Herbs and Spices Help Prevent Diabetes Damage

Herbs and spices might have the benefit of decreasing tissue damage caused by diabetes. The result is connected to the anti-inflammatory abilities of herbs and spices high in antioxidants.

Many herbs and spices contain phenols, which are compounds rich in antioxidants. Significant support has been made of late for the anti-inflammatory abilities of antioxidants. High blood sugar levels in diabetes are known to lead to inflammation and tissue damage, so the potential for high antioxidant herbs and spices to prevent diabetes induced damage was logically already present. “Because herbs and spices have a very low calorie content and are relatively inexpensive, they’re a great way to get a lot of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power into your diet,” says study co-author Dr. James Hargrove.

Diabetes is known to lead to inflammation through excessive immune system response. High blood glucose levels induce a bonding between sugar and proteins called advanced glycation end products (AGE). This triggers an immune response that leads to inflammation and tissue damage.

24 common herbs and spices were used in the study. Some of the spices used were cloves (30% phenol content by weight) and cinnamon (18%), while sage (8%) and oregano (6%) are examples of herbs used for the study. It was found in the study that phenol content was directly related to preventing damage caused by diabetes by inhibiting AGE.

By inhibiting AGE through phenols, herbs and spices should also help prevent diabetes induced cardiovascular disease (CVD). Diabetes and CVD have been closely linked in past research due to diabetes related inflammation, and to inhibit AGE is to decrease this inflammation, lowering CVD risk.

The results of the study were not very specific to each individual spice, and study co-author Dr. Diane Hartle concludes that “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 caloric content.” In other words, the researchers of this study believe that a good mix of common herbs and spices are best.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Hartle, Diane. Hargrove, James. Fahmy, Sam. UGA news release. August 2008.

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