Spices shown to reduce secretion of postprandial pro-inflammatory cytokines (ie, inflammatory markers in the body) in this study included basil, turmeric, bay leaf, cinnamon, and black pepper, among many others.
New Research Supports Potential of Spices for Reducing Inflammation
In this crossover, randomized controlled trial, a total of 12 nonsmoking men between the ages of 40 to 65 years with ≥1 risk factor for cardiovascular disease were randomized to 1 of either 3 treatment groups:
- High-saturated fat, high-carbohydrate meal only
- High-saturated fat, high-carbohydrate meal plus 2 grams spice blend
- High-saturated fat, high-carbohydrate meal plus 6 grams spice blend
Each high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal consisted of approximately 1000 calories, with 33% of these calories derived from saturated fat and 36% of calories derived from carbohydrates.
The spice blend in this study included basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, ginger, oregano, parsley, red pepper, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric.
Researchers isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from blood samples. Additionally, the investigators quantified the percentage of CD14+/Human Leukocyte Antigen-DR isotype + (HLA-DR +) monocytes as well as proinflammatory cytokine plasma concentrations and lipopolysaccharide-stimulated PBMCs.
According to the study investigators, a significant spice-by-time interaction was observed in regard to the secretion of interleukin (IL) 1 beta (IL-1β) (p<0.001), IL-8 (p=0.020), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) (p=0.009) cytokines and chemokine from lipopolysaccharide-stimulated PBMCs.
Approximately 240 minutes after the high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal supplemented with the 6 gram spice blend, there was a 1314% reduction in the secretion of IL-1β (ie, mediator of inflammatory response) from LPS-stimulated PBMCs, which was significantly higher than that observed with the 2 gram spice blend and the control diet.
Spices Reduce Inflammation — But to What Degree?
While promising, it should be mentioned that this study included only men who were overweight or obese and had a waist circumference of ≥94 cm. Also, while the study examined a diet high in saturated fats and carbs, the researchers did not differentiate the impact of saturated fat vs trans fats on inflammation or the sources of these fats on cytokine levels. Additional studies may be needed to determine the impact of other spices, including cayenne, on postprandial inflammatory markers.
This study adds to the literature showing associations between the consumption of spices and inflammation reduction. Turmeric, for instance, contains anti-inflammatory compound curcumin that has been shown to benefit inflammatory diseases.2 Compounds in cinnamon, namely trans-cinnamaldehyde and p-cymene, have also been shown to possess anti-inflammatory activity via its ability to reduce lipopolysaccharide-dependent secretion of IL-8 in THP-1 monocytes.3,4
- Oh ES, Petersen KS, Kris-Etherton PM, Rogers CJ. Spices in a High-Saturated-Fat, High-Carbohydrate Meal Reduce Postprandial Proinflammatory Cytokine Secretion in Men with Overweight or Obesity: A 3-Period, Crossover, Randomized Controlled Trial. J Nutr. 2020 Mar 25.
- Daily JW, Yang M, Park S. Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. J Med Food. 2016;19(8):717-29.
- Schink A, Naumoska K, Kitanovski Z, et al. Anti-inflammatory effects of cinnamon extract and identification of active compounds influencing the TLR2 and TLR4 signaling pathways. Food Funct. 2018;9(11):5950-5964.
- Gunawardena D, Karunaweera N, Lee S, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of cinnamon (C. zeylanicum and C. cassia) extracts – identification of E-cinnamaldehyde and o-methoxy cinnamaldehyde as the most potent bioactive compounds. Food Funct. 2015;6(3):910-9.