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Clinical Articles, News & Views

Diet rich in spice and herbs may lessen CV risk

Spices and herbs are rich in compounds that may reduce inflammation and improve blood factors associated with increased cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, according to a review published recently in Nutrition Today.1

The authors designed a pilot study to determine whether a single, large dose (14 g) of a high-antioxidant spice blend incorporated into a test meal caused postprandial blood changes. Six overweight men aged 30 to 65 years were recruited, baseline blood samples were taken, and the men were randomised to two test conditions: a control meal consisting of a dessert biscuit, coconut chicken, and cheese bread, or the same control meal with an added spice blend that included black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, garlic powder, ginger, oregano (Mediterranean), paprika, rosemary, and turmeric.

Participants could not be blinded to the test condition because of the relatively large amount of spice blend used. Postprandial blood samples were taken immediately after the meal and every 30 minutes thereafter until 8 samples were collected. Blood lipids, glucose, and insulin were measured. The plasma was analysed for hydrophilic, lipophilic, and total oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) to provide information about its antioxidant potential. A higher total antioxidant capacity may reflect reduced oxidative stress, which is an underlying cause of many chronic diseases.

Addition of spices and herbs to the test meal significantly decreased postprandial insulin area under the curve by 21% (P = .004) and triglycerides area under the curve by 31% (P = .048). Hydrophilic ORAC levels were 13% higher (P = .02) following the spice test meal than following the control meal, whereas lipophilic and total ORAC levels did not differ between the meals. Total blood cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and glucose levels were not affected by meal condition. These findings suggest that a blend of spices and herbs may help improve levels of postprandial insulin and triglyceride concentrations after a high-fat meal while also enhancing the antioxidative capacity of blood.

However, the authors also found that the body of literature regarding these effects is small, and that the clinical findings are not always consistent. “The vascular effects of spices and herbs and their efficacy and safety relative to traditional drug therapy represent an exciting area for future research given the public health significance of CVD,” they conclude.


1. West SG, Skulas-Ray AC. Spices and herbs may improve cardiovascular risk factors. Nutrition Today 2014;49:S8–S9.

Published on: February 25, 2015

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