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23 April 2010

Antioxidant-rich spice mix shows potential for heart health

Cooking hamburgers with a polyphenol-rich spice mix may reduce the content of compounds linked to heart disease and possible cancer, says a new study.

Using a spice mix similar to that used in the East Indian spice blend, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles report that hamburgers were subsequently found to contain significantly lower levels of lipid-peroxidation products, claimed to produce off-flavours and linked to promotion of the processes of atherogenesis and carcinogenesis.

“The ingestion of high-fat foods that contain lipid-peroxidation products can lead to increases in plasma concentrations of malondialdehyde as well as other cytotoxic and genotoxic compounds,” explained the researchers, led by David Heber from UCLA’s Center for Human Nutrition.

Important questions remain unanswered

Commenting independently on the research Victoria Taylor, senior dietician at UK charity the British Heart Foundation, told FoodNavigator: "This is a small study which seeks to identify if the addition of herbs and spices to meat can not only affect its flavouring, but also its potential impact on heart disease.

"More research is needed to confirm the results seen here and to identify whether the same findings are observed for meats other than minced beef. The practicalities of how this would need to be translated into real diets outside of the research setting is also an important question.

"However, in the mean time, adding herbs and spices to food which is already a key recommendation to help people reduce the amount of salt in their diet, may have additional benefits for heart health,” added Taylor.

Spices for health

The study taps into the promotion of the antioxidant-activity of spices. Herbs and spices often come out on top when scientists measure the antioxidant activity of common foods. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol. 84, pp. 95-135) published in 2006 stated that cloves had the highest antioxidant content, according to the ferric reducing ability of plasma (FRAP) assay. The rest of the top five was also spices, with top-placed cloves followed by oregano leaf, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric.

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