When blood sugars run high, a process known as protein glycation occurs where the sugar bonds with proteins to form advanced glycation end products (AGE). These compounds activate the immune system resulting in inflammation and tissue damage that is so much associated with the aging process and the disease of diabetes.
Researchers from the University of Georgia (UGA) found a strong and direct correlation between the phenol content of common herbs and spices and the ability of the AGE compounds to form. Spices such as cinnamon and cloves had high phenol levels. Blueberries were also high on the list. Researchers stated that consuming a variety of spices was probably the best approach to kicking AGE formation since everyone responds differently to phenols (i.e. absorption, response rate, etc).
The UGA researchers tested for the ability to block AGE compounds in a test tube, but animal studies conducted on the health benefits of spices lend support to the conclusions of this study.
UGA researchers need to follow through with their own animal studies and then proceed to human studies before evidence based recommendations can be made. But, this is a stepping stone to finding more nutritional factors that may help in the diabetic process.
There was some debate on the mechanism of action with antioxidant capability being mentioned along with phenol content. Or, the process could be facilitated by both compounds. Much more study is needed. However, this is just one more indicator that we should follow a varied diet which includes using a variety of spices from the spice cabinet! It is a recommendation that may not have evidence, but should not create harm and may be of benefit.
About the author
Kathy Shattler received her Master of Science degree from Michigan State University in E. Lansing Michigan in Human Nutrition. Her twenty-two years of practice includes holding positions as a Lecturer, Chief Clinical Dietitian and Program Manager. Kathy is the Founder of Nutri-Care Consulting and is currently the Nutrition Director of www.CEU4U.COM, an online continuing education management company for Registered Dietitians and Dietetic Technicians.