Entries in Spices (3)


Spices Hard to Avoid for Those with Allergies

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ANAHEIM, Calif.) -- You may only think of spices as being ingredients in foods.  But they are commonly found in other products -- such as cosmetics, fragrances and toothpastes -- according to allergists at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).  

And for the 2 to 3 percent of people worldwide who are allergic to spices, that could make them almost impossible to avoid.

Spice allergy is responsible for about 2 percent of food allergies and is often under-diagnosed due to a lack of reliable allergy testing for particular spices or unawareness of exposure.

“While spice allergy seems to be rare, with the constantly increasing use of spices in the American diet and a variety of cosmetics, we anticipate more and more Americans will develop this allergy,” allergist Sami Bahna, M.D., the former president of the ACAAI, said Thursday at the college's Annual Scientific Meeting.  “Patients with spice allergy often have to go through extreme measures to avoid the allergen.  This can lead to strict dietary avoidance, low quality of life and sometimes malnutrition.”

The most common spice allergy triggers include cinnamon and garlic, according to the ACAAI, but can range from black pepper to vanilla.

“Because of this allergy’s complexity, allergists often recommend a treatment plan that includes strict avoidance which can be a major task,” Dr. Bahna said.

Allergic reactions can range from sneezing to a rash, upset stomach, and sometimes even a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis, where the throat closes, making it difficult to breathe.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate spices, meaning that they are often not on labels -- making them impossible to detect and avoid.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Spicy Compound May Boost Heart Health

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Some people can’t get enough of the painful pleasure of spicy foods. Now, new research on hamsters suggests that those who like it hot may get some added heart-health benefits from capsaicinoids, the compounds that give chili peppers from jalepenos to habaneros their kick.

Scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong studied how capsaicinoids -- capsaicin and its chemical relatives -- affected the blood vessels of hamsters. Researchers fed hamsters diets high in cholesterol, and spiced up the food for some groups of the animals with varying levels of capsaicinoids.

The hamsters fed any capsaicinoids had lower levels of cholesterol in their blood, particularly LDL or “bad” cholesterol. They also had decreased plaque in their arteries compared with the hamsters that got no capsaicinoids.

The findings were presented Tuesday at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego.

Zhen-Yu Chen, a professor of food and nutritional science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and one of the study’s authors, said the findings give scientists a better idea of just how spicy foods might work to improve heart health in humans.

“But we certainly do not recommend that people start consuming chilies to an excess,” Chen said in a press release. “They may be a nice supplement, however, for people who find the hot flavor pleasant.”

Scientists have been hot on the trail of capsaicin’s potential health benefits in recent years. The compound is currently used as an effective remedy for pain associated with arthritis, neuropathy and psoriasis. Dr. Paul Bosland, co-founder and director of New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute, told ABC News that capsaicin works against pain by prompting the body to produce endorphins.

“The endorphins work to block the heat. The body produces them in response to the heat, which it senses as pain,” Bosland said.

Some studies have also suggested that capsaicin may help prevent prostate cancer.

Spicy foods may even improve metabolism. A 2011 study found that foods flavored with spices like turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, rosemary, oregano and garlic powder lowered insulin and triglyceride levels after a meal in overweight but healthy male volunteers.

More work is needed on the connection between spicy compounds and cardiac health, but for now, some researchers say, that burn in your mouth should make you feel good.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Could Spicier Foods Contribute to Higher Metabolism?

Medioimages/Photodisc(UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.) -- Eating spicy foods may be tied to a speedier metabolism.  A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that the addition of spices such as rosemary, oregano, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic powder or paprika to one's meal reduced postprandial insulin by 21 percent and triglyceride levels by 31, researchers reported.

Study co-author Sheila West of Penn State University said, according to MedPage Today, "Antioxidants like spices may be important in reducing oxidative stress and  thus reducing the risk of chronic disease."

Though data is limited on the topic, researchers said there has been heightened interest in the possibilities for managing oxidative stress with dietary antioxidants.

After their research, investigators found that the significant reduction in insulin and triglycerides "were likely a result of the high concentration of phenolic antioxidants in spices."

It should be noted that the study's sample size is small, following only six men between the ages of 30 to 65.  Still, researchers conclude that adding various spices into one's diet "may help normalize postprandial disturbances in glucose and lipid homeostasis while enhancing antioxidant defense.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio