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Spices Added to High-Fat Diet Good For Your Heart


If you can’t resist that high-fat meal of macaroni and cheese and breadsticks, adding spices may help reduce some of its unhealthy effects on your heart. Researchers found that oregano, garlic powder, and other spices can cut triglyceride response by about 30 percent.

Spice up your meals to help your heart

Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and biscuits may taste good, but they can also raise your levels of triglycerides, a fatty substance in the blood that is a risk factor for heart disease. High triglycerides also may be a sign of metabolic syndrome, a condition that increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Many spices are valued for their high antioxidant properties, and so researchers at Penn State, under direction of Sheila West, associate professor of biobehavioral health, tested the effects of eight spices (black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, rosemary, and turmeric) on a high-fat meal. Six overweight but otherwise healthy men ages 30 to 65 participated in the study.

On two separate days, one week apart, the team prepared high-fat meals for the men, consisting of chicken curry, Italian herb bread, and a cinnamon biscuit (1,200 calories total). Two tablespoons (14 grams) of the spices were added to each serving of the test meals but not to the control meals.

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After each meal, blood samples were taken from the men every 30 minutes for three hours. The investigators found that antioxidant activity increased by 13 percent and insulin response decreased by 21 percent in men who consumed the highly spiced meals when compared with the controls.

West also noted that “We found that adding spices to a high-fat meal reduced triglyceride response by about 30 percent.” The spices used in the study were chosen “because that had potent antioxidant activity previously under controlled conditions in the lab,” according to Ann Skulas-Ray, postdoctoral fellow and a co-author of the study.

In a recent study published in Pharmaceutical Biology, for example, cinnamon ranked first among 11 edible plants for its antioxidant abilities. Garlic has been widely studied for its antioxidant properties, while a new study in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition reported on the high antioxidant value of paprika.

The latest study found that adding antioxidants in the form of spices to a high-fat meal may reduce oxidative stress, which contributes to heart disease. West noted that she plans to conduct further tests using smaller amounts of spices in high-fat meals.

Boga M et al. Pharmaceutical Biology 2011 Mar; 49(3): 290-95
Skulas-Ray AC et al. Journal of Nutrition 2011 Aug 1; 141(8): 1451-57
Tundis R et al. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 2011 Jul 27