power into your diet.”
According to Hargrove, when the blood sugar levels are on the higher side, protein glycation (a process during which sugar bonds with proteins to form advanced glycation end products, also known as AGE compounds), occurs. These compounds activate the immune system, causing inflammation and tissue damage, among diabetics, which progresses with age. The researchers noticed a direct association between phenol content of common herbs and spices, and their capacity to hinder formation of AGE compounds.
Spices such as cinnamon and cloves contain 30 percent and 18 percent phenol levels, respectively, while, oregano and sage herbs contain 8 percent and 6 percent phenol respectively. Blueberries, well-known for their anti-oxidant capacity, contain 5 percent phenol.
The researchers revealed that various phenols are absorbed in different ways by the body, depicting different action mechanisms. Therefore a combination of spices would provide maximum benefit.
“By setting up a good herb and spice cabinet and seasoning your food liberally with them, you could even triple the medicinal value of your meal, without any increase in calorie content,” researchers concluded.
It may also be noted that by controlling blood sugar and formation of AGE compounds, even the risk of cardiovascular damage associated with diabetes and aging can be reduced.