Tempted by a curry for tea? Recent research suggests it may not be such a guilty indulgence as it may actually be good for your health.

Read the latest Nutrition News here.

Could spicy foods support heart health?

Spicy dishes such as curry and Mexican are popular around the world but a recent study has suggested they could also be very beneficial for our heart health.

The study, reported by Healthline, involved 63 participants who had at least one risk factor of heart disease. The participants were then split into three test groups, one on a low spice diet of 0.5 grams (g) of spice daily, the second group on a moderate spice diet of 3.3g daily, and the third group were put on a high spice diet of 6.6g daily, which they followed for four weeks with a 2 week break.

The researchers found that the high spice diet tended to improve the 24-hour blood pressure readings when compared to the moderate and low spice group. Speaking of the findings, Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN, a nutritionist at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, said, “Herbs and spices are high nutrient-dense plants with compounds that have been found in previous studies to improve health. Additionally, utilizing herbs and spices in place of salt can help with blood pressure as well.”

The study looked at a blend of 24 different herbs and spices, so it was not clear which in particular had the positive effect but suggested that cinnamon, coriander, ginger, cumin, garlic, paprika, cardamom, thyme, oregano, and rosemary were among the most healthy as they have the most prominent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which supports the heart and overall health.

Zinc index created in world first

As zinc is an important mineral, vital for supporting the immune system and regulating metabolism, it is imperative that optimum levels are maintained in the body. Zinc deficiency is a huge concern around the world, with it leading to a range of health concerns from growth stunting and embryonic malfunctions in children to delayed wound healing. While our understanding of zinc metabolism has improved significantly over the years, never before has there been an accurate assessment tool for zinc’s physiological status within the body, that is, until now.

Cornell food scientists have developed a new evaluation method to effectively calculate from biomarkers the physiological status of zinc in a subject. As reported by Science Daily, the method has been named the Zinc Status Index.

Speaking of the new index, Jacquelyn Cheng, doctoral student in food science, and Haim Bar M.S., Ph.D., associate professor, University of Connecticut who jointly developed the index, said, “Using the Zinc Status Index will provide a better understanding of the challenges that are linked to poor zinc nutrition, and improve the ability to quantify the impact of dietary interventions aimed at alleviating zinc deficiency.”

The index incorporates a statistical model and rests on three pillars:

  • The ratio of linolenic acid to dihomo-gamma-linolenic, which indicates the subject’s physiological status
  • Gene expression of zinc related proteins
  • The gut microbiome, which is used as an additional tool to reflect zinc physiological status

The Index’s authors have emphasised how important this could be for nutrition where previously we were only able to detect severe zinc deficiency but, thanks to this new Index, differentiating between mild and moderate zinc deficiency could now be possible and help countless people.

Study suggests probiotics could support bone health

Probiotics are widely considered to support gut health and the diversity of the microbiome but we’re increasingly finding how significant a role gut health plays in other areas of health as well.

A recent study from China has shown that Lactiplantibacillus plantarum, formerly Lactobacillus plantarum, may inhibit the breakdown of bone in older females. As we live longer, there is an increasing concern over age-related health deterioration, such as age-related bone loss, but this is particularly concerning among post-menopausal women where bone loss and osteoporosis is more prevalent than with other age and gender groups.

The data showed that, after 54 days of intervention, the test group on the L. plantarum strain AR495 had significantly less bone loss than the control group and the group on the strain AR237, according to this NutraIngredients article.

While further research is needed, the findings are certainly positive and add to the building body of research in support of a link between the gut microbiota and bone health.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is the Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.