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"Spice" Up Your Life and Protect Your Health

A study published in the June 2008 edition of the Journal of Medicinal Food found that antioxidants in many common herbs and spices may inhibit the production of “protein glycation” which can increase your risk for inflammatory diseases.

Protein glycation is a process where glucose (sugar) is converted into advanced gylcation end products (or AGEs). AGEs form naturally in the normal body through metabolism and accumulate over time. The formation of AGEs is accelerated in diabetics because of the increased availability of glucose in hyperglycemic people.

For the study, researchers tested extracts of 24 herbs and spices from a local supermarket for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In general, they found that spices were more effective than the herbs in reducing protein glycation.

According to lead author James Hargrove, cloves, ground Jamaican allspice, and cinnamon were the most effective spices. The most beneficial herbs included sage, marjoram, tarragon, and rosemary.

The study also found that extracts of powdered ginger and bay leaf were the least effective at inhibiting protein glycation.

The researchers noted that even though the study did not analyze the direct effect of these herbs and spices on diabetics, these results could be especially promising for people with hyperglycemia. That's because protein glycation is much more rapid in people with high blood sugar.

Herbs and spices also tend to be low in calories and high in antioxidants which protect cells from damage. The cheaper prices of herbs and spices compared to other antioxidant rich foods means you may be able to increase your antioxidant intake without putting unnecessary strain on your wallet.

According to Lona Sandon, national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, add as much herbs and spices as your taste buds and tummy can take. They add flavor and fun to foods without adding calories or fat. Their potential for promoting health outweighs any risks, unless, of course, you have an allergy to a particular spice."
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