Diet, Food & FitnessFoods



What is okra

Okra (Hibiscus esculentus L. Moench) or lady finger or “gumbo” is a well-known tropical vegetable in the Malvaceae family, although the latter term is more often applied to soups or other dishes which contain okra 1. Okra apparently originated in what the geobotanists call the Abyssinian center of origin of cultivated plants, an area that includes present-day Ethiopia, the mountainous or plateau portion of Eritrea, and the eastern, higher part of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Okra is now widely planted from Africa to Asia and from South Europe to America.

Okra is rarely used “straight” except when fried with meal, just a little of it usually being cooked with other vegetables or put into soups and stews. Okra alone is generally considered too “gooey,” or mucilaginous, to suit American tastes. In recent years, however, it has become an important commercial crop in certain localities in the South, where thousands of tons of the pods are grown for the large soup companies.

Okra is easily dried for later use. A little dried okra in prepared dishes produces much the same results as does the fresh product.

In some lands the seeds rather than the whole young pods are of most interest. When ripe the seeds yield an edible oil that is the equal of many other cooking oils. In Mediterranean countries and the East, where edible oils are scarcer than in our country, okra oil is no rarity.

The ripe seeds of okra are sometimes roasted and ground as a substitute for coffee. Okra seeds may be roasted and ground to form a caffeine-free substitute for coffee.

Okra leaves may be cooked in a similar way to the greens of beets or dandelions. The leaves are also eaten raw in salads. In Turkey, the leaves are used in preparing a medicament to soothe or reduce inflammation. A close relative of okra, roselle, is used as a source of fiber for cloth.

Figure 1. Okra


Okra nutrition facts

Raw okra is 90% water, 2% protein, 7% carbohydrates and negligible in fat. In a 100 gram amount, raw okra is rich (10% or more of the Daily Value, DV) in dietary fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K, with moderate contents of iron, calcium, thiamin, folate manganese and magnesium.

Table 1. Okra (raw) nutrition facts

NutrientUnitValue per 100 g
Total lipid (fat)g0.19
Carbohydrate, by differenceg7.45
Fiber, total dietaryg3.2
Sugars, totalg1.48
Glucose (dextrose)g0.32
Calcium, Camg82
Iron, Femg0.62
Magnesium, Mgmg57
Phosphorus, Pmg61
Potassium, Kmg299
Sodium, Namg7
Zinc, Znmg0.58
Copper, Cumg0.109
Manganese, Mnmg0.788
Selenium, Seµg0.7
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg23
Pantothenic acidmg0.245
Vitamin B-6mg0.215
Folate, totalµg60
Folic acidµg0
Folate, foodµg60
Folate, DFEµg60
Choline, totalmg12.3
Vitamin B-12µg0
Vitamin B-12, addedµg0
Vitamin A, RAEµg36
Carotene, betaµg416
Carotene, alphaµg27
Cryptoxanthin, betaµg0
Vitamin A, IUIU716
Lutein + zeaxanthinµg280
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg0.27
Vitamin E, addedmg0
Tocopherol, betamg0
Tocopherol, gammamg0.16
Tocopherol, deltamg0
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg0
Vitamin DIU0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)µg31.3
Fatty acids, total saturatedg0.026
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg0.017
16:1 undifferentiatedg0
18:1 undifferentiatedg0.016
22:1 undifferentiatedg0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg0.027
18:2 undifferentiatedg0.026
18:3 undifferentiatedg0.001
20:4 undifferentiatedg0
20:5 n-3 (EPA)g0
22:5 n-3 (DPA)g0
22:6 n-3 (DHA)g0
Fatty acids, total transg0
Amino Acids
Aspartic acidg0.145
Glutamic acidg0.271
Alcohol, ethylg0
Total isoflavonesmg0.01
[Source 2]

Okra uses

Okra is considered as an important constituent for balanced food due to its dietary fibers and amino-acid composition which is rich in lysine and tryptophan 3. Its fruits are harvested when immature and are commonly consumed as salads, soups, and stews 4. The roots and stems are used for cleaning the cane-juice during brown-sugar preparation 5. The seeds have also gained much interest as a new oil (30–40%) and protein (15–20%) source 6. Okra has been found to possess various ethno-pharmacological and medicinal properties against cancer, high-cholesterol, and Diabetes mellitus 7.

Benefits of eating okra

Because of its high amount of mucilage, okra is also used in traditional medicine as a dietary meal to treat gastric irritation. The structural elements of mucilage have recently been characterized as pectin-like rhamnogalacturonans 8 with unusual structural features 9. Additionally, these okra rhamnogalacturonan polysaccharides reportedly possess antiadhesive properties that interrupt the adhesion of Helicobacter pylori to human stomach tissue 10.

The fiber in Okra help to stabilize blood sugar by regulating the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract 11. Previous studies reported that Okra polysaccharide possesses hepatoprotective 12, antidiabetic 13, antiulcer 14, anticancer 15, anti-inflammatory, laxative, antihyperlipidemic, antifungal, and analgesic activities 16. Recently, some quercetin derivatives, well-known antioxidants, were identified and isolated from Okra 17. Nutritionally, the richest part of Okra plant is the dried seeds. The oil of Okra seeds is edible and the residual meal after oil extraction is rich in protein. However, further investigations are required to characterize the active constituent(s) responsible for the observed activities and to elucidate the detailed mechanism of action at the cellular and molecular levels.

Okra toxicity and side effects

Acute oral toxicity of Okra seed extracts was determined as per Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines 423 18. A single oral dose (5, 50, 300, and 2000 mg/kg) of extracts was administered to four mice groups (n = 6) and was observed individually at least once during the first 30 min, periodically during the first 24 h, with special attention given during the first 4 hours and daily thereafter, for a total of 14 days for abnormal signs, diarrhea, and food and water intake. The animal body weight and locomotor activity score using actophotometer were measured at 0th (initial) and 14th (final) days. On the 14th day, the mice were anesthetized through intraperitoneal injection of a cocktail containing ketamine (80 mg/kg) and xylazine (10 mg/kg). Blood samples were collected by cardiac puncture and hematological parameters were analysed using ABX Micros-60 hematology analyser. All the vital organs were collected and weighed. The heart, liver, and kidney of the mice treated with AE and ME (2000 mg/kg, p.o) were processed for haematoxylin and eosin (H&E) histopathological staining. In the acute oral toxicity study, mice did not show any signs of toxicity or death up to a dose of 2000 mg/kg,  hence the LD50 cut-off value might exceed 2000 mg/kg; hence, 1/10th of the dose 200 mg/kg was taken as an effective dose for in vivo pharmacological studies 19. Further acute and subchronic (28 days) oral dose toxicity studies are warranted to investigate the potential toxicity after single and 28-day repeated oral dosing of Okra seed extracts in experimental animals.

  2. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.
  3. Hughes J. (2009). Just famine foods? What contribution can underutilized plant make to food security? Acta Hortic. 806, 39–47. 10.17660/ActaHortic.2009.806.2
  4. Salameh N. M. (2014). Genetic diversity of okra (Abelmoschus esculentus L.) landraces from different agro-ecological regions revealed by AFLP analysis. American-Eurasian J. Agric. Environ. Sci. 14, 155–160. 10.3844/ajassp.2014.1157.1163
  5. Shetty A. A., Singh J. P., Singh D. (2013). Resistance to yellow vein mosaic virus in okra: a review. Biol. Agric. Hortic. 29, 159–164. 10.1080/01448765.2013.793165
  6. Gemede H. F., Ratta N., Haki G. D., Woldegiorgis A. Z., Beyene F. (2015). Nutritional quality and health benefits of okra (Abelmoschus esculentus): a Review. J. Food Process. Technol. 6:458 10.4172/2157-7110.1000458
  7. Direct comparison of a dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods with a statin in hypercholesterolemic participants. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, Faulkner DA, Wong JM, de Souza R, Emam A, Parker TL, Vidgen E, Trautwein EA, Lapsley KG, Josse RG, Leiter LA, Singer W, Connelly PW. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb; 81(2):380-7.
  8. Characterisation of cell wall polysaccharides from okra (Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench). Sengkhamparn N, Verhoef R, Schols HA, Sajjaanantakul T, Voragen AG. Carbohydr Res. 2009 Sep 28; 344(14):1824-32.
  9. Okra pectin contains an unusual substitution of its rhamnosyl residues with acetyl and alpha-linked galactosyl groups. Sengkhamparn N, Bakx EJ, Verhoef R, Schols HA, Sajjaanantakul T, Voragen AG. Carbohydr Res. 2009 Sep 28; 344(14):1842-51.
  10. Glycosylated compounds from okra inhibit adhesion of Helicobacter pylori to human gastric mucosa. Lengsfeld C, Titgemeyer F, Faller G, Hensel A. J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Mar 24; 52(6):1495-503.
  11. Doreddula SK, Bonam SR, Gaddam DP, Desu BSR, Ramarao N, Pandy V. Phytochemical Analysis, Antioxidant, Antistress, and Nootropic Activities of Aqueous and Methanolic Seed Extracts of Ladies Finger (Abelmoschus esculentus L.) in Mice. The Scientific World Journal. 2014;2014:519848. doi:10.1155/2014/519848.
  12. Hu L., Yu W., Li Y., Prasad N., Tang Z. Antioxidant activity of extract and its major constituents from okra seed on rat hepatocytes injured by carbon tetrachloride. BioMed Research International. 2014;2014 doi: 10.1155/2014/341291.341291
  13. Sabitha V., Ramachandran S., Naveen K. R., Panneerselvam K. Antidiabetic and antihyperlipidemic potential of Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench. in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences. 2011;3(3):397–402. doi: 10.4103/0975-7406.84447.
  14. Olorunnipa T. A., Igbokwe C. C., Lawal T. O., Adeniyi B. A., Mahady G. B. Anti-helicobacter pylori activity of Abelmoschus esculentus L. moench (okra): an in vitro study. Clinical Microbiology. 2013 doi: 10.4172/2327-5073.1000132.
  15. Gul M. Z., Bhakshu L. M., Ahmad F., Kondapi A. K., Qureshi I. A., Ghazi I. A. Evaluation of Abelmoschus moschatus extracts for antioxidant, free radical scavenging, antimicrobial and antiproliferative activities using in vitro assays. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2011;11, article 64 doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-11-64.
  16. Shah B. N., Seth A. K., Maheshwari K. M., Desai R. V. Screening of abelmoschus esculentus fruits for its analgesic activity. Pharmacology Online. 2010;2:17–21.
  17. Shui G., Peng L. L. An improved method for the analysis of major antioxidants of Hibiscus esculentus Linn. Journal of Chromatography A. 2004;1048(1):17–24. doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2004.07.032.
  18. OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Acute oral Toxicity-Acute Toxic Class Method. Paris, France: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; 2011. (Chemicals Testing Guidelines No. 423).
  19. Idorenyin U., Samson O., Eno-obong B., Noah U. Histomorphological study of the effect of chronic consumption of Abelmoschus esculentus and Piper guineense on the gastric mucosa of albino wistar rats. International Journal of Pharmaceutical Research & Allied Sciences. 2013;2(3):31–37.
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Diet, Food & FitnessFoods



What is pecan

Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) is a species of hickory native to Mexico and the southcentral and southeastern regions of the United States 1. A pecan, like the fruit of all other members of the hickory genus, is not truly a nut, but is technically a drupe, a fruit with a single stone or pit, surrounded by a husk. The husks are produced from the exocarp tissue of the flower, while the part known as the nut develops from the endocarp and contains the seed. Pecans are among the most preferred of all nuts and an economically important crop in the United States 2. In 2014, approximately 264 million pounds of pecan nuts (in-shell) were produced in the United States 3. Pecans are often sold without shells, which are removed during processing and often discarded. Based on a 50% shell-out ratio (ratio of kernel weight to the in-shell nut weight) 4, approximately 132 million pounds of pecan shells are produced by the US pecan industry per year. The outer husk is 3–4 mm (0.12–0.16 in) thick, starts out green and turns brown at maturity, at which time it splits off in four sections to release the thin-shelled seed 5.

The seeds of the pecan are edible, with a rich, buttery flavor. They can be eaten fresh or used in cooking, particularly in sweet desserts. One of the most common desserts with the pecan as a central ingredient is the pecan pie, a traditional Southern U.S. dish. Pecans are also a major ingredient in praline candy 6.

Pecan wood is used in making furniture and wood flooring as well as flavoring fuel for smoking meats.

The pecan tree is a large deciduous tree, growing to 20–40 m (66–131 ft) in height, rarely to 44 m (144 ft) 1. It typically has a spread of 12–23 m (39–75 ft) with a trunk up to 2 m (6.6 ft) diameter. A 10-year-old sapling grown in optimal conditions will stand about 5 m (16 ft) tall. The leaves are alternate, 30–45 cm (12–18 in) long, and pinnate with 9–17 leaflets, each leaflet 5–12 cm (2.0–4.7 in) long and 2–6 cm (0.79–2.36 in) broad.

Pecan and other tree nuts are recognized to be among the eight food groups that cause the majority of food allergies [US Food and Drug Administration 7] and are required to be labeled in the USA by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 when they are used as ingredients in preparing a food product. Failing to inform the consumer of an allergen source on a product label is one of the leading reasons for recent food recalls 8. Both allergenic patients and the food industry may become victims of foods containing unlabeled allergen sources. Seed storage proteins such as 2S, 7S and 11S globular proteins in many species are known allergens, including all three proteins in peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios and walnuts. The 2S albumin 9 and 11S legumin 10 in pecan have also been identified as food allergens.

Figure 1. Pecan


Pecan nutrition facts

In 100 g, pecans provide 691 Calories and over 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for total fat. Pecans are a rich source of dietary fiber (38% DV), manganese (214% DV), magnesium (34% DV), phosphorus (40% DV), zinc (48% DV) and thiamin (57% DV). Pecans are also a good source (10-19% DV) of protein, iron, and B vitamins. Their fat content consists mainly of monounsaturated fatty acids, mainly oleic acid (57% of total fat), and the polyunsaturated fatty acid linoleic acid (30% of total fat).

Table 1. Nutritional value of pecans nuts (unroasted)

NutrientUnitValue per 100 g
Total lipid (fat)g71.97
Carbohydrate, by differenceg13.86
Fiber, total dietaryg9.6
Sugars, totalg3.97
Glucose (dextrose)g0.04
Calcium, Camg70
Iron, Femg2.53
Magnesium, Mgmg121
Phosphorus, Pmg277
Potassium, Kmg410
Sodium, Namg0
Zinc, Znmg4.53
Copper, Cumg1.2
Manganese, Mnmg4.5
Selenium, Seµg3.8
Fluoride, Fµg10
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg1.1
Pantothenic acidmg0.863
Vitamin B-6mg0.21
Folate, totalµg22
Folic acidµg0
Folate, foodµg22
Folate, DFEµg22
Choline, totalmg40.5
Vitamin B-12µg0
Vitamin B-12, addedµg0
Vitamin A, RAEµg3
Carotene, betaµg29
Carotene, alphaµg0
Cryptoxanthin, betaµg9
Vitamin A, IUIU56
Lutein + zeaxanthinµg17
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg1.4
Vitamin E, addedmg0
Tocopherol, betamg0.39
Tocopherol, gammamg24.44
Tocopherol, deltamg0.47
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg0
Vitamin DIU0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)µg3.5
Fatty acids, total saturatedg6.18
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg40.801
16:1 undifferentiatedg0
18:1 undifferentiatedg40.594
22:1 undifferentiatedg0
24:1 cg0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg21.614
18:2 undifferentiatedg20.628
18:3 undifferentiatedg0.986
20:2 n-6 c,cg0
20:3 undifferentiatedg0
20:4 undifferentiatedg0
20:5 n-3 (EPA)g0
22:5 n-3 (DPA)g0
22:6 n-3 (DHA)g0
Amino Acids
Aspartic acidg0.929
Glutamic acidg1.829
Alcohol, ethylg0
(-)-Epicatechin 3-gallatemg0
(-)-Epigallocatechin 3-gallatemg2.3
Total isoflavonesmg0
Proanthocyanidin dimersmg42.1
Proanthocyanidin trimersmg26
Proanthocyanidin 4-6mersmg101.4
Proanthocyanidin 7-10mersmg84.2
Proanthocyanidin polymers (>10mers)mg223
[Source 11]

Health benefits of pecans

Pecan shell fiber (also known as pecan shell flour or ground pecan shells) is a food ingredient produced from shells of pecans, excluding the husks and nut kernels. Pecan shell fiber is predominantly composed of insoluble fiber (cellulose, lignin and hemicellulose) and contains small amounts of fat (<4%) and protein (<3%). It also contains approximately 4.5% polyphenols and 10% proanthocyanidins, molecules recognized for antioxidant activity 12. Higher amounts of substances with antioxidant properties, such as phenolics, tannins, and gallic and ellagic acids, are also present in pecan shells when compared with the kernels 13. Ellagic acid causes reversed high-carbohydrate and high-fat diet-induced symptoms of metabolic syndrome in rats 14. This compound also inhibited porcine pancreatic lipase activity, indicating its effects on metabolism 15. Based on these findings, studies were conducted to evaluate the efficacy of aqueous extract of pecan shells to decrease glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol using diabetes and hyperlipidemia models in rats and the results are promising 16. The shells have been used empirically in natura and in nutraceutical products against obesity and hypercholesterolemia 17. Pecan shells and gallic and ellagic acids have been investigated in the prevention or treatment of human diseases such as metabolic and inflammatory conditions, neurological disorders, gastric ulcers, and cancer 18, 19. Aqueous extract from pecan nut shell show activity against breast cancer cell line MCF-7 and Ehrlich ascites tumor in Balb-C mice 20. These results were attributed to the phenolic profile of the extract, which presented compounds such as gallic, 4-hydroxybenzoic, chlorogenic, vanillic, caffeic and ellagic acid, and catechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin and epicatechin gallate. The results indicated that pecan nut shell extracts are effective against tumor cells growth and may be considered as an alternative to the treatment of cancer. Therefore, pecan shell fiber has potential as both a fiber ingredient and antioxidant in food formulations. Pecan shell fiber provides an additional benefit that several fiber ingredients do not possess- high polyphenol and proanthocyanidin content, which will aid in the preservation of food. However, only a few studies examined their safety and chemical constituents 21.

The American Association of Feed Control Officials 22 includes Ground Pecan Shells (definition 60.110) in the 2015 official publication of animal feed ingredients 22 as a source of fiber. Although pecan shell fiber is Generally Recognized as Safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 23 for use as a “natural” flavor complex for meat products (at a maximum level of 3000 ppm (0.3%)) 24, pecan shell fiber is not GRAS for other purposes 23. Under section 201(s) of the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, the use of a substance, rather than the substance itself, is eligible for a GRAS determination 25. However, pecan shells have inorganic elements (e.g copper & manganese) whose accumulation can be harmful and should be taken into account in the manufacturing of nutraceutical products of pecan 17. The excess intake of copper (Cu) may lead to neuropsychiatric symptoms such as those observed in Wilson’s disease 26. Oxidative stress biomarkers and antioxidative enzyme activity increased after copper (Cu) overload in male Wistar rats, reflecting copper (Cu)-induced oxidative damage 27, and daily administration of 0.15 mg Cu/100 g body weight for 90 days impaired spatial memory and neuromuscular coordination, indicative of chronic Cu toxicity 28. Thus, the effects of excess Cu, manganese (Mn) and other mineral elements on the central nervous system may have contributed to the observed toxicity of pecan shell aqueous extract doses exceeding 200 mg/kg. However, other chemical components might be involved in inducing toxicity. Pecan shell aqueous extract is a complex mixture of organic and inorganic compounds that interact with one other and might produce synergistic and additive effects. Although humans may have been ingesting small amounts of pecan shell fiber in the past, they have not been eating the ingredient at the considerably higher levels expected when used as a source of fiber. To support a higher level of consumption in humans, safe consumption of high levels of pecan shell fiber must be demonstrated in experimental animals. Genotoxicity studies should also be conducted because the potential for genotoxicity due to small levels of contaminants would increase with higher levels of consumption.

  2. De La Rosa L.A., Alvarez-Parrilla E., Shahidi F. Phenolic compounds and antioxidant activity of kernels and shells of Mexican pecan (Carya illinoinensis) J. Agric. Food Chem. 2011;59:152–162.
  3. USDA, Noncitrus fruits and nuts 2014 summary
  4. Florkowski W.J., Purcell J.C., Hubbard E.E. Importance for the U. S. pecan industry of communicating about quality. HortScience. 1992;27:462–464.
  7. US Food and Drug Administration (2010). Food Allergies: What You Need to Know.
  8. Analysis of U.S. Food and Drug Administration food allergen recalls after implementation of the food allergen labeling and consumer protection act. Gendel SM, Zhu J. J Food Prot. 2013 Nov; 76(11):1933-8.
  9. Cloning and characterization of 2S albumin, Car i 1, a major allergen in pecan. Sharma GM, Irsigler A, Dhanarajan P, Ayuso R, Bardina L, Sampson HA, Roux KH, Sathe SK. J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Apr 27; 59(8):4130-9.
  10. Cloning and characterization of an 11S legumin, Car i 4, a major allergen in pecan. Sharma GM, Irsigler A, Dhanarajan P, Ayuso R, Bardina L, Sampson HA, Roux KH, Sathe SK. J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Sep 14; 59(17):9542-52.
  11. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.
  12. Do Prado A.C.P., Aragão A.M., Fett R., Block J.M. Antioxidant properties of Pecan nut [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) C. Koch] shell infusion. Grasas y Aceites. 2009;60:330–335.
  13. Phenolic compounds and antioxidant activity of kernels and shells of Mexican pecan (Carya illinoinensis). de la Rosa LA, Alvarez-Parrilla E, Shahidi F. J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Jan 12; 59(1):152-62.
  14. Panchal S. K., Ward L., Brown L. Ellagic acid attenuates high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet-induced metabolic syndrome in rats. European Journal of Nutrition. 2013;52(2):559–568. doi: 10.1007/s00394-012-0358-9.
  15. Sergent T., Vanderstraeten J., Winand J., Beguin P., Schneider Y.-J. Phenolic compounds and plant extracts as potential natural anti-obesity substances. Food Chemistry. 2012;135(1):68–73. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.04.074.
  16. Porto L. C. S., da Silva J., Ferraz A. B. F., et al. The antidiabetic and antihypercholesterolemic effects of an aqueous extract from pecan shells in wistar rats. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. 2015;70(4):414–419. doi: 10.1007/s11130-015-0510-9.
  17. Porto LCS, da Silva J, Sousa K, et al. Evaluation of Toxicological Effects of an Aqueous Extract of Shells from the Pecan Nut Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch and the Possible Association with Its Inorganic Constituents and Major Phenolic Compounds. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2016;2016:4647830. doi:10.1155/2016/4647830.
  18. Müller L. G., Pase C. S., Reckziegel P., et al. Hepatoprotective effects of pecan nut shells on ethanol-induced liver damage. Experimental and Toxicologic Pathology. 2013;65(1-2):165–171. doi: 10.1016/j.etp.2011.08.002.
  19. El Hawary S. S., Saad S., El Halawany A. M., Ali Z. Y., El Bishbishy M. Phenolic content and anti-hyperglycemic activity of pecan cultivars from Egypt. Pharmaceutical Biology. 2016;54(5):788–798. doi: 10.3109/13880209.2015.1080732.
  20. Aqueous extract from pecan nut [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh) C. Koch] shell show activity against breast cancer cell line MCF-7 and Ehrlich ascites tumor in Balb-C mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2018 Jan 30;211:256-266. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2017.08.012. Epub 2017 Aug 12.
  21. Evaluation of acute and subacute toxicity and mutagenic activity of the aqueous extract of pecan shells [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch]. Porto LC, da Silva J, Ferraz Ade B, Corrêa DS, dos Santos MS, Porto CD, Picada JN. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Sep; 59():579-85.
  22. AAFCO, 60.110 Ground Pecan Shells. Official names and definitions of feed ingredients. In 2015 Official Publication. Association of American Feed Control Officials Incorporated. 2015, p. 415.
  23. Pecan shell fiber.
  24. Waddell W.J., Cohen S.M., Feron V.J., Goodman J.I., Marnett L.J., Portoghese P.S., Rietjens I.M., Smith R.L., Adams T.B., Gavin L.C., McZGowen M.M., Williams M.C. GRAS flavoring substances 23. The 23rd publication by the FEMA expert panel presents safety and usage data on 174 new generally recognized as safe flavoring ingredients. Food Technol. 2007:22–49.
  25. FDA, Substances Generally Recognized as Safe; Proposed Rule. Federal Register Volume 62, Number 74 (Thursday, April 17, 1997). From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [FR Doc No: 97-9706].
  26. Association of dopamine receptor gene polymorphisms with the clinical course of Wilson disease. Litwin T, Gromadzka G, Samochowiec J, Grzywacz A, Członkowski A, Członkowska A. JIMD Rep. 2013; 8():73-80.
  27. Copper-induced alterations in rat brain depends on route of overload and basal copper levels. Arnal N, Dominici L, de Tacconi MJ, Marra CA. Nutrition. 2014 Jan; 30(1):96-106.
  28. Biochemical, histological, and memory impairment effects of chronic copper toxicity: a model for non-Wilsonian brain copper toxicosis in Wistar rat. Pal A, Badyal RK, Vasishta RK, Attri SV, Thapa BR, Prasad R. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2013 Jun; 153(1-3):257-68.
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What is pineapple good for

The pineapple (Ananas comosus) is a tropical plant with an edible multiple fruit consisting of coalesced berries, also called pineapples and the most economically significant plant in the Bromeliaceae family 1. Pineapple crop is cultivated in all tropical and subtropical regions and ranks third in production among noncitrus tropical fruits, following banana (including plantain) and mango. The annual worldwide production reached 21.9 million metric tons in 2012 and the top seven producers (Brazil, Philippines, Thailand, Costa Rica, Indonesia, India, and China) jointly accounted for 90% of the global production (FAO, 2014) 2. The pineapple plant is indigenous to South America 3. The putative center of origin is located in the Paraná–Paraguay River drainages between southern Brazil and Paraguay, based on the diversity distribution of related species and botanical varieties of pineapple in this region 4.

The flesh and juice of the pineapple are used in cuisines around the world. In many tropical countries, pineapple is prepared and sold on roadsides as a snack. It is sold whole or in halves with a stick inserted. Whole, cored slices with a cherry in the middle are a common garnish on hams in the West. Chunks of pineapple are used in desserts such as fruit salad, as well as in some savory dishes, including pizza toppings, or as a grilled ring on a hamburger. Crushed pineapple is used in yogurt, jam, sweets, and ice cream. The juice of the pineapple is served as a beverage, and it is also the main ingredient in cocktails such as the piña colada and in the drink tepache.

Pineapples can be consumed fresh, cooked, juiced, or preserved. They are found in a wide array of cuisines. In addition to consumption, the pineapple leaves are used to produce the textile fiber piña in the Philippines, commonly used as the material for the men’s barong and women’s baro’t saya formal wear in the country 5. The fiber is also used as a component for wallpaper and other furnishings.

Figure 1. Pineapples


Pineapple nutrition facts

In a 100-gram reference amount, raw pineapple is a rich source of manganese (44% Daily Value, DV) and vitamin C (58% DV), but otherwise contains no essential nutrients in significant quantities. Also in 100 gram of pineapple has 13.12 gram of carbs and only 50 calories. Sugar/acid ratio and ascorbic acid content vary considerably with the cultivar. The sugar content may change from 4% to 15% during the final 2 weeks before full ripening.

Table 1. Pineapple, raw, all varieties nutrition facts

NutrientUnitValue per 100 g
Total lipid (fat)g0.12
Carbohydrate, by differenceg13.12
Fiber, total dietaryg1.4
Sugars, totalg9.85
Glucose (dextrose)g1.73
Calcium, Camg13
Iron, Femg0.29
Magnesium, Mgmg12
Phosphorus, Pmg8
Potassium, Kmg109
Sodium, Namg1
Zinc, Znmg0.12
Copper, Cumg0.11
Manganese, Mnmg0.927
Selenium, Seµg0.1
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg47.8
Pantothenic acidmg0.213
Vitamin B-6mg0.112
Folate, totalµg18
Folic acidµg0
Folate, foodµg18
Folate, DFEµg18
Choline, totalmg5.5
Vitamin B-12µg0
Vitamin B-12, addedµg0
Vitamin A, RAEµg3
Carotene, betaµg35
Carotene, alphaµg0
Cryptoxanthin, betaµg0
Vitamin A, IUIU58
Lutein + zeaxanthinµg0
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg0.02
Vitamin E, addedmg0
Tocopherol, betamg0
Tocopherol, gammamg0
Tocopherol, deltamg0
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg0
Vitamin DIU0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)µg0.7
Fatty acids, total saturatedg0.009
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg0.013
16:1 undifferentiatedg0.001
18:1 undifferentiatedg0.012
22:1 undifferentiatedg0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg0.04
18:2 undifferentiatedg0.023
18:3 undifferentiatedg0.017
20:4 undifferentiatedg0
20:5 n-3 (EPA)g0
22:5 n-3 (DPA)g0
22:6 n-3 (DHA)g0
Fatty acids, total transg0
Amino Acids
Aspartic acidg0.121
Glutamic acidg0.079
Alcohol, ethylg0
(-)-Epicatechin 3-gallatemg0
(-)-Epigallocatechin 3-gallatemg0
Total isoflavonesmg0
Proanthocyanidin dimersmg0
Proanthocyanidin trimersmg0
Proanthocyanidin 4-6mersmg0
Proanthocyanidin 7-10mersmg0
Proanthocyanidin polymers (>10mers)mg0
[Source 6]

Table 2. Pineapple juice canned or bottled, unsweetened, without added ascorbic acid nutrition facts

NutrientUnitValue per 100 g
Total lipid (fat)g0.12
Carbohydrate, by differenceg12.87
Fiber, total dietaryg0.2
Sugars, totalg9.98
Calcium, Camg13
Iron, Femg0.31
Magnesium, Mgmg12
Phosphorus, Pmg8
Potassium, Kmg130
Sodium, Namg2
Zinc, Znmg0.11
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg10
Vitamin B-6mg0.1
Folate, DFEµg18
Vitamin B-12µg0
Vitamin A, RAEµg0
Vitamin A, IUIU5
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg0.02
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg0
Vitamin DIU0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)µg0.3
Fatty acids, total saturatedg0.008
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg0.014
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg0.042
Fatty acids, total transg0
[Source 6]

Pineapple health benefits

Present in all parts of the pineapple plant, bromelain is a mixture of proteolytic enzymes 7.

Bromelain belongs to a group of protein digesting enzymes obtained commercially from the fruit or stem of pineapple 8. However, bromelain is usually referred to the pineapple stem bromelain. Pineapple is the common name of Ananas comosus (Ananas sativus, Ananassa sativa, Bromelia ananas, Bromelia comosa). Pineapple is the leading edible member of the family Bromeliaceae, grown in several tropical and subtropical countries including Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya, India, and China. Pineapple has been used as a medicinal plant in several native cultures 9 and these medicinal qualities of pineapple are attributed to bromelain, which is a crude extract from pineapple.

Bromelain concentration is high in pineapple stem, thus necessitating its extraction because, unlike the pineapple fruit which is normally used as food, the stem is a waste byproduct and thus inexpensive 10.

Bromelain is a mixture of different thiol endopeptidases and other components like phosphatase, glucosidase, peroxidase, cellulase, escharase and several protease inhibitors. In vitro (test tubes) and in vivo (animal) studies demonstrate that bromelain exhibits various fibrinolytic, antiedematous, antithrombotic and anti-inflammatory activities. Bromelain is considerably absorbable in the body without losing its proteolytic activity and without producing any major side effects. Bromelain accounts for many therapeutic benefits like the treatment of angina pectoris, bronchitis, sinusitis, surgical trauma, and thrombophlebitis, debridement of wounds, and enhanced absorption of drugs, particularly antibiotics. Bromelain also relieves osteoarthritis, diarrhea, and various cardiovascular disorders. Bromelain also possesses some anticancerous activities and promotes apoptotic cell death.

Pineapple Side Effects and Toxicity

When unripe, the pineapple is not only inedible but poisonous, irritating the throat and acting as a strong laxative 11.

The bromelain content of raw pineapple is responsible for the sore mouth feeling often experienced when eating it, due to the enzymes breaking down the proteins of sensitive tissues in the mouth. Also, raphides, needle-shaped crystals of calcium oxalate that occur in pineapple fruits and leaves, likely cause microabrasions, contributing to mouth discomfort 12.

Excessive consumption of pineapple cores has caused the formation of fiber balls (bezoars) in the digestive tract 11.

Bromelain enzyme

Bromelainis a mixture of different thiol endopeptidases and other components like phosphatases, glucosidase, peroxidases, cellulases, glycoproteins, carbohydrates, and several protease inhibitors 13. Stem bromelain is different from fruit bromelain 14. Proteinases are considered to be the most active fraction, which comprise ~2% of the total proteins 15. Bromelain enzymatic activities comprise a wide spectrum with pH range of 4.5 to 9.5 16. Nowadays, bromelain is prepared from cooled pineapple juice by centrifugation, ultrafiltration, and lyophilization 17. The process yields a yellowish powder, the enzyme activity of which is determined with different substrates such as casein, gelatin (gelatin digestion units), or chromogenic tripeptides 18.

The composition of bromelain varies based on the method of purification and the source; stem bromelain contains high quantities of protease content when compared with bromelain derived from the fruit 19. It was demonstrated that the majority of the physiological activity of bromelain may not be due to single proteolytic fraction and it is likely that the beneficial effects of bromelain are due to multiple factors 18. Bromelain has not only been used to treat various health problems, it is also popular as a nutritional supplement to promote health. Bromelain is absorbed into the human intestines and remains biologically active with a half-life of ~6–9 hours 20. The highest concentration of bromelain was identified in the blood one hour after administration 21. Bromelain increases bioavailability and reduces the side effects that are associated with various antibiotics 22. Furthermore, bromelain acts as an immunomodulator, is anti-metastatic, anti-edematous, anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory 23. These findings indicate that bromelain may present as a promising candidate for the development of future anticancer therapeutic strategies. Notably, although numerous studies have been conducted regarding bromelain there are limited reviews that document the complete anticancer activity of bromelain.

Absorption and Bioavailability of Bromelain

The body can absorb significant amount of bromelain; about 12 gm/day of bromelain can be consumed without any major side effects 19. Bromelain is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract in a functionally intact form; approximately 40% of labeled bromelain is absorbed from intestine in high molecular form 24. In a study carried out by Castell et al. 19 bromelain was detected to retain its proteolytic activity in plasma and was also found linked with alpha 2-macroglobulin and alpha1-antichymotrypsin, the two antiproteinases of blood. In a recent study, it was demonstrated that 3.66 mg/mL of bromelain was stable in artificial stomach juice after 4 hrs of reaction and also 2.44 mg/mL of bromelain remained in artificial blood after 4 hrs of reaction 25.

Bromelain benefits

A wide range of therapeutic benefits have been claimed for bromelain, such as reversible inhibition of platelet aggregation, sinusitis, surgical traumas 26, thrombophlebitis [inflammation of the wall of a vein with associated blood clot], pyelonephritis [inflammation of the kidney as a result of bacterial infection], angina pectoris [condition marked by severe pain in the chest due to blocked artery to the heart muscle], bronchitis [inflammation of the mucous membrane in the bronchial tubes] 27, and enhanced absorption of drugs, particularly of antibiotics 18. Several studies have been carried out indicating that bromelain has useful phytomedical application. However, these results are yet to be amalgamated and critically compared so as to make out whether bromelain will gain wide acceptance as a phytomedical supplement 28. Bromelain acts on fibrinogen giving products that are similar, at least in effect, to those formed by plasmin 29. Experiment in mice showed that antacids such as sodium bicarbonate preserve the proteolytic activity of bromelain in the gastrointestinal tract 30. Bromelain is considered as a food supplement and is freely available to the general public in health food stores and pharmacies in the USA and Europe 31. Existing evidence indicates that bromelain can be a promising candidate for the development of future oral enzyme therapies for cancer patients 32. Bromelain can be absorbed in human intestines without degradation and without losing its biological activity 32.

Bromelain on Rhinosinusitis

Chronic rhinosinusitis in adults is defined as sinonasal inflammation persisting for >12 weeks. Chronic rhinosinusitis in adults is characterized by nasal obstruction/congestion/blockage, anterior or posterior nasal mucopurulent, facial pain/pressure/fullness, and decreased/loss of sense of smell. Symptoms must be accompanied by objective findings including positive nasal endoscopy (purulence, edema) or positive imaging findings such as inflammation or mucosal changes within the sinuses. A systematic review 33 of the evidence indicates that bromelain is helpful in relieving symptoms of acute nasal and sinus inflammation when used in combination with standard medications. In a study 34 to quantity bromelain in rhinosinusal mucosa of patients with chronic rhinosinusitis and individuals without nasal and paranasal pathology. It was found that patients taking Bromelain 500 mg tablet twice daily was administered for 30 days has significant distribution of bromelain in the ethmoid sinus and nasal turbinates mucus of patients with chronic rhinosinusitis, indicating that Bromelain could be exploited for use as an anti-inflammatory agent in nasal and sinusal pathologies.

Anti-inflammatory activity of bromelain

Inflammation is pivotal in the development of cancer during cellular transformation, proliferation, angiogenesis, invasion and metastasis. It has been demonstrated that suppression of chronic inflammation may reduce the cancer incidence and also inhibit cancer progression 35. Cyclooxigenase-2 (COX-2) is an important component of cancer-associated inflammation that is involved in the synthesis of prostaglandin E2 (PGE-2). PGE-2 is a pro-inflammatory lipid that also acts as an immunosuppressant, as well as a promoter of tumor progression 36. COX-2 converts arachidonic acid into PGE-2 and promotes tumor angiogenesis and cancer progression 37. It has been shown that bromelain downregulates COX-2 and PGE-2 expression levels in murine microglial cells and human monocytic leukemia cell lines 38. Bromelain activates the inflammatory mediators, including interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, interferon (INF)-γ and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α in mouse macrophage and human peripheral blood mononuclear cells 39. These results indicated that bromelain potentially activates the healthy immune system in association with the rapid response to cellular stress. Conversely, bromelain reduces IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α secretion when immune cells are already stimulated in the condition of inflammation-induced over production of cytokines 40. Studies have shown that bromelain reduced the expression of INF-γ and TNF-α in inflammatory bowel disease 41. A study demonstrated that bromelain diminished the cell damaging effect of advanced glycation end products by proteolytic degradation of receptor of advanced glycation end products 41 and controlled the inflammation 41. The cell surface marker, cluster of differentiation (CD)44 is expressed by cancer and immune cells directly involved in cancer growth and metastasis. Furthermore, CD44 regulates lymphocyte requirement at the site of inflammation 42. Bromelain was shown to reduce the level of CD44 expression on the surface of mouse and human tumor cells, and regulate lymphocyte homing and migration to the sites of inflammation 43. Furthermore, bromelain modulates the expression of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β, one of the major regulators of inflammation in patients affected by osteomyelofibrosis and rheumatoid arthritis 44. There are various studies that report the immunomodulatory effect of bromelain 45. Bromelain activates natural killer cells and augments the production of granulocyte-macrophage-colony stimulating factor, IL-2, IL-6 and decreases the activation of T-helper cells 46. Thus, bromelain decreases the majority of inflammatory mediators and has demonstrated a significant role as an anti-inflammatory agent in various conditions 47.

Anticancer activity of bromelain

Recent studies have shown that bromelain has the capacity to modify key pathways that support malignancy. Presumably, the anticancerous activity of bromelain is due to its direct impact on cancer cells and their micro-environment, as well as on the modulation of immune, inflammatory, and hemostatic systems 48. Most of the in vitro (test tubes) and in vivo (animals) studies on anticancer activity of bromelain are concentrated on mouse and human cells, both cancerous and normal, treated with bromelain preparations. In an experiment conducted by Beez et al 49 chemically induced mouse skin papillomas were treated with bromelain and they observed that it reduced tumor formation, tumor volume and caused apoptotic cell death. In one study related to bromelain treatment of gastric carcinoma Kato III cell lines, significant reduction of cell growth was observed 50 while in another study bromelain reduced the invasive capacity of glioblastoma cells and reduced de novo protein synthesis 51. Bromelain is found to increase the expression of p53 and Bax in mouse skin, the well-known activators of apoptosis 52. Bromelain also decreases the activity of cell survival regulators such as Akt and Erk, thus promoting apoptotic cell death in tumours. Different studies have demonstrated the role of NF-κB, Cox-2, and PGE2 as promoters of cancer progression. Evidence shows that the signaling and overexpression of NF-κB plays an important part in many types of cancers 53. Cox-2, a multiple target gene of NF-κB, facilitates the conversion of arachidonic acid into PGE2 and thus promotes tumour angiogenesis and progression 54. It is considered that inhibiting NF-κB, Cox-2, and PGE2 activity has potential as a treatment of cancer. Bromelain was found to downregulate NF-κB and Cox-2 expression in mouse papillomas 52 and in models of skin tumourigenesis 55. Bromelain was also shown to inhibit bacterial endotoxin (LPS)-induced NF-κB activity as well as the expression of PGE2 and Cox-2 in human monocytic leukemia and murine microglial cell lines 56. Bromelain markedly has in vivo antitumoural activity for the following cell lines: P-388 leukemia, sarcoma (S-37), Ehrlich ascetic tumour, Lewis lung carcinoma, and ADC-755 mammary adenocarcinoma. In these studies, intraperitoneal administration of bromelain after 24 hours of tumour cell inoculation resulted in tumour regression 52.

Antimicrobial activity

Bromelain supplementation protects animals against diarrhea caused by bacterial enterotoxins from Escherichia coli and Vibrio cholerae 57. Bromelain acts as anti-adhesion agent by modifying the receptor attachment sites and influences the intestinal secretory signaling pathways 58. In addition to its ability to counter certain effects of particular intestinal pathogens and its synergism with antibiotics, these two mechanisms are indicative of the benefits of bromelain against specific infections. In vitro evidence also suggests that bromelain exerts antihelminthic activity against the gastrointestinal nematodes, Trichuris muris and Heligmosomoides polygyrus 59. Conversely, bromelain acts as an anti-fungal agent by stimulating phagocytosis and respiratory burst killing of Candida albicans when incubated with trypsin in vitro 60. Pityriasis lichenoides chronica is an infectious skin disease and bromelain reportedly caused complete resolution of this condition 61. Bromelain has been documented to increase blood and urine levels of certain antibiotics in humans 62. Combined bromelain and antibiotic therapy was shown to be more effective than antibiotics alone in pneumonia, bronchitis, cutaneous Staphylococcus infection, thrombophlebitis, cellulitis, pyelonephritis, and in perirectal and rectal abscesses 63, sinusitis 64 and urinary tract infections 65. A combination of bromelain, trypsin, and rutin has been administered as an adjuvant therapy in combination with antibiotics for children with sepsis 62. A combination of bromelain with enzymes derived from Aspergillus niger improved protein utilization in elderly nursing home patients 66. Another study demonstrated that bromelain, in combination with sodium alginate, sodium bicarbonate and essential oils, significantly improved dyspeptic symptoms 67. In addition, bromelain has been administered successfully as a digestive enzyme to treat intestinal disorders, pancreatectomy and exocrine pancreas insufficiency 68. Finally, the combination of ox bile, pancreatin, and bromelain is effective in lowering stool fat excretion in patients with pancreatic steatorrhea, resulting in symptomatic improvements in pain, flatulence and stool frequency 69.

Bromelain on Cardiovascular and Circulation System

Bromelain prevents or minimizes the severity of angina pectoris and transient ischemic attack (TIA). It is useful in the prevention and treatment of thrombophlebitis. It may also break down cholesterol plaques and exerts a potent fibrinolytic activity. A combination of bromelain and other nutrients protect against ischemia/reperfusion injury in skeletal muscle 70. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) include disorders of the blood vessels and heart, coronary heart disease (heart attacks), cerebrovascular disease (stroke), raised blood pressure (hypertension), peripheral artery disease, rheumatic heart disease, heart failure, and congenital heart disease 71. Stroke and heart disease are the main cause of death, about 65% of people with diabetes die from stroke or heart disease. Bromelain has been effective in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases as it is an inhibitor of blood platelet aggregation, thus minimizing the risk of arterial thrombosis and embolism 72. King et al. 73 reported that administration of medication use to control the symptoms of diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesteromia increased by 121% from 1988–1994 to 2001–2006 and was greater for patients with fewer healthy lifestyle habits. Bromelain supplement could reduce any of risk factors that contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease. In a recent research, Bromelain was found to attenuate development of allergic airway disease, while altering CD4+ to CD8+T lymphocyte populations. From this reduction in allergic airway disease outcomes it was suggested that bromelain may have similar effects in the treatment of human asthma and hypersensitivity disorders 74. In another study, carried out by Juhasz et al., Bromelain was proved to exhibit the ability of inducing cardioprotection against ischemia-reperfusion injury through Akt/Foxo pathway in rat myocardium 75.

Bromelain on Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in Western countries; in USA prevalence of osteoarthritis ranges from 3.2 to 33% dependent on the joint 76. A combination of bromelain, trypsin, and rutin was compared to diclofenac in 103 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. After six weeks, both treatments resulted in significant and similar reduction in the pain and inflammation 77. Bromelain is a food supplement that may provide an alternative treatment to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) 78. It plays an important role in the pathogenesis of arthritis 79. Bromelain has analgesic properties which are thought to be the result of its direct influence on pain mediators such as bradykinin 80. The earliest reported studies investigating bromelain were a series of case reports on 28 patients, with moderate or severe rheumatoid or osteoarthritis 81.

In conclusion, bromelain appears to have potential for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. However it is important to note that there are a number of methodological issues that are common to the studies reported, including the possibility of inadequate power, inadequate treatment periods, inadequate or non-existent follow-up to monitor possible adverse drug reactions. Furthermore, the optimum dosage for this condition remains unclear. A phase II clinical trial would be beneficial to identify the optimal dosage and to systematically monitor safety issues before a definitive efficacy study could be completed.

Bromelain on Immune System

Bromelain has been recommended as an adjuvant therapeutic approach in the treatment of chronic inflammatory, malignant, and autoimmune diseases 82. In vitro experiments have shown that Bromelain has the ability to modulate surface adhesion molecules on T cells, macrophages, and natural killer cells and also induce the secretion of IL-1β, IL-6, and tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα) by peripheral blood mononuclear cells 83. Tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) is a potent pro-inflammatory cytokine and increased TNF-α production is found in serum, stools, and bowel mucosa in both inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) models 84. Anti-TNF therapy has been confirmed to alleviate symptoms, heal mucosal ulcers, spare corticosteroid treatment, and decrease hospitalization costs. TNF-α leads to the activation of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), which can transmigrate into the nucleus, and it binds to DNA response elements in gene promoter regions to control transcription of genes, such as inducible NO synthase (iNOS), cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX2), and myosin light chain kinase 85. Both iNOS and COX2 are pro-inflammatory mediators which play crucial roles in inflammatory responses 85. The expression and activity of myosin light chain kinase is increased in human inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and associated with histological evidence of disease activity 86. Myosin light chain kinase-induced phosphorylation of perijunctional actomyosin mediates tight junction loss, which triggers the initiation and development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) 87. TNF-α exerts its biological function by binding to two kinds of TNF-α receptors (TNFRs), including TNFR1 and TNFR2. Epithelial TNFR1 and TNFR2 are relatively under-examined, but they have been implicated in epithelial apoptosis, proliferation, migration, and tight junction regulation 88. Oral administration of bromelain relieved IBD symptoms 89; however, the effect of bromelain on intestinal inflammation induced by chemical damage and its underlying mechanisms are still not fully understood.

Bromelain can block the Raf-1/extracellular-regulated-kinase- (ERK-) 2 pathways by inhibiting the T cell signal transduction 90. Treatment of cells with bromelain decreases the activation of CD4 (+) T cells and reduce the expression of CD25 91. Moreover, there is evidence that oral therapy with bromelain produces certain analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, which is one of the most common autoimmune diseases 92.

Bromelain on Blood Coagulation and Fibrinolysis

Bromelain influences blood coagulation by increasing the serum fibrinolytic ability and by inhibiting the synthesis of fibrin, a protein involved in blood clotting 93. In rats, the reduction of serum fibrinogen level by bromelain is dose dependent. At a higher concentration of bromelain, both prothrombin time (PT) and activated partial thromboplastin time (APTT) are markedly prolonged 94. In vitro and in vivo studies have suggested that bromelain is an effective fibrinolytic agent as it stimulates the conversion of plasminogen to plasmin, resulting in increased fibrinolysis by degrading fibrin 95.

Bromelain on Diarrhea

Evidence has suggested that bromelain counteracts some of the effects of certain intestinal pathogens like Vibrio cholera and Escherichia coli, whose enterotoxin causes diarrhoea in animals. Bromelain appears to exhibit this effect by interacting with intestinal secretory signaling pathways, including adenosine 3′ : 5′-cyclic monophosphatase, guanosine 3′ : 5′-cyclic monophosphatase, and calcium-dependent signaling cascades 96. Other studies suggest a different mechanism of action. In E. coli infection, an active supplementation with bromelain leads to some antiadhesion effects which prevent the bacteria from attaching to specific glycoprotein receptors located on the intestinal mucosa by proteolytically modifying the receptor attachment sites 97.

Bromelain in Surgery

Administration of bromelain before a surgery can reduce the average number of days for complete disappearance of pain and postsurgery inflammation 98. Trials indicate that bromelain might be effective in reducing swelling, bruising, and pain in women having episiotomy 99. Nowadays, bromelain is used for treating acute inflammation and sports injuries 78.

Bromelain in Debridement Burns

The removal of damaged tissue from wounds or second/third degree burns is termed as debridement. Bromelain applied as a cream (35% bromelain in a lipid base) can be beneficial for debridement of necrotic tissue and acceleration of healing. Bromelain contains escharase which is responsible for this effect. Escharase is nonproteolytic and has no hydrolytic enzyme activity against normal protein substrate or various glycosaminoglycan substrates. Its activity varies greatly with different preparations 100. In two different enzymatic debridement studies carried out in pig model, using different bromelain-based agents, namely, Debriding Gel Dressing (DGD) and Debrase Gel Dressing showed rapid removal of the necrotic layer of the dermis with preservation of the unburned tissues 101, 102. In another study on Chinese landrace pigs, enzymatic debridement using topical bromelain in incised wound tracks accelerated the recovery of blood perfusion, pO2 in wound tissue, controlled the expression of TNF-α, and raised the expression of TGT-β 103. Enzymatic debridement using bromelain is better than surgical debridement as surgical incision is painful, nonselective and exposes the patients to the risk of repeated anaesthesia and significant bleeding 104, 105.

Bromelain side effects

Studies that have used a higher daily dose of bromelain to treat osteoarthritis [945 mg/day 106; 1890 mg/day 107] appear to be conflicting. The authors employing the highest dose reported that the medication was well tolerated; the dose of 945 mg/day, however, showed a higher incidence of adverse drug reactions and drop-outs. Adverse events that have been reported are mainly gastrointestinal (i.e. diarrhoea, nausea and flatulence), but have also included headache, tiredness, dry mouth, skin rash and allergic reactions (not specified) 108.

There have been some reports of gastrointestinal problems, increased heart rate, and menstrual problems in people who have taken bromelain orally.

Allergic reactions may occur in individuals who are sensitive or allergic to pineapples or who may have other allergies.

According to Taussig et al. 109 bromelain has very low toxicity with an LD50 (lethal doses) greater than 10 g/kg in mice, rates, and rabbits. Toxicity tests on dogs, with increasing level of bromelain up to 750 mg/kg administered daily, showed no toxic effects after six months. Dosages of 1500 mg/kg per day when administered to rats showed no carcinogenic or teratogenic effects and did not provoke any alteration in food intake, histology of heart, growth, spleen, kidney, or hematological parameters 110. Eckert et al. 111 after giving bromelain (3000 FIP unit/day [FIP is an enzyme unit that produces a certain amount of enzymatic activity]) to human over a period of ten days found no significant changes in blood coagulation parameters.

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  65. Mori S, Ojima Y, Hirose T, Sasaki T, Hashimoto Y. The clinical effect of proteolytic enzyme containing bromelain and trypsin on urinary tract infection evaluated by double blind method. Acta Obstet Gynaecol Jpn. 1972;19:147–153.
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  74. Secor ER, Jr., William FC, Michelle MC, et al. Bromelain exerts anti-inflammatory effects in an ovalbumin-induced murin model of allergic disease. Cellular Immunology. 2005;237:68–75.
  75. Juhasz B, Thirunavukkarasu M, Pant R, et al. Bromelain induces cardioprotection against ischemia-reperfusion injury through Akt/FOXO pathway in rat myocardium. American Journal of Physiology. 2008;294(3):H1365–H1370.
  76. Lawrence RC, Helmich CG, Arnett F, et al. Estimates of prevalence of arthritis and selected musculoskeletal disorders in the United States. Arthritis & Rheumatism. 1998;41:778–799.
  77. Akhtar NM, Naseer R, Farooqi AZ, Aziz W, Nazir M. Oral enzyme combination versus diclofenac in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee—a double-blind prospective randomized study. Clinical Rheumatology. 2004;23(5):410–415.
  78. Brien S, Lewith G, Walker A, Hicks SM, Middleton D. Bromelain as a treatment for osteoarthritis: a review of clinical studies. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2004;1(3):251–257.
  79. Bellamy N, Buchanan W, Goldsmith C, Campbell J, Stitt L. Validation study of WOMAC: a health status instrument for measuring clinically important patient relevant outcomes to anti-rheumatic drug therapy in patients with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. Rheumatology. 1988;15:1833–1840.
  80. Bodi T. The effects of oral bromelains on tissue permeability to antibiotics and pain responseto bradykinin: double blind studies on human subjects. Clinical Medicine. 1966;73:61–65.
  81. Cohen A, Goldman J. Bromelain therapy in rheumatoid arthritis. Pennsylvania Medical Journal. 1964;67:27–30.
  82. Barth H, Guseo A, Klein R. In vitro study on the immunological effect of bromelain and trypsin on mononuclear cells from humans. European Journal of Medical Research. 2005;10(8):325–331.
  83. Hale LP, Haynes BF. Bromelain treatment of human T cells removes CD44, CD45RA, E2/MIC2, CD6, CD7, CD8, and Leu 8/LAM1 surface molecules and markedly enhances CD2-mediated T cell activation. Journal of Immunology. 1992;149(12):3809–3816.
  84. Targeting TNF-α for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. Billiet T, Rutgeerts P, Ferrante M, Van Assche G, Vermeire S. Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2014 Jan; 14(1):75-101.
  85. Protective effect of naringenin against experimental colitis via suppression of Toll-like receptor 4/NF-κB signalling. Dou W, Zhang J, Sun A, Zhang E, Ding L, Mukherjee S, Wei X, Chou G, Wang ZT, Mani S. Br J Nutr. 2013 Aug; 110(4):599-608.
  86. Epithelial myosin light chain kinase expression and activity are upregulated in inflammatory bowel disease. Blair SA, Kane SV, Clayburgh DR, Turner JR. Lab Invest. 2006 Feb; 86(2):191-201.
  87. Myosin light chain kinase expression induced via tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 signaling in the epithelial cells regulates the development of colitis-associated carcinogenesis. Suzuki M, Nagaishi T, Yamazaki M, Onizawa M, Watabe T, Sakamaki Y, Ichinose S, Totsuka M, Oshima S, Okamoto R, Shimonaka M, Yagita H, Nakamura T, Watanabe M. PLoS One. 2014; 9(2):e88369.
  88. Capsaicin alleviates abnormal intestinal motility through regulation of enteric motor neurons and MLCK activity: Relevance to intestinal motility disorders. Chen D, Xiong Y, Lin Y, Tang Z, Wang J, Wang L, Yao J. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2015 Aug; 59(8):1482-90.
  89. Potential role of bromelain in clinical and therapeutic applications. Rathnavelu V, Alitheen NB, Sohila S, Kanagesan S, Ramesh R. Biomed Rep. 2016 Sep; 5(3):283-288.
  90. Mynott TL, Ladhams A, Scarmato P, Engwerda CR. Bromelain, from pineapple stems, proteolytically blocks activation of extracellular regulated kinase-2 in T cells. Journal of Immunology. 1999;163(5):2568–2575.
  91. Secor ER, Jr., Singh A, Guernsey LA, et al. Bromelain treatment reduces CD25 expression on activated CD4+ T cells in vitro. International Immunopharmacology. 2009;9(3):340–346.
  92. Leipner J, Iten F, Saller R. Therapy with proteolytic enzymes in rheumatic disorders. BioDrugs. 2002;15(12):779–789.
  93. Lotz-Winter H. On the pharmacology of bromelain: an update with special regard to animal studies on dose-dependent effects. Planta Medica. 1990;56(3):249–253.
  94. Livio M, De Gaetano G, Donati MB. Effect of bromelain on fibrinogen level, prothrombin complex factors and platelet aggregation in rat: a preliminary report. Drugs under Experimental and Clinical Research. 1978;4:21–23.
  95. De-Guili M, Pirotta F. Bromelain: interaction with some protease inhibitors and rabbit specific antiserum. Drugs under Experimental and Clinical Research. 1978;4:21–23.
  96. Mynott TL, Guandalini S, Raimondi F, Fasano A. Bromelain prevents secretion caused by Vibrio cholerae and Escherichia coli enterotoxins in rabbit ileum in vitro. Gastroenterology. 1997;113(1):175–184.
  97. Chandler DS, Mynott TL. Bromelain protects piglets from diarrhoea caused by oral challenge with K88 positive enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli. Gut. 1998;43(2):196–202.
  98. Tassman GC, Zafran JN, Zayon GM. A double-blind crossover study of a plant proteolytic enzyme in oral surgery. The Journal of Dental Medicine. 1965;20:51–54.
  99. Howat RCL, Lewis GD. The effect of bromelain therapy on episiotomy wounds—a double blind controlled clinical trial. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Commonwealth. 1972;79(10):951–953.
  100. Houck JC, Chang CM, Klein G. Isolation of an effective debriding agent from the stems of pineapple plants. International Journal of Tissue Reactions. 1983;5(2):125–134.
  101. Rosenberg L, Krieher Y, Silverstain E, et al. Selectivity of a Bromelain Based Enzymatic Debridement Agent: A Porcine Study. Elsevier; 2012.
  102. Singer AJ, McClain SA, Taira BR, Rooney J, Steinhauff N, Rosenberg L. Rapid and selective enzymatic debridement of porcine comb burns with bromelain-derived Debrase: acute-phase preservation of noninjured tissue and zone of stasis. Journal of Burn Care and Research. 2010;31(2):304–309.
  103. Wu SY, Hu W, Zhang B, Liu S, Wang JM, Wang AM. Bromelain ameliorates the wound microenvironment and improves the healing of firearm wounds. Journal of Surgical Research. 2012;176:503–509.
  104. Hu W, Wang AM, Wu SY, et al. Debriding effect of bromelain on firearm wounds in pigs. The Journal of Trauma. 2011;71(4):966–972.
  105. Sheridan RL, Tompkins RG, Burke JF. Management of burn wounds with prompt excision and immediate closure. Journal of Intensive Care Medicine. 1994;237:68–75.
  106. [Drug therapy of activated arthrosis. On the effectiveness of an enzyme mixture versus diclofenac]. inger F, Oberleitner H. Wien Med Wochenschr. 1996; 146(3):55-8.
  107. Efficacy and tolerability of oral enzyme therapy as compared to diclofenac in active osteoarthrosis of knee joint: an open randomized controlled clinical trial. Tilwe GH, Beria S, Turakhia NH, Daftary GV, Schiess W. J Assoc Physicians India. 2001 Jun; 49():617-21.
  108. Brien S, Lewith G, Walker A, Hicks SM, Middleton D. Bromelain as a Treatment for Osteoarthritis: a Review of Clinical Studies. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2004;1(3):251-257. doi:10.1093/ecam/neh035.
  109. Taussig SJ, Yokoyama MM, Chinen A. Bromelain: a proteolytic enzyme and its clinical application: a review. Hiroshima Journal of Medical Sciences. 1975;24(2-3):185–193.
  110. Moss IN, Frazier CV, Martin GJ. Bromelain -the pharmacology of the enzyme. Archives of International Pharmacody. 1963;145:166–189.
  111. Eckert K, Grabowska E, Stange R, Schneider U, Eschmann K, Maurer HR. Effects of oral bromelain administration on the impaired immunocytotoxicity of mononuclear cells from mammary tumor patients. Oncology Reports. 1999;6(6):1191–1199.
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Is popcorn healthy

Popcorn or pop corn is a whole-grain food/snack that is included among foods recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to increase whole-grain consumption. A 100 gram air popped popcorn (no added salt or sugar) has 14.5 gram of dietary fiber (~50% daily recommended fiber intake) and the energy density of the 94% fat free popcorn (3.87 kcal/g) is 31% lower than that of potato chips (5.4 kcal/g).

Mean intake among consumers of popcorn was 38.8 g/day. Compared with non-consumers, popcorn consumers had approximately 250% higher intake of whole grains (2.5 vs 0.70 servings/day) and approximately 22% higher intake of fiber (18.1 vs 14.9 g/day) 1. Small but significant differences were also observed for intake of carbohydrate, magnesium (higher intake in popcorn consumers), protein, niacin, and folate (lower intake in popcorn consumers). In addition, popcorn consumers had a greater intake of total grains and consumed fewer meat servings. Popcorn consumption was associated with increased intake of whole grains, dietary fiber, and certain other nutrients.

Popcorn is the 10th ranked savory snack in the U.S., eaten approximately nine times per person annually 2 and has been shown to have a beneficial association with whole grain and fiber intake among those who consume it 1.

Popcorn nutrition facts

Air-popped popcorn is naturally high in dietary fiber and antioxidants, low in calories and fat, and free of sugar and sodium. This can make it an attractive snack to people with dietary restrictions on the intake of calories, fat or sodium. For the sake of flavor, however, large amounts of fat, sugar, and sodium are often added to prepared popcorn, which can quickly convert it to a very poor choice for those on restricted diets.

Table 1. Popcorn, air-popped nutrition facts

NutrientUnitValue per 100 g
Total lipid (fat)g4.54
Carbohydrate, by differenceg77.78
Fiber, total dietaryg14.5
Sugars, totalg0.87
Glucose (dextrose)g0.07
Calcium, Camg7
Iron, Femg3.19
Magnesium, Mgmg144
Phosphorus, Pmg358
Potassium, Kmg329
Sodium, Namg8
Zinc, Znmg3.08
Copper, Cumg0.262
Manganese, Mnmg1.113
Selenium, Seµg0
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg0
Pantothenic acidmg0.51
Vitamin B-6mg0.157
Folate, totalµg31
Folic acidµg0
Folate, foodµg31
Folate, DFEµg31
Choline, totalmg21.2
Vitamin B-12µg0
Vitamin B-12, addedµg0
Vitamin A, RAEµg10
Carotene, betaµg89
Carotene, alphaµg58
Cryptoxanthin, betaµg0
Vitamin A, IUIU196
Lutein + zeaxanthinµg1450
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg0.29
Vitamin E, addedmg0
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg0
Vitamin DIU0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)µg1.2
Fatty acids, total saturatedg0.637
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg0.95
16:1 undifferentiatedg0.005
18:1 undifferentiatedg0.931
22:1 undifferentiatedg0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg2.318
18:2 undifferentiatedg2.263
18:3 undifferentiatedg0.054
18:3 n-6 c,c,cg0
20:2 n-6 c,cg0
20:3 undifferentiatedg0
20:4 undifferentiatedg0
20:5 n-3 (EPA)g0
22:5 n-3 (DPA)g0
22:6 n-3 (DHA)g0
Amino Acids
Aspartic acidg0.836
Glutamic acidg2.255
Alcohol, ethylg0
[Source 3]

Popcorn diet

Population data show that individuals who consume popcorn, compared to those who do not, have significantly greater intakes of whole grain, fiber, and magnesium 1. In this study 4, low fat popcorn was shown to exert greater short-term satiety than potato chips. The satiety attribute, combined with popcorn’s other favorable characteristics of being a whole grain, high fiber, nutrient dense snack, support popcorn as beneficial snack choice in the context of healthy weight management. Several attributes of popcorn may contribute to its satiating effect at a relatively low energy level, for example, its low energy density 5. The energy density of the 94% fat free popcorn (3.7 kcal/g) is 31% lower than that of potato chips (5.4 kcal/g). Volume is likely another satiety-promoting quality of popcorn. Starch expansion during the popping process produces a foam-like matrix with a large surface-area to mass ratio. This trait, combined with popcorn’s irregular shape, leads to a food with a high volume per unit weight. High volume, due to incorporating air into food and due to irregular shape, has been shown to increase satiety 6, 7. Additionally, the proportionality of macronutrients may contribute to satiety, as prior research has shown that fat is less satiating than carbohydrate or protein 8.

Snacks that offer relatively higher levels of satiety may be beneficial for weight management provided the snack does not contribute to greater overall energy intake. One of the primary issues that has been identified in relationship to snacking, satiety and energy intake is the inability to fully compensate for the energy consumed as snacks 9. Evidence shows that snacks consumed in a non-hungry state do not impact satiety or reduce energy intake at the subsequent meals 10 and cross-sectional and longitudinal studies suggest that snacking is associated with weight gain and or obesity 11. Energy dense, highly palatable foods such as cookies, cakes, desserts, and candies are associated with higher energy intakes in obese adults 12. In contrast, compensation for popcorn resulting in overall energy intake not different from having no snack. This finding is supported by previous population-based research that shows popcorn consumption is not related to increased body mass index 1. In addition, longitudinal 13 and weight loss interventions 14 indicate that snacking has a neutral or positive effect on energy intake or body mass index. For example, provision of up to three snacks daily as part a weight loss diet had a neutral effect on weight change 14, 15.

  1. Popcorn consumption and dietary and physiological parameters of US children and adults: analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2002 dietary survey data. Grandjean AC, Fulgoni VL 3rd, Reimers KJ, Agarwal S. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 May; 108(5):853-6.
  2. NPD Group. The NPD group national eating trends report to ConAgra Foods, Inc. 2009.
  3. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.
  4. Nguyen V, Cooper L, Lowndes J, et al. Popcorn is more satiating than potato chips in normal-weight adults. Nutrition Journal. 2012;11:71. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-71.
  5. Water incorporated into a food but not served with a food decreases energy intake in lean women. Rolls BJ, Bell EA, Thorwart ML. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Oct; 70(4):448-55.
  6. Incorporation of air into a snack food reduces energy intake. Osterholt KM, Roe LS, Rolls BJ. Appetite. 2007 May; 48(3):351-8.
  7. Energy density of foods affects energy intake across multiple levels of fat content in lean and obese women. Bell EA, Rolls BJ. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Jun; 73(6):1010-8.
  8. Fat, carbohydrate, and the regulation of energy intake. Rolls BJ, Hammer VA. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 Nov; 62(5 Suppl):1086S-1095S.
  9. Effects of snacks on energy intake: an evolutionary perspective. de Graaf C. Appetite. 2006 Jul; 47(1):18-23.
  10. The role of snacking in energy balance: a biobehavioral approach. Chapelot D. J Nutr. 2011 Jan; 141(1):158-62.
  11. Prospective study of self-reported usual snacking and weight gain in a Mediterranean cohort: the SUN project. Bes-Rastrollo M, Sanchez-Villegas A, Basterra-Gortari FJ, Nunez-Cordoba JM, Toledo E, Serrano-Martinez M. Clin Nutr. 2010 Jun; 29(3):323-30.
  12. Snacking frequency in relation to energy intake and food choices in obese men and women compared to a reference population. Bertéus Forslund H, Torgerson JS, Sjöström L, Lindroos AK. Int J Obes (Lond). 2005 Jun; 29(6):711-9.
  13. The effect of eating frequency on appetite control and food intake: brief synopsis of controlled feeding studies. Leidy HJ, Campbell WW. J Nutr. 2011 Jan; 141(1):154-7.
  14. Should snacks be recommended in obesity treatment? A 1-year randomized clinical trial. Bertéus Forslund H, Klingström S, Hagberg H, Löndahl M, Torgerson JS, Lindroos AK. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2008 Nov; 62(11):1308-17.
  15. Effect of a post-dinner snack and partial meal replacement program on weight loss. Vander Wal JS, Waller SM, Klurfeld DM, McBurney MI, Cho S, Kapila M, Dhurandhar NV. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2006 Feb-Mar; 57(1-2):97-106.
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What is rhubarb

Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) is a species of plant in the family Polygonaceae. It is a herbaceous perennial growing from short, thick rhizomes. It produces large poisonous leaves that are somewhat triangular, with long fleshy edible stalks and small flowers grouped in large compound leafy greenish-white to rose-red inflorescences. Rhubarb is grown primarily for its fleshy stalks, technically known as petioles. The stalks are widely used as preserves and are also eaten raw, without problems.

In culinary use, fresh raw leaf stalks (petioles) are crisp (similar to celery, although they do not share the same family) with a strong, tart taste 1. Most commonly, rhubarb stalks are cooked with sugar and used in pies, crumbles and other desserts. A number of varieties have been domesticated for human consumption, most of which are recognised as Rheum x hybridum by the Royal Horticultural Society.

For cooking, rhubarb stalks are often cut into small pieces and stewed (boiled in water) with added sugar, until soft. Little water is added, as rhubarb stalks already contain a great deal of water. Rhubarb should be processed and stored in containers which are unaffected by residual acid content, such as glass or stainless steel. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger are sometimes added. Stewed rhubarb or rhubarb sauce, like applesauce, is usually eaten cold. Pectin, or sugar with pectin, can be added to the mixture to make jams.

A similar preparation, thickened with cornstarch or flour, is used as filling for rhubarb pie, tarts, and crumbles, leading to the nickname “pie plant”.

In recent times rhubarb has often been paired with strawberries to make strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb contains anthraquinones including rhein, and emodin and their glycosides (e.g. glucorhein), which impart cathartic and laxative properties. It is hence useful as a cathartic in case of constipation.

Figure 1. Rhubarb

rhubarbIs rhubarb poisonous

Rhubarb leaves contain poisonous substances, including oxalic acid, which is a nephrotoxic (damaging or destructive to the kidneys) and corrosive acid that is present in many plants 2. Humans have been poisoned after ingesting the leaves, a particular problem during World War I when the leaves were mistakenly recommended as a food source in Britain 3. The toxic rhubarb leaves have been used in flavoring extracts, after the oxalic acid is removed by treatment with precipitated chalk. Oxalic acid can also be found in the stalks of rhubarb, but the levels are too low to cause any bodily harm 4.

Poisonous ingredients include 5:

  • Oxalic acid
  • Anthraquinone glycosides (possible)

The LD50 (median lethal dose) for pure oxalic acid in rats is about 375 mg/kg body weight 6, or about 25 grams for a 65-kilogram (143 lb) human. Other sources give a much higher oral LDLo (lowest published lethal dose) of 600 mg/kg. While the oxalic acid content of rhubarb leaves can vary, a typical value is about 0.5%, so a rather unlikely 5 kg (for a 70 kg human) of the extremely sour leaves would have to be consumed to reach the LD50 of oxalic acid. Cooking the leaves with baking soda can make them more poisonous by producing soluble oxalates 7. However, the leaves are believed to also contain an additional, unidentified toxin 8, which might be an anthraquinone glycoside (also known as senna glycosides).

Rhubarb leaves poisoning

Rhubarb leaves poisoning occurs when someone eats pieces of leaves from the rhubarb plant.

Symptoms may include 9:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Burning in the mouth
  • Burning in the throat
  • Coma
  • Diarrhea
  • Eye pain
  • Kidney stones
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Red-colored urine
  • Seizures
  • Stomach pain
  • Weakness

Outlook (Prognosis) of rhubarb leaves poisoning

How well you do depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster you get medical help, the better the chance for recovery.

Symptoms last for 1 to 3 days and may require a hospital stay.

Serious poisonings can result in kidney failure. Deaths have been reported, but are rare.

DO NOT touch or eat any plant with which you are not familiar. Wash your hands after working in the garden or walking in the woods.

Rhubarb nutrition

Table 1. Rhubarb (raw) nutrition facts

NutrientUnitValue per 100 gstalk 51 g
Total lipid (fat)g0.20.1
Carbohydrate, by differenceg4.542.32
Fiber, total dietaryg1.80.9
Sugars, totalg1.10.56
Calcium, Camg8644
Iron, Femg0.220.11
Magnesium, Mgmg126
Phosphorus, Pmg147
Potassium, Kmg288147
Sodium, Namg42
Zinc, Znmg0.10.05
Copper, Cumg0.0210.011
Manganese, Mnmg0.1960.1
Selenium, Seµg1.10.6
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg84.1
Pantothenic acidmg0.0850.043
Vitamin B-6mg0.0240.012
Folate, totalµg74
Folic acidµg00
Folate, foodµg74
Folate, DFEµg74
Choline, totalmg6.13.1
Vitamin B-12µg00
Vitamin B-12, addedµg00
Vitamin A, RAEµg53
Carotene, betaµg6131
Carotene, alphaµg00
Cryptoxanthin, betaµg00
Vitamin A, IUIU10252
Lutein + zeaxanthinµg17087
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg0.270.14
Vitamin E, addedmg00
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg00
Vitamin DIU00
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)µg29.314.9
Fatty acids, total saturatedg0.0530.027
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg0.0390.02
16:1 undifferentiatedg0.0010.001
18:1 undifferentiatedg0.0370.019
22:1 undifferentiatedg00
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg0.0990.05
18:2 undifferentiatedg0.0990.05
18:3 undifferentiatedg00
20:4 undifferentiatedg00
20:5 n-3 (EPA)g00
22:5 n-3 (DPA)g00
22:6 n-3 (DHA)g00
Fatty acids, total transg00
Alcohol, ethylg00
(-)-Epicatechin 3-gallatemg0.60.3
(-)-Epigallocatechin 3-gallatemg00
Total isoflavonesmg00
Proanthocyanidin dimersmg1.70.9
Proanthocyanidin trimersmg1.80.9
Proanthocyanidin 4-6mersmg3.41.7
Proanthocyanidin 7-10mersmg1.91
Proanthocyanidin polymers (>10mers)mg7940.3
[Source 10]

Rhubarb health benefits

There are several active constituents known about Rhubarb, including anthraquinone derivatives, such as emodin, chrysophanol, rhein, physcion, and their glycoside compounds, and stilbene derivatives such as piceatannol, resveratrol, and their glycoside derivatives 11. Besides, there are several isolated complex compounds (e.g., torachrysone-8-O-β-D-glucopyranoside, sulphated emodin glucoside, and piceatannol-4′-O-β-D-(6′′-O-p-coumaroyl)-glucopyranoside) 11.

In 2015, researchers found that when a concentrated form of the chemical physcion (also reported to be called parietin) – which gives rhubarb stems their color – was added to leukaemia cells in the lab, half of them died within two days 12. A modified form of physcion was also able to reduce tumor growth in mice injected with human cancer cells. This laboratory and animal study 12 looked at the role of a protein called 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase (6PGD) in cancer cells. This protein is involved in a pathway that helps give cancer cells the energy and building blocks they need to divide rapidly and create new cancer cells, and so form tumors. Adding physcion to human leukaemia cells, lung cancer, or head and neck cancer cells grown in the lab, or human leukaemia cells taken directly from a patient, stopped them dividing as much as they normally would. At the highest concentration tested, physcion caused about half of the leukaemia cells taken directly from a patient to die over 24 to 48 hours. Physcion did not have this effect on normal human cells in the lab. The study found that a chemical found in rhubarb called physcion, and related chemicals, are able to reduce cancer cell growth in the lab and in mice. They do this by blocking a protein called 6PGD 12. Overall, these findings open another avenue for investigating potential cancer treatments. Much more research will be needed to make sure these chemicals are effective and safe enough to progress to testing in humans. We will need to wait to see the results of these studies before we know whether these chemicals could become anti-cancer drugs in the future.

  1. Hood, Karen Jean Matsko. 2011. Rhubarb Delights Cookbook: a Collection of Rhubarb Recipes. Spokane Valley, WA: Whispering Pine Press International, Inc. pp. 20, 22. ISBN 9781930948006.
  3. Robb, H. F. (1919). “Death from rhubarb leaves due to oxalic acid poisoning”. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 73: 627–628.
  4. Cooper, M. R., Johnson, A. W. 1984. Poisonous plants in Britain and their effects on animals and man. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, England. 305 pp.
  5. Graeme KA. Toxic plant ingestions. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 64.
  7. Everist, Selwyn L., Poisonous Plants of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Melbourne, 1974, p. 583
  8. Rhubarb leaves poisoning. Medline Plus.
  9. Stegelmeier BL, Field R, Panter KE, et al. Selected poisonous plants affecting animal and human health. In: Haschek WAM, Rousseaux CG, Wallig MA, eds. Haschek and Rousseaux’s Handbook of Toxicologic Pathology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2013:chap 40.
  10. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.
  11. Rokaya M. B., Münzbergová Z., Timsina B., Bhattarai K. R. Rheum australe D. Don: a review of its botany, ethnobotany, phytochemistry and pharmacology. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2012;141(3):761–774. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.03.048.
  12. Lin R, Elf S, Shan C, et al. 6-Phosphogluconate dehydrogenase links oxidative PPP, lipogenesis and tumour growth by inhibiting LKB1–AMPK signalling. Nature Cell Biology 17, 1484–1496 (2015).
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Diet, Food & FitnessFoods

Curry powder

curry powder

What is curry powder

Curry powder is a spice mix of (most curry powder recipes include) curry leaves, coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and chili peppers in their blends. Depending on the recipe, additional ingredients such as ginger, garlic, asafoetida, fennel seed, caraway, cinnamon, clove, mustard seed, green cardamom, black cardamom, nutmeg, white turmeric, curry leaf, long pepper, and black pepper may also be included 1. There is little agreement about what actually constitutes a curry. Curry powders and curry pastes produced and consumed in India are extremely diverse; some red, some yellow, some brown; some with five spices and some with as many as 20 or more. Besides the previously mentioned spices, other commonly found spices in different curry powders in India are allspice, white pepper, ground mustard, ground ginger, cinnamon, roasted cumin, cloves, nutmeg, mace, green cardamom seeds or black cardamom pods, bay leaves and coriander seeds.

The term curry likely derives from kari, the word for “sauce” in Tamil, a South-Indian language. Perplexed by that region’s wide variety of savory dishes, 17th-century British traders lumped them all under the term curry. But the original curry predates Europeans’ presence in India by about 4,000 years. Villagers living at the height of the Indus civilization used three key curry ingredients—ginger, garlic, and turmeric—in their cooking. This proto-curry, in fact, was eaten long before Arab, Chinese, Indian, and European traders plied the oceans in the past thousand years.

Curry leaves (Murraya koenigii) [see Figure 2], popularly known in India as kariveppilai, karivepaaku or kari patta. Curry leaves were originally cultivated in India for its aromatic leaves and for ornament is normally used for natural flavoring in curries and sauces. Originated in Tarai regions of Uttar Pradesh, India. It is now widely found in all parts of India and it adorns every house yard of southern India and also it is now cultivated and distributes throughout the world. The curry leaves plant is used in Indian system of medicine to treat various ailments 2. Parts of the plant have been used as raw material for the traditional medicine formulation in India. This plant is known to be the richest source of carbazole alkaloids. It has been reported by authors that carbazole alkaloids present in curry leaves and display various biological activities such as anti-tumor, anti-oxidative, anti-mutagenic and anti-inflammatory activities 3. Curry leaves and roots can be used to cure piles and allay heat of the body, thirst, inflammation and itching 4.

The aromatic curry leaves, which retains their flavor and other qualities even after drying, are slightly bitter, acrid, cooling, weakly acidic in tastes and are considered as a tonic, anthelmintic, analgesic, digestive, appetizing and are widely used in Indian cookery for flavoring food stuffs 5. The phytoconstituents isolated so far from the leaves are alkaloids viz., mahanine, koenine, koenigine, koenidine, girinimbiol, girinimibine, koenimbine, O-methyl murrayamine A, O-methyl mahanine, isomahanine, bismahanine, bispyrayafoline and other phytoconstituents such as coumarin glycoside viz., scopotin, murrayanine, calcium, phosphorus, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C, carotene and oxalic acid 6. It also reported for anti-microbial, antioxidant 7. Essential oil composition of curry leaves has been studied by various workers 8. The essential oil from curry leaves yielded di-α-phellandrene, D-sabinene, D-α-pinene, dipentene, D-α-terpinol and caryophyllene 9. This essential oil from M. koenigii leaves is reported to possess antioxiant, antibacterial, antifungal, larvicidal, anticarcinogenic, hypoglycemic, anti-lipid peroxidative, hypolipidemic and antihypertensive activity 10.

Curry leaves have been reported to be effective in many diseased conditions 11, 12. Curry leaves may be medicinally useful for the treatment or prevention of diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Ingestion of curry leaves improved the plasma lipid profile in the rat feeding model 13. Curry leaves have also been promoted to treat both hypocholesterolemic effects and improved glycaemic status in obese mouse model 14. There are reports suggesting that the curry leaves possess anti-oxidative and anti-lipid per-oxidative actions 15. Thus, the leaves of the curry plant have the potential to provide protection against oxidative stress.

Figure 1. Curry powder

curry powder

Figure 2. Curry leaves

curry leaves

Table 1. Curry powder nutrition facts

NutrientUnitValue per 100 g
Total lipid (fat)g14.01
Carbohydrate, by differenceg55.83
Fiber, total dietaryg53.2
Sugars, totalg2.76
Glucose (dextrose)g1.14
Calcium, Camg525
Iron, Femg19.1
Magnesium, Mgmg255
Phosphorus, Pmg367
Potassium, Kmg1170
Sodium, Namg52
Zinc, Znmg4.7
Copper, Cumg1.2
Manganese, Mnmg8.3
Selenium, Seµg40.3
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg0.7
Pantothenic acidmg1.07
Vitamin B-6mg0.105
Folate, totalµg56
Folic acidµg0
Folate, foodµg56
Folate, DFEµg56
Choline, totalmg64.2
Vitamin B-12µg0
Vitamin B-12, addedµg0
Vitamin A, RAEµg1
Carotene, betaµg11
Carotene, alphaµg0
Cryptoxanthin, betaµg0
Vitamin A, IUIU19
Lutein + zeaxanthinµg0
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg25.24
Vitamin E, addedmg0
Tocopherol, betamg0
Tocopherol, gammamg1.15
Tocopherol, deltamg0
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg0
Vitamin DIU0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)µg99.8
Fatty acids, total saturatedg1.648
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg8.782
16:1 undifferentiatedg0.013
18:1 undifferentiatedg8.742
18:1 cg8.742
18:1 tg0
22:1 undifferentiatedg0.014
24:1 cg0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg3.056
18:2 undifferentiatedg2.788
18:3 undifferentiatedg0.268
18:3 n-3 c,c,c (ALA)g0.255
18:3 n-6 c,c,cg0.013
20:2 n-6 c,cg0
20:3 undifferentiatedg0
20:4 undifferentiatedg0
20:5 n-3 (EPA)g0
22:5 n-3 (DPA)g0
22:6 n-3 (DHA)g0
Fatty acids, total transg0
Fatty acids, total trans-monoenoicg0
Amino Acids
Aspartic acidg1.79
Glutamic acidg2.27
Alcohol, ethylg0
Proanthocyanidin dimersmg9.5
Proanthocyanidin trimersmg22.9
Proanthocyanidin 4-6mersmg41.8
Proanthocyanidin 7-10mersmg0
Proanthocyanidin polymers (>10mers)mg0
[Source 16]

Table 2. Chemical composition (%) of the essential oil of curry leaves from south region of Tamilnadu, India 

CompoundOil (%)KI
Α- Eudesmol0.21657
1-Octen-3 yl acetate0.241108
3-Octanyl acetate0.261112
Linalyl acetate161258
Lavandulyl acetate0.231293
Myrtenyl acetate0.11325
Neryl acetate3.451359
Geranyl acetate6.181383
Germacrene D0.21479
Β- Eudesmol1.151654

Monoterpene Hydrocarbons 11.81 %

Oxygenated Monoterpenes 72.15 %

Sesquiterpene hydrocarbons 03.12 %

Oxygenated Sesquiterpenes 10.48 %

*Identification of volatile components is based on mass spectra value in reference to NIST 08 and standard libraries. Composition of grouped volatile compounds (%)
[Source 4]

Table 3. Curry leaves essential oil antibacterial activity compared with selected antibiotics tested on ten strains of bacterial pathogens 

Sl.No.Tested BacteriaZone of inhibition (mm)

Curry leaves essential oil   Negative Control   Positive Control
1Corynebacterium psedotuberculosis15520 (GEN10)
2Streptococcus pyogenes10624 (P10)
3Klebsiella pneumoniae15524 (GEN10)
4Pseudomonas aeruginosa14512 (CLR15)
5Enterobacter aerogenes13620(GEN10)
6Salmonella enterica11622 (GEN10)
7Proteus mirabilis24623 (AMX10)
8Staphylococcus aureus16520 (GEN10)

Note: AMX10 = Amoxicillin (10mg/disc); CLR15 = Clarithromycin (15mg/disc); GEN10 = Gentamicin (10mg/disc); P10 = Penicillin (10mg/disc)

[Source 4]

From the results outlined in table 3 above, the undiluted curry leaves essential oil exhibited strong antibacterial activity when tested with microorganisms. In comparison with the antibiotics as positive control they are expressing the remarkable antibacterial activities against Proteus mirabilis compared with Amoxicillin (10mg/disc), Staphylococcus aureus compared in Gentamicin (10mg/disc), Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis compared in Gentamicin (10mg/disc), Klebsiella pneumonia compared in Gentamicin (10mg/disc), Pseudomonas aeruginosa compared in Clarithromycin (15mg/disc), Enterobacter aerogenes compared in Gentamicin (10mg/disc) and the moderate level zone of inhibition observed against in Salmonella enterica compared in Gentamicin (10mg/disc), Streptococcus pyogenes compared in Penicillin (10mg/disc). And based on this research 17, it was concluded that the chemical composition and antioxidative properties of the essential leaf oil of curry leaves from South Tamilnadu, India, that linalool, elemol, geranyl acetate, myrcene, allo-Ocimene and α-terpinene are the main components with such capacity.

Curry powder health benefits

The most active component of turmeric is curcumin 18. Curcumin [1,7-bis(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-1,6-heptadien-3,5-dione] is an orange–yellow crystalline powder – that gives a strong yellow color to the spice turmeric, is practically insoluble in water.

Turmeric is the powdered rhizome of Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family and has been commonly used for flavor and color in food preparation in South Asia 19. In addition, it has been traditionally used as an herbal medicine to treat inflammatory and other disease conditions 19.

Turmeric is an ingredient of spice blends, mainly curry powder, which generally consists of turmeric, clove, paprika, ginger, cardamom, coriander, cumin, mace, pepper and cinnamon. Turmeric is commonly used as natural pigment (yellow 3) in the cosmetic and textile production but it is widely used in food industry. Indeed, turmeric is classified as an additive in E100 category and is used as food color additive in mustard, pastries, daily products and canned fish 20. Furthermore, according to the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives 21 the admissible daily intake is 0–3 mg/kg body weight and it was established at the 61st JECFA in 2003.

Curcumin’s use for various disease indications is primarily due to its active biological functions, i.e., anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-Alzheimer, anti-tumor, anti-diabetic, and anti-rheumatic activities 22. In addition, curcumin has been proven as a hypoglycemic, hepato-, nephron-, cardio-, and neuro-protective molecule 23. More importantly, this molecule also suppresses thrombosis and protects against myocardial infarction. It is, by far, the most prominent polyphenol, widely consumed on a daily basis along with food (in India, Eastern Asia, and some African countries), which leads to better compliance. Curcumin usage began in ancient days; however, in 1949, the first scientific evidence of its anti-bacterial activity at very low concentrations was reported in the journal “Nature” and extensive research began only after 1994.

The biological activities of curcumin have been studied extensively 24. Curcumin is considered “generally recognized as safe (GRAS)” by the US Food Drug Administration 25, 26. Curcuma contains 60–70% carbohydrate, 8.6% protein, 5–10% fat, 2–7% fiber, 3–5% curcuminoids (50–70% curcumin) and up to 5% essential oils and resins 27. The curcuminoid content in turmeric may vary between 2 and 9%, depending on geographical conditions 28. The composition of curcuminoids is approximately 70% curcumin (curcumin I), 17% demethoxycurcumin (curcumin II), 3% bis-demethoxycurcumin (curcumin III) and the rest (10%) is called cyclocurcumin (curcumin IV) 29 (Figure 3). However, the last compound has been associated with poor or non-biological activity 30. The structure of curcumin (Figure 3) was first described in 1910 by Lampe and Milobedeska and proved to be diferuloylmethane 28. Studies indicate that functional groups associated to curcumin chemical structure including bis-α, β−unsaturated β-diketone, two methoxy groups, two phenolic hydroxy groups and two double-conjugated bonds might play an essential role in antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory activities assigned to curcumin 31. Curcumin has keto-enol tautomers, of which keto form predominates in acid and neutral solutions and enol form in alkaline solutions.

Figure 3. Chemical structures and abundance of curcuminoids in turmeric that have therapeutic effects

curcuminoids in turmeric

Curcumin traditional uses in folk medicine and biological properties

Curcuminoids have been consumed as therapeutic infusions over the centuries worldwide. In Ayurvedic medicine, curcumin is a well-documented treatment for various respiratory conditions such as, asthma, bronchial hyperactivity and allergy, as well as for liver disorders, anorexia, rheumatism, diabetic wounds, runny nose, cough and sinusitis 32. In traditional Chinese medicine curcumin has been used to treat diseases associated with abdominal pain 33. In ancient Hindu medicine, it was used to treat sprains and swelling 32. In Oriental cultures, it has traditionally been used as good therapeutic alternative, particularly as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticarcinogenic and antimicrobial reagent. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that curcumin is indeed antioxidant 34, anti-inflammatory 35 and antibacterial 36. Moreover, it has also been used because of its hepatoprotective 37, thrombosuppressive, neuroprotective 38, cardioprotective 34, antineoplasic 39, antiproliferative 40, hypoglycemic and antiarthritic effect 33. Curcumin has also been used for the treatment of intestinal parasites and as a remedy for poisoning, snakebites and various other complaints 41.

Therapeutic Applications of Curcumin Nanoformulations

From the literature, it is evident that poor solubility, bioavailability, and pharmacokinetics are major barriers to the clinical translational use of curcumin. Various strategies have been developed to overcome these problems. In numerous in vitro (test tube) and in vivo (animal) studies, nanoformulations of curcumin exhibited superior therapeutic benefits over the free curcumin 42 in a side-by-side setting. Recent clinical trials demonstrate that curcumin nanoformulations exhibit improved bioavailability of curcumin and thus provide a strong rationale for future clinical use once additional important mechanistic perspectives are understood. In this section, we precisely discuss the use of various curcumin nanoformulations in a number of diseases. Although, there is no report out there demonstrating clinical benefit of curcumin nanoformulation, but since curcumin nanoformulation(s) have shown superior outcomes in both in vitro and in vivo studies, it is believed that greater effects can be expected from curcumin nanoformulations over free curcumin. Clinical trials confirm that curcumin nanoformulations improve curcumin bioavailability and are systemically safe 43. However, testing of these formulations as therapeutic modalities is required and is crucial for future clinical trials and before human therapeutic use.

Several in vitro investigations demonstrate that curcumin inhibits cancer cells growth at concentration of 5–30 μM 44, resembling cisplatin and gem-citabine (chemotherapeutic drug) concentrations. Because of its exceptional medicinal value, a total of 68 clinical trials have been registered with in which the majority of them are targeting cancer.

Curcumin Toxicity and Side Effects

Turmeric and its constituents play a vital role in the management of various diseases including cancer. Toxicity and lethal dose level of curcumin are important before using in health management. Several studies were performed to check the safe dose of curcumin in animal model studies. No significant toxicity was observed of turmeric and its constituent curcumin at various doses. An important study in which animals were fed curcumin with a dose of 1.8 gms/kg and 0.8 mg/kg in rat and monkey, respectively, for 90 days showed no adverse effects 45. An important study in which animals were fed curcumin with a dose of 1.8 gms/kg and 0.8 mg/kg in rat and monkey, respectively, for 90 days showed no adverse effects 45. Curcumin is remarkably well tolerated, but its bioavailability is poor. It does not show to be toxic to humans 46 even at high doses. Earlier studies concluded that combination therapy using 8 g oral curcumin daily with gemcitabine-based chemotherapy was safe and feasible in patients with pancreatic cancer 47 and other study concluded that oral curcumin is well tolerated and, despite its limited absorption, showed biological activity 48. An important study based on advanced pancreatic cancer patients showed that 5 patients out of 17 patients receiving curcumin with dose 8 gms/day with gemcitabine showed intractable abdominal pain after a few days to 2 weeks of curcumin intake 49.

A study reported that hepatotoxicity was seen in mice fed with whole turmeric (0.2%, 1%, 5%) or ethanolic turmeric extract (ETE; 0.05%, 0.25%) for 14 days 50. Earlier report based on curcumin has shown that curcumin doses ranging from 0.45 to 3.6 gms/day for 1 to 4 months showed nausea and diarrhea and also caused an increase in serum alkaline phosphatase and lactate dehydrogenase contents 51.

  2. The antimicrobial activity of essential oil from Dracocephalum foetidum against pathogenic microorganisms. Lee SB, Cha KH, Kim SN, Altantsetseg S, Shatar S, Sarangerel O, Nho CW. J Microbiol. 2007 Feb; 45(1):53-7.
  3. Stress repression in restrained rats by (R)-(-)-linalool inhalation and gene expression profiling of their whole blood cells. Nakamura A, Fujiwara S, Matsumoto I, Abe K. J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Jun 24; 57(12):5480-5.
  4. Rajendran MP, Pallaiyan BB, Selvaraj N. Chemical composition, antibacterial and antioxidant profile of essential oil from Murraya koenigii (L.) leaves. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. 2014;4(3):200-214.
  5. Mantle D, Anderton JG, Falkous G, Barnes M, Jones P, Perry EK. Comparison of methods for determination of total antioxidant status: application to analysis of medicinal plant essential oils. Biochem Physiol, part B. Biochem Molecul Biol. 1998;121B:385–391.
  6. Walde GS, Joythirmay T, Rao PGP, Shivaswamy R, Srinivas P. Flavour volatiles of leaves, fruits and seed cotyledons of Murraya koenigii L. Flav Frag J. 2005;20:169–172.
  7. Deshmukh SK, Jain PC, Agarwal SC. Antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of the leaves of Murraya koenigii (Linn) Spreng (Indian curry leaf) Fitoterapia. 1986;57:295.
  8. Romero A, Doval M, Stura M, Judis X. Antioxidant properties of polyphenol-containing extract from soybean fermented with Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Eur J Lipid Sci Technol. 2004;105:424–431.
  9. Gopalan C, Rama Shastri BV, Balasubramanian SC. Nutritive value of Indian Foods. Vol. 66. New Delhi: ICMR; 1984. p. 117.
  10. Jasim Uddin Chowdhury Md, Nazrul Islam Bhuiyan, Mohammed Yusuf. Chemical composition of the leaf essential oils of Murraya koenigii (L.) Spreng and Murraya paniculata (L.) Jack. Bangladesh J Pharmacol. 2008;3:59–63.
  11. Arulselvan P., Subramanian S.P. Beneficial effects of Murraya koenigii leaves on antioxidant defense system and ultrastructural changes of pancreatic β-cell in experimental diabetes. Chem. Biol. Interact. 2007;165:155–164.
  12. Kesari A.N., Kesari S., Singh S.K., Gupta R.K., Watal G. Studies on the glycemic and lipidemic effect of Murraya koenigii in experimental animals. J. Ethnopharmacol. 2007;112:305–311.
  13. Firdaus SB, Ghosh D, Chattyopadhyay A, et al. Protective effect of antioxidant rich aqueous curry leaf (Murraya koenigii) extract against gastro-toxic effects of piroxicam in male Wistar rats. Toxicology Reports. 2014;1:987-1003. doi:10.1016/j.toxrep.2014.06.007.
  14. Singh A.P., Wilson T., Vorsa V., Luthria D., Freeman M.R., Scott R.M., Bilenker D., Shah S., Somasundaram S., Vorsa N. LC–MS–MS characterization of curry leaf flavonols and antioxidant activity. Food Chem. 2011;127:80–85.
  15. Mitra E., Ghosh A.K., Ghosh D., Mukherjee D., Chattopadhyay A., Dutta S., Pattari S.K., Bandyopadhyay D. Protective effect of aqueous curry leaf (Murraya koenigii) extract against cadmium-induced oxidative stress in rat heart. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2012;50:340–353
  16. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.
  17. Rajendran MP, Pallaiyan BB, Selvaraj N. Chemical composition, antibacterial and antioxidant profile of essential oil from Murraya koenigii (L.) leaves. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. 2014;4(3):200-214.
  18. Sandur S.K., Pandey M.K., Sung B., Ahn K.S., Murakami A., Sethi G., Limtrakul P., Badmaev V., Aggarwal B.B. Curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, tetrahydrocurcumin and turmerones differentially regulate anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative responses through a ROS-independent mechanism. Carcinogenesis. 2007;28:1765–1773.
  19. Pharmacology of Curcuma longa. Ammon HP, Wahl MA. Planta Med. 1991 Feb; 57(1):1-7.
  20. Himesh S., Sharan P.S., Mishra K., Govind N., Singhai A. Qualitative and quantitative profile of curcumin from ethanolic extract of curcuma longa. International Research Journal of Pharmacy. 2011;2:180–184.
  21. Esatbeyoglu T., Huebbe P., Ernst I.M., Chin D., Wagner A.E., Rimbach G. Curcumin—from molecule to biological function. Angewandte Chemie International Edition (in English) 2012;51:5308–5332.
  22. Curcumin: the Indian solid gold. Aggarwal BB, Sundaram C, Malani N, Ichikawa H. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007; 595():1-75.
  23. Renoprotective effect of the antioxidant curcumin: Recent findings. Trujillo J, Chirino YI, Molina-Jijón E, Andérica-Romero AC, Tapia E, Pedraza-Chaverrí J. Redox Biol. 2013 Sep 17; 1():448-56.
  24. Multiple biological activities of curcumin: a short review. Maheshwari RK, Singh AK, Gaddipati J, Srimal RC. Life Sci. 2006 Mar 27; 78(18):2081-7.
  25. Curcumin from turmeric (Curcuma longa L.).
  26. Curcuminoids purified from turmeric (Curcuma longa L.).
  27. Trujillo J, Chirino YI, Molina-Jijón E, Andérica-Romero AC, Tapia E, Pedraza-Chaverrí J. Renoprotective effect of the antioxidant curcumin: Recent findings. Redox Biology. 2013;1(1):448-456. doi:10.1016/j.redox.2013.09.003.
  28. Esatbeyoglu T., Huebbe P., Ernst I.M., Chin D., Wagner A.E., Rimbach G. Curcumin—from molecule to biological function. Angewandte Chemie International Edition (in English) 2012;51:5308–5332.
  29. Goel A., Aggarwal B.B. Curcumin, the golden spice from Indian saffron, is a chemosensitizer and radiosensitizer for tumors and chemoprotector and radioprotector for normal organs. Nutrition and Cancer. 2010;62:919–930.
  30. Rahman I., Biswas S.K., Kirkham P.A. Regulation of inflammation and redox signaling by dietary polyphenols. Biochemical Pharmacology. 2006;72:1439–1452.
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  32. Araújo C.C., Leon L.L. Biological activities of Curcuma longa L. Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz. 2001;96:723–728.
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Diet, Food & FitnessFoods



Healthy cereal

With shelves stacked top to bottom with hundreds of brightly colored boxes competing for your attention, supermarket breakfast cereal aisles can sometimes feel like walking through a minefield.

Make the wrong choice and you or your child could end up with a breakfast cereal high in sugar, fat or salt.

If eaten too often, this can contribute to weight gain and health problems, including tooth decay and high blood pressure.

But whether it’s puffed, baked or flaked, cereal can still form part of a healthy, balanced diet.

The role of breakfast cereals in a balanced diet has been recognized for many years 1. Dietary guidelines note that the high nutrient density of breakfast cereals (especially those that are whole grain or high in cereal fiber) makes them an important source of key nutrients 2. In addition to providing an important source of vitamins and minerals, breakfast cereals are also potentially important sources of antioxidants 3 and phytoestrogens 4 and are one of the most important sources of whole grains 5.

Is cereal good for you ?

Table 1 summarizes findings from 11 intervention studies that incorporated additional breakfast cereal into subjects’ diets and shows the nutrients that were increased, decreased, or remained unchanged in the subjects’ total daily intakes. Those studies generally show an increase in vitamin and mineral intakes, and decreases in fat, but no consistent effect on daily energy, protein, or carbohydrate intakes.

The results from 51 cross-sectional studies and the randomized controlled trials reported on the nutritional impact of regular breakfast cereal consumption in those who eat breakfast.

The results from those cross-sectional studies and the randomized controlled trials showed children and adolescents who consume breakfast cereals regularly have daily diets that are 6:

  • Higher in percentage of energy (%E) from carbohydrate, total sugars, dietary fiber, vitamins A and D, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc;
  • No different in total energy intake, % energy from protein, or sodium; and
  • Lower in % energy from fat.

Many of the micronutrient differences are related to the fortification profile of the breakfast cereals, but the increased milk intake would contribute significantly to the higher daily calcium and riboflavin intakes. In both Australia and the United States, approximately one-quarter of all milk consumed by children and adolescents is added to breakfast cereal 7.

Other findings from the studies show that children and adolescents who eat breakfast cereal regularly:

  • are less likely to have vitamin and mineral intakes below the recommended daily requirements, especially for calcium 8, 9;
  • have better diets overall, measured by the Healthy Eating Index score 10;
  • have lower daily cholesterol intakes 11; and
  • have better nutritional status (assessed by blood measures), especially for the vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, and pyridoxine 12 and iron 13.

Table 1. Intervention trials with added breakfast cereal consumption: impact on daily nutrient intake

Authors (reference)Quality ratingSubjects and study locationStudy designDietNutrients increasedNutrients decreasedNutrients unchanged
Hambidge et al. 14Positive96 children aged 33–90 mo; USRandomized double-blind controlled 9-mo trial. Participants were provided with Kellogg’s cereal—fortified or nonfortified.Zinc-fortified breakfast cereal to provide 25% of RDA. Calculated intake average, 2.57 mg Zn/d from cereal.Zinc
Kirk et al 15Positive59 students, mean age 23 y; ScotlandRandomized controlled trial for 12 wk. Intervention group instructed to consume 2 servings (60 g) RTEC/d with semi-skimmed milk. Controls given no dietary advice.3 Kellogg’s cereals provided: Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Special K. All fortified with B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folate, vitamin D, and iron.ThiaminEnergy
Vitamin D
Kleemola et a 16.Positive209 adults aged 29–71 y; FinlandRandomized crossover trial for 6 wk. Intervention group instructed to consume 60 g (women) or 80 g (men) RTEC with skim milk, fat-free yogurt, and juice at breakfast. Controls followed normal eating patterns.2 Kellogg’s cereals provided: Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies%E from CHOEnergy%E from protein
%E from fatFiber
Kirk et al 17Positive22 overweight adults (mean BMI, in kg/m2: 31); UKWithin-person pre-post study design; 2 wk replacing 1 meal with breakfast cereal, followed by 4 wk ad libitum high-CHO diet.Stage 1: 45 g RTEC with skim milk%E from proteinEnergySugars
Stage 2: encouraged to use RTEC as a snack%E from CHO%E from fatFiber
Abrams et al 18Positive27 children aged 6–9 y; USRandomized double-blind controlled 14-d trial. Participants provided with General Mills cereal—fortified or nonfortified.2 servings per day of calcium-fortified breakfast cereal (156 mg/serving)CalciumIron
Mattes 19Positive82 overweight men and women (mean BMI: 29; mean age 42 y); USRandomized, parallel, controlled trial with subjects eating RTEC with skim milk and fruit for breakfast and either lunch or dinner mealIntervention groups: either Special K or a variety of RTECs to select fromEnergy
Control: normal dietProtein
Ortega et al. 20Positive67 overweight women (mean BMI: 28.4); SpainRandomized controlled trial on 20% hypocaloric diet with 2 diets with increased consumption of C or VDiet C: breakfast cereals and cereal bars at least 3×/d, in addition to normal cereal foodsVitamin B-6EnergyCHO
Diet V: vegetables at least 3×/d in addition to normal cereal foodsFolateProtein
Ortega et al. 21Positive57 women aged 20–35 y; SpainRandomized controlled trial on 20% hypocaloric diet with 2 diets with increased consumption of C or VDiet C: breakfast cereals and cereal bars at least 3×/d, in addition to normal cereal foodsThiamin
Diet V: vegetables at least 3×/d in addition to normal cereal foods
Lightowler and Henry 22Positive41 overweight and obese men and women; UK6-wk randomized trial with subjects required to consume one of two 45-g equicaloric RTEC choices (SC or VC) with semi-skimmed milk at breakfast and lunch, without control of other meals.2 choices of RTECs compared:Energy (SC group)Energy (VC group)
SC: Fitnesse (1.7 g fiber/ serving)FatProtein
VC: Shredded Wheat (5.4 g fiber), or Berry Shredded Wheat (5.0 g fiber) (Cereal Partners UK)Fiber (VC only)CHO
3-d food diaries used to record diet intakeFiber (SC)
Matthews et al. 23Positive70 overweight men and women who were self-reported evening snackers; UKRandomized, controlled 6-wk intervention study. The intervention group was given a selection of breakfast cereals to consume instead of their normal evening snack. Control group maintained normal habits.9 different varieties of Kellogg’s RTECs were provided with external packaging removed. Participants were advised to try each at least once.g CHOEnergy
%E from CHO
g fat
%E from fat
g protein
%E from protein
1B1, vitamin B-1 (thiamin); B2, vitamin B-2 (riboflavin); B3, vitamin B-3 (niacin); B6, vitamin B-6, pyridoxine; B12, vitamin B-12 (cyanocobalamin); C, cereals; CHO, carbohydrate; RDA, recommended dietary allowance; RTEC, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal; SC, single choice; V, vegetables; VC, variable choice; %E, percentage of energy.
2Study included in 1 of the review articles.
[Source 6]

Cereal nutrition facts

In food-insecure children in the United States, the percentage whose daily nutrient intake was below the Estimated Average Requirement was higher in those who did not consume breakfast cereal for several key nutrient, including 62.7% vs. 39.9% for calcium, 26.3% vs. 19.4% for magnesium, 33.4% vs 8.1% for vitamin A, 15.4% vs. 3.2% for zinc, and 9.4% vs. 0.1% for folate, respectively 10. The difference in total milk consumption (345 vs. 142 g for cereal consumers vs. non consumers) was significantly greater than the difference in food-secure children (324 vs. 161g)—that is, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal was even more important in food-insecure children in improving milk intakes. Comparing Healthy Eating Index scores, both food-secure and food-insecure children achieved better scores when they consumed breakfast cereals, but the improvement in total grain intake was significantly greater for food-insecure children 24.

In the 1995 Australian National Nutrition Survey, breakfast cereals as consumed with milk and sugar contributed only 6–9% of total energy intakes of children and adolescents but provided >25% of the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for thiamin, riboflavin, and iron (for boys) and >10% of the RDI for niacin, folate (for boys), calcium, iron (for girls), and magnesium 25. In the 2007 Australian National Children’s Nutrition and Activity Survey, ready-to-eat breakfast cereal consumption provided 10% of total daily fiber intake 26.

Adults who consume breakfast cereals regularly have daily diets that are:

  • higher in % energy from carbohydrate, total sugars, dietary fiber, vitamins A and D, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc;
  • no different in total energy intake, sodium, or %E from protein; and
  • lower in % energy from fat.

The latest national survey from the United Kingdom found that whereas breakfast cereals contribute 3–5% of the daily energy intake and 2–5% of dietary fiber intake, they provide only 1% of fat and 1–2% of sodium in the total diet 1. Similarly, breakfast cereals contribute only 2.1–2.6% of total sodium intake in adults in the United States 27 and <2.5% in Australia 28.

Other findings show that adults who eat breakfast cereal regularly:

  • are less likely to have vitamin and mineral intakes below the recommended daily requirements, especially for thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and fiber 7;
  • have better diets overall, measured by the Healthy Eating Index 29; and
  • have better nutritional status (assessed by blood measures), especially for the vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, and folate 21.

Those consuming whole-grain and high-fiber breakfast cereals, compared with those consuming other breakfast cereals, had significantly higher daily intakes of % energy from protein, fiber, niacin, folate, calcium, and zinc 30; however, whole-grain cereal intake in particular is likely to be a marker of a healthy lifestyle and therefore potentially subject to residual confounding.

How many calories should breakfast provide ?

A helpful rule of thumb to maintain a healthy weight is to follow the 400-600-600 kcal approach.

That means having about:

  • 400kcal for breakfast (including any drinks and accompaniments)
  • 600kcal for lunch (including any drinks and accompaniments)
  • 600kcal for dinner (including any drinks and accompaniments)

That leaves you with just enough left over to enjoy a few healthy drinks and snacks throughout the day. This advice is based on a adult’s daily recommended calorie intake of 2,000kcal.

You might get about 150kcal from a 40g serving of cereal. You could add a medium sliced banana and 200ml of semi-skimmed milk, which altogether would provide about 350kcals.

You need fuel in the morning, and starting the day with a filling breakfast can help you avoid reaching for a less healthy mid-morning snack to keep you going until lunch.

How to find the best healthy cereal

Read The Cereal Box Nutrition Labels

Nutrition labels can help you choose between products and keep a check on the amount of foods you’re eating that are high in fat, salt and added sugars.

Most pre-packed foods have a nutrition label on the back or side of the packaging. These labels include information on energy in kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal), usually referred to as calories.

They also include information on fat, saturates (saturated fat), carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt. All nutrition information is provided per 100 grams and sometimes per portion of the food.

Supermarkets and food manufacturers now highlight the energy, fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt content on the front of the packaging, alongside the reference intake for each of these.

You can use nutrition labels to help you choose a more balanced diet.

Nutrition labels on the back or side of packaging

Nutrition labels are often displayed as a panel or grid on the back or side of packaging. For example, the Figure 1 below shows the nutrition labels from some breakfast cereal boxes.

This type of label includes information on energy (kJ/kcal), fat, saturates (saturated fat), carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt.

It may also provide additional information on certain nutrients, such as fiber. All nutrition information is provided per 100 grams and sometimes per portion or per serving size.

Figure 1. Nutrition Facts from some breakfast cereals


Reading nutrition labels

Food and nutrition labels can help you choose between brands and avoid breakfast cereals high in sugar, fat and salt.

All nutrition information is provided per 100g and per serving, which can be helpful when comparing one cereal with another.

Some brands also use red, amber and green color coding on the front of the packet, sometimes known as traffic lights. The more greens on the label, the healthier the choice.

Most pre-packed foods have a nutrition label on the back or side of the packaging. These labels include information on energy in kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal), usually referred to as calories.

They also include information on fat, saturates (saturated fat), carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt. All nutrition information is provided per 100 grams and sometimes per portion of the food.

Supermarkets and food manufacturers now highlight the energy, fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt content on the front of the packaging, alongside the reference intake for each of these.

You can use nutrition labels to help you choose a more balanced diet.

For a Balanced diet:

  • Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
  • Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates – choose wholegrain or higher fibre where possible
  • Have some dairy or dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks and yogurts – choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options
  • Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein – aim for two portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily, such as salmon or mackerel
  • Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat them in small amounts
  • Drink plenty of fluids – the government recommends 6 to 8 cups or glasses a day

If you’re having foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar, have these less often and in small amounts.

Try to choose a variety of different foods from the four main food groups. Most people in America eat and drink too many calories, too much fat, sugar and salt, and not enough fruit, vegetables, oily fish or fiber.

How do I know if a food is high in fat, saturated fat, sugar or salt ?

There are guidelines to tell you if a food is high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar, or not. These are:

Total fat

  • High: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
  • Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g

Saturated fat

  • High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g
  • Low: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g


  • High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
  • Moderate: between 5g to 22.5 g of total sugars per 100g
  • Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g


  • High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium)
  • Low: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)

For example, if you are trying to cut down on saturated fat, limit your consumption of foods that have more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g.

If you’re trying to cut down on sugar, you should avoid foods that have more than 22.5g of sugars per 100g.

Some nutrition labels on the back or side of packaging also provide information about reference intakes.

Sugar, fat and salt levels

You can use the per 100g information on the nutrition label to identify breakfast cereals that are:

High in sugar, fat or salt

  • high in sugar: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
  • high in fat: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g
  • high in salt: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g

Low in sugar, fat or salt

  • low in sugar: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g
  • low in fat: 3g of saturated fat or less per 100g
  • low in salt: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g

Reference intakes explained

You’ll see reference intakes referred to on food labels. They show you the maximum amount of calories and nutrients you should eat in a day.

  • Nutrition labels can also provide information on how a particular food or drink product fits into your daily diet.
  • Reference intakes are guidelines about the approximate amount of particular nutrients and energy required for a healthy diet.

Daily reference intakes for the average adult aged 19 to 64 are:

  • Energy: 8,400 kJ/2,000kcal
  • Total fat: less than 70g
  • Saturates: less than 20g
  • Carbohydrate: at least 260g
  • Total sugars: 90g
  • Protein: 50g
  • Fiber: 35g
  • Salt: less than 2.3g

The reference intake for total sugars includes sugars from milk and fruit, as well as added sugar.

Reference intakes aren’t meant to be targets. They just give you a rough idea of how much energy you should be eating each day and how much fat, sugar, salt and so on.

Unless the label says otherwise, reference intakes are based on an average-sized adult doing an average amount of physical activity.

This is to reduce the risk of people with lower energy requirements eating too much, and to make sure information on labels is clear and consistent.

Where to find reference intakes on food packs

Most of the big supermarkets and many food manufacturers also display nutritional information on the front of pre-packed food. This is very useful when you want to compare different food products at a glance.

If you look closely at food packaging, you’ll see that it usually tells you what percentage of your daily reference intakes each portion of that food contains.

Front-of-pack labels, such as the label in the above image, usually give a quick guide to:

  • energy
  • fat content
  • saturated fat content
  • sugars content
  • salt content

These labels provide information on the number of grams of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt, and the amount of energy (in kJ and kcal) in a serving or portion of the food.

  • But be aware that the manufacturer’s idea of a portion may be different from yours.

Some front-of-pack nutrition labels also provide information about reference intakes.

Color-coded nutritional information, as shown in Figure 2. below, tells you at a glance if the food has high, medium or low amounts of fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.

  • Red means high
  • Amber means medium
  • Green means low

In short, the more green on the label, the healthier the choice. If you buy a food that has all or mostly green on the label, you know straight away that it’s a healthier choice.

Amber means neither high nor low, so you can eat foods with all or mostly amber on the label most of the time.

But any red on the label means the food is high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugars, and these are the foods we should cut down on. Try to eat these foods less often and in small amounts.

Figure 2. Reference intakes on food packs 

reference intakes on food packs

For example, the label above, taken from a box of pizza, shows that per half (1/2) slice of pizza will provide you with 4.7g of sugars, which is 6% of your daily reference intake for sugars.

The red color shows you that the pizza are high in saturated fat and salt.

Each pizza also contains 10.3g of saturated fat, which is 52% of your reference intake for saturated fat.

The amber color tells you that the pizza slices contain a medium amount (20.3g per 100 g of pizza) of fat.

Green means a food is low in a particular nutrient. These pizza slices, for example, are low in added sugars.

Ingredients list

Most pre-packed food products also have a list of ingredients on the packaging or an attached label. The ingredients list can also help you work out how healthy the product is.

Ingredients are listed in order of weight, so the main ingredients in the packaged food always come first. That means that if the first few ingredients are high-fat ingredients, such as cream, butter or oil, then the food in question is a high-fat food.

Figure 3. Breakfast cereal ingredients list (Oatmeal Crisp cereal)

Breakfast cereal ingredients list

What is dietary fiber ?

Dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, is the part of a plant that the body doesn’t absorb during digestion. Fibre is the part of food that is not digested in the small intestine. Dietary fibre moves largely unchanged into the large intestine or colon where it is fermented by friendly bacteria that live there. The scientific community define dietary fibre as intrinsic plant cell wall polysaccharides of vegetables, fruits and whole-grains, the health benefits of which have been clearly established, rather than synthetic, isolated or purified oligosaccharides and polysaccharides with diverse, and in some cases unique, physiological effects 31. Generally speaking, dietary fiber is the edible parts of plants or similar carbohydrates, that are resistant to digestion and absorption in the small intestine. Fiber can be soluble, which means it dissolves in water, or insoluble.

Dietary fiber and whole grains contain a unique blend of bioactive components including resistant starches, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. As a result, research regarding their potential health benefits has received considerable attention in the last several decades. Epidemiological and clinical studies demonstrate that consumption of dietary fiber and whole grain intake is inversely related to obesity 32, type two diabetes 33, cancer 34 and cardiovascular disease 35.

  • Eating fiber and wholegrain foods is linked to a lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and may also reduce the risk of bowel cancer.
  • Eating high fiber foods can also help prevent constipation – this in turn can help to prevent hemorrhoids.
  • Because high fiber foods are filling they may also make it easier to stay at a healthy weight.
  • Foods high in fiber are generally good sources of vitamins and minerals, as well as other important nutrients.

How much fiber do you need ?

The recommendations for fiber intake for adults for most European countries and for countries like Australia, New Zealand and the USA are in the order of 30–35 g/d for men and 25–32 g/d for women. Overall average intakes do not reach this level of intake for any country.

For children, recommendations vary quite markedly from country to country; for example, for those aged 10–12 years, France recommends 5+age, equivalent to 15–17 g/d, for Poland, 19 g/d, for Australia and New Zealand, 20 g/d for girls and 24 g/d for boys (for 9–13 years) and for the USA, 26 g/d for girls and 31 g/d for boys (for 9–13 years). Other countries have no official recommendation for children. Hence it is difficult to say if recommendations are being met overall, although for most countries, intakes are lower than the recommendation, with few reaching an average intake of 20 g/d for boys or 18 g/d for girls. For teenagers, recommendations are similar or slightly higher than for younger children.

Most Americans eat less than this. Getting sufficient fiber isn’t just about adding unprocessed wheat bran to breakfast cereal – it’s important to include different types of fiber from a variety of plant foods.

To get enough fibre every day, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 36 recommends that an individual eats:

  • at least 4 serves of wholegrain or wholemeal foods every day (or ensure about half of your daily serves of breads and cereals are wholegrain or wholemeal varieties)
  • at least 2 serves of fruit daily
  • 5 serves of vegetables daily including legumes (also known as ‘pulses’)
  • wholefoods rather than dietary fiber supplements as the benefits of fibre from food may be from the combination of nutrients in food working together.

Table 2 Below is an example of how an adult may meet their daily dietary fiber requirements:

FoodFiber Content
3/4 cup whole grain breakfast cereal4.5g
2 slices wholemeal bread4.5g
1 apple (with skin) and 1 orange5.5g
2 cups mixed raw vegetables10g
1/4 cup legumes eg. baked beans3g
[Source 37].

Worst carbs – How does sugar in your diet affect your health ?

Eating too much sugar can make you gain weight and can also cause tooth decay.

The type of sugars most adults and children in the US eat too much of are “free sugars”. These are:

  • Any sugars added to food or drinks. These include sugars in biscuits, chocolate, flavored yogurts, breakfast cereals and fizzy drinks. These sugars may be added at home, or by a chef or other food manufacturer.
  • Sugars in honey, syrups (such as maple, agave and golden), nectars (such as blossom), and unsweetened fruit juices, vegetable juices and smoothies. The sugars in these foods occur naturally but still count as free sugars.

Sugar found naturally in milk, fruit and vegetables doesn’t count as free sugars. We don’t need to cut down on these sugars, but remember that they are included in the “total sugar” figure found on food labels.

“Sugar is sugar,” whether it’s white, brown, unrefined sugar, molasses or honey, don’t kid yourself: there is no such thing as a healthy sugar.

Your weight and sugar

Eating too much sugar can contribute to people having too many calories, which can lead to weight gain. Being overweight increases your risk of health problems such as heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.

For a healthy, balanced diet, we should get most of our calories from other kinds of foods, such as starchy foods (wholegrain where possible) and fruits and vegetables, and only eat foods high in free sugars occasionally or not at all.

Tooth decay and sugar

Sugar is one of the main causes of tooth decay.

To prevent tooth decay, reduce the amount of food and drinks you have that contain free sugars – such as sweets, chocolates, cakes, biscuits, sugary breakfast cereals, jams, honey, fruit smoothies and dried fruit – and limit them to mealtimes.

The sugars found naturally in fruit and vegetables are less likely to cause tooth decay, because they are contained within the structure. But when fruit and vegetables are juiced or blended into a smoothie, the sugars are released. Once released, these sugars can damage teeth.

Limit the amount of fruit juice and smoothies you drink to a maximum of 150ml (a small glass) in total per day, and drink it with meals to reduce the risk of tooth decay.

Squashes sweetened with sugar, fizzy drinks, soft drinks and juice drinks have no place in a child’s daily diet. If you’re looking after children, swap any sugary drinks for water, lower-fat milk or sugar-free drinks.

How much sugar is good for me ?

The health department recommends that free sugars – sugars added to food or drinks, and sugars found naturally in honey, syrups, and unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and purées – shouldn’t make up more than 5% of the energy (calories) you get from food and drink each day.

Table 3. Current Guidelines for Sugar Intake

US Department of Agriculture and
US Department of Health and Human Services (2015-2020)
Limit consumption of added sugars to <10% of calories per day
World Health Organization (March 2015)Restrict added sugar consumption to <10% of daily calories
American Heart Association (2009)Limit added sugars to 5% of daily calories (for women, 100 calories/day; for men, 150 calories/day)

The American Heart Association 38 recommends no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance come from added sugars. Your daily discretionary calorie allowance consists of calories available after meeting nutrient needs. This is no more than 100 calories per day for most American women and no more than 150 per day for men (or about 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 teaspoons a day for men).

This means:

  • Adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars a day, (roughly equivalent to seven sugar cubes).
  • Children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g of free sugars a day (six sugar cubes).
  • Children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19g of free sugars a day (five sugar cubes).
  • There is no guideline limit for children under the age of 4, but it’s recommended they avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and food with sugar added to it. Find out more about what to feed young children.

Free sugars are found in foods such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, and some fizzy drinks and juice drinks. These are the sugary foods we should cut down on. For example, a can of cola can have as much as nine cubes of sugar – more than the recommended daily limit for adults.

Products are considered to either be high or low in sugar if they fall above or below the following thresholds:

  • High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g
  • Medium: more than 5g but less than or equal to 22.5g of sugar per 100g
  • Low: 5g or less of total sugars per 100g

If the amount of sugars per 100g is between these figures, that is regarded as a medium level.

Figure 4. Carbohydrate and sugar content food label

sugar content - food label

The “Total Sugars” figure describes the total amount of sugars from all sources – free sugars, plus those from milk, and those present in fruit and vegetables.

For example, plain yogurt may contain as much as 8g per serving, but none of these are free sugars, as they all come from milk.

The same applies to an individual portion of fruit. An apple might contain around 11g of total sugar, depending on the size of the fruit selected, the variety and the stage of ripeness. However, sugar in fruit is not considered free sugars unless the fruit is juiced or puréed.

This means food containing fruit or milk will be a healthier choice than one containing lots of free sugars, even if the two products contain the same total amount of sugar. You can tell if the food contains lots of added sugars by checking the ingredients list.

Sometimes you will see a figure just for “Carbohydrate” and not for “Carbohydrate (of which sugars)”. The “Carbohydrate” figure will also include starchy carbohydrates, so you can’t use it to work out the sugar content. In this instance, check the ingredients list to see if the food is high in added sugar.

Ingredients list

You can get an idea of whether a food is high in free sugars by looking at the ingredients list on the packaging.

Sugars added to foods and drinks must be included in the ingredients list, which always starts with the ingredient that there’s the most of. This means that if you see sugar near the top of the list, the food is likely to be high in free sugars.

Watch out for other words used to describe the sugars added to food and drinks, such as cane sugar, honey, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate/purées, corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, glucose, crystalline sucrose, nectars (such as blossom), maple and agave syrups, dextrose, maltose, molasses and treacle.

No added sugar or unsweetened

  • “No added sugar” or “unsweetened” refer to sugar or sweeteners that are added as ingredients. They do not mean that the food contains no sugar.

The ingredients lists on food products with “no added sugar” and “unsweetened” labels will tell you what ingredients have been used, including what types of sweetener and sugar. You can often find information about how much sugar there is in the food in the nutrition label.

No added sugar

  • This usually means that the food has not had sugar added to it as an ingredient.

A food that has “no added sugar” might still taste sweet and can still contain sugar.

  • Sugars occur naturally in food such as fruit and milk. But you don’t need to cut down on these types of sugar: it is food containing added sugars that youe should be cutting down on.

Just because a food contains “no added sugar”, this does not necessarily mean it has a low sugar content. The food may contain ingredients that have a naturally high sugar content (such as fruit), or have added milk, which contains lactose, a type of sugar that occurs naturally in milk.


This usually means that no sugar or sweetener has been added to the food to make it taste sweet. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the food will not contain naturally occurring sugars found in fruit or milk.

Sugar by Any Other Name

You don’t always see the word “sugar” on a food label. It sometimes goes by another name, like these:

  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Agave nectar
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Coconut sugar
  • Coconut palm sugar
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Invert sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Anhydrous dextrose
  • Crystal dextrose
  • Dextrin
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fructose sweetener
  • Liquid fructose
  • Glucose
  • Lactose
  • Honey
  • Malt syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Pancake syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Trehalose
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Isoglucose
  • Levulose

Watch out for items that list any form of sugar in the first few ingredients, or have more than 4 total grams of sugar.

Best carbs to eat for weight loss

Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 39, which looks at food consumption in the US, shows that most of us should also be eating more fiber and starchy foods and fewer sweets, chocolates, biscuits, pastries, cakes and soft drinks with added sugar. These are usually high in sugar and calories, which can increase the risk of tooth decay and contribute to weight gain if you eat them too often, while providing few other nutrients.

It’s important to choose carbohydrates wisely. Your best carbohydrate-containing foods are nutrient-packed foods in several of the basic food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, and milk and milk products. Choosing these foods within your calorie requirements daily may help your heart stay healthy and reduce your risk for chronic disease.

Fruit, vegetables, pulses and starchy foods (especially wholegrain varieties) provide a wider range of nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals) which can benefit our health. The fiber in these foods can help to keep your bowels healthy and adds bulk to your meal, helping you to feel full.

Cutting out a whole food group (such as starchy foods) as some diets recommend could put your health at risk because as well as cutting out the body’s main source of energy you’d be cutting back essential nutrients like B vitamins, zinc and iron from your diet.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Choose fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains often.
  • Focus on fruits: Eat a variety of fruits. Make most of your fruit choices fresh, frozen, canned, or dried, rather than fruit juice.
  • Vary your veggies:
    • Eat more dark green veggies, such as broccoli, kale, and other dark leafy greens. And try more orange veggies, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and winter squash.
    • Legumes—such as dry beans and peas—are especially rich in dietary fiber and should be consumed several times per week.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains: Eat at least 3 ounces daily of whole grains. Examples of whole grains are whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, and pasta. Other examples are brown and wild rice. One slice (1 ounce) of whole-grain bread, 1/2 cup brown rice, and 1/2 cup of oatmeal is equivalent to 3 ounces of whole grains. If you eat a 2,000-calorie diet, you will need approximately each day: 2 to 2 1/2 cups of fruit, 2 to 2 1/2 cups of vegetables, and 6 to 8 ounces of grains (at least 4 ounces should be whole grains). In addition, you should eat nuts, seeds, and legumes 4 to 5 times per week.

Many packaged foods have fiber information on the front of the package.

  • For example, the package might say “excellent source of fiber,” “rich in fiber,” or “high in fiber.” The Nutrition Facts label will list the amount of dietary fiber in a serving and the % Daily Value (% DV). Look at the % DV column: 5% DV or less is low in dietary fiber, and 20% DV or more is high.

Check the product name and ingredient list.

  • For many, but not all “whole-grain” food products, the words “whole” or “whole grain” may appear before the name (e.g., whole-wheat bread). But, because whole-grain foods cannot necessarily be identified by their color or name (brown bread, 9-grain bread, hearty grains bread, mixed grain bread, etc. are not always “whole-grain”), you need to look at the ingredient list. The whole grain should be the first ingredient listed.

The following are some examples of whole grains:

  • whole wheat
  • brown rice
  • quinoa
  • buckwheat whole
  • oats/oatmeal
  • whole rye
  • bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • sorghum
  • whole grain
  • barley
  • popcorn
  • millet
  • wild rice
  • triticale

What is the healthiest cereal

Try looking at the nutrition label and compare brands so you opt for the healthier version.

For a healthier option, choose breakfast cereals that contain wholegrains and are lower in sugar, fat and salt.

Examples include:

  • Wholewheat cereal biscuits
  • Shredded wholegrain pillows
  • Oats
  • Barley

Wholegrains contain fiber and B vitamins, among other nutrients. Fiber helps keep our digestive systems healthy.

Research suggests a diet high in fiber may help reduce the risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

  • Avoid always going for the same brand, as manufacturers regularly modify their recipes.

Oats, barley, or psyllium-based cereals can help lower cholesterol concentrations (excellent evidence and can be trusted to guide practice), and high-fiber, wheat-based cereals can improve bowel function 6.

Mueslis, which usually contain wholegrains and fruit, are often seen as a healthier option, but check the label first – many can be relatively high in fat, added sugar and, in some cases, salt.

Serving cereal with milk or yogurt

Having breakfast cereal is a good opportunity to add calcium to the diet if you serve it with milk or yogurt. Go for semi-skimmed, 1% or skimmed milk, or lower-fat yogurt.

Milk and yogurt are good sources of calcium and protein. Alternatives to cow’s milk include fortified soya, rice and oat drinks.

Adding fruit to cereal

Having cereal is also a good opportunity to get some fruit in the diet. Raisins, dried apricots, bananas and strawberries are popular choices and can be added to any cereal, depending on your tastes.

Adding fruit to cereals is a great way to get kids to eat more fruit. It also helps them enjoy less sugary cereals, as you get sweetness from the fruit.

I don’t have time to sit down for breakfast

It’s a sign of the times that people are increasingly abandoning breakfast cereals, one of the earliest convenience foods, for more convenient “on-the-go” options, such as a breakfast muffin and a latte.

If you’re short on time in the morning, how about setting the table the night before ? You could also grab a pot of porridge on your way to work or have your cereal when you get in.

Cereals are still one of the best value breakfasts out there. A bowl of fortified breakfast cereal with milk gives you more nutrients for your penny when compared with most on-the-go breakfast options.

You could try:

  • Muesli, fresh fruit and low-fat yogurt – fruit added to your muesli counts towards your daily requirements. Low-fat yogurt provides calcium and protein, and is low in fat, but watch out for the sugar content. Go for muesli with no added sugar.
  • Porridge with mashed banana and dried blueberries – put oats and a handful of dried blueberries in a bowl and add semi-skimmed milk. Heat in the microwave for 3-4 minutes, stirring every so often. When cooked, stir in the mashed banana. The mashed banana is a healthier substitute for sugar or honey. For best results, use a very ripe banana.
  • Overnight oats – combine oats and apple juice and let it sit overnight in the fridge. In the morning, add low-fat yogurt, honey to taste, and fresh fruit such as berries.
  • Quick porridge – making porridge is easier than you think: combine 50g of rolled or instant oats with 200ml (or more for runny porridge) of semi-skimmed milk in a bowl and microwave on full power for two minutes. Top with dried fruit or nuts.
  • Baked beans (low sugar & low salt variety) on wholemeal toast – not only are they naturally low in fat, baked beans are also packed with fibre and protein, making them a vegetarian source of protein. Look out for reduced salt and sugar ranges.
  • Banana bagel sandwich – mash a ripe banana and serve it between two halves of a toasted (preferably wholemeal) bagel. Mashing instead of slicing the banana gives the filling a creamier texture, meaning you won’t need low-fat spread.
  • One-minute omelette – combine one beaten egg, a few spinach leaves and some chopped lean roast ham in a bowl. Microwave on full power for a minute or until the egg is set.
  • Baked eggs – put an egg (with yolk unbroken) and some crème fraîche in a ramekin. Put the ramekin in a baking dish and fill with hot tap water so it comes 3/4 of the way to the top of the ramekin. Bake for 15 minutes or until the egg yolk is set to your liking.
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  2. National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian dietary guidelines. Canberra (Australia): National Health and Medical Research Council; 2013
  3. Antioxidant content of whole grain breakfast cereals, fruits and vegetables. Miller HE, Rigelhof F, Marquart L, Prakash A, Kanter M. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Jun; 19(3 Suppl):312S-319S.
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  13. Thorsdottir I, Gunnarsson BS, Atladottir H, Michaelsen KF, Palsson G. Iron status at 12 months of age—effects of body size, growth and diet in a population with high birth weight. Eur J Clin Nutr 2003;57:505–13
  14. Hambidge KM, Chavez M, Brown R, Walravens P. Zinc nutritional status of young middle-income children and effects of consuming zinc-fortified breakfast cereals. Am J Clin Nutr 1979;32:2532–9
  15. Kirk TR, Burskill S, Cursiter M. Dietary fat reduction achieved by increasing consumption of a starch food—an intervention study. Eur J Clin Nutr 1997;51:455–61
  16. Kleemola P, Puska P, Variainen E, Roos E, Luoto R, Ehnholm C. The effect of breakfast cereal on diet and serum cholesterol: a randomized trial in North Karelia, Finland. Eur J Clin Nutr 1999;53:716–21
  17. Kirk T, Crombie N, Cursiter M. Promotion of dietary carbohydrate as an approach to weight maintenance after initial weight loss: a pilot study. J Hum Nutr Diet 2000;13:277–85
  18. Abrams SA, Griffin I, Davila P, Liang L. Calcium fortification of breakfast cereal enhances calcium absorption in children without affecting iron absorption. J Pediatr 2001;139:522–6
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  20. Ortega RM, Lopez-Sobaler A, Andres P, Rodriguez-Rodriguez E, Aparicio A, Bermejo L, Lopez-Plaza B. Changes in folate status in overweight/obese women following two different weight control programmes based on an increased consumption of vegetables or fortified breakfast cereals. Br J Nutr 2006;96:712–8
  21. Ortega RM, Lopez-Plaza B, Andres P, Rodriguez-Rodriguez E, Aparicio A, Bermejo L. Increasing consumption of breakfast cereal improves thiamine status in overweight/obese women following a hypocaloric diet. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2009;60:69–79
  22. Lightowler HJ, Henry CJK. An investigation of the effectiveness of ready-to-eat breakfast cereals in weight loss: comparison between single and mixed varieties. Nutr Bull 2009;34:48–53
  23. Matthews A, Hull S, Angus F, Johnston K. The effect of ready-to-eat cereal consumption on energy intake, body weight and anthropometric measurements: results from a randomized, controlled trial. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2012;63:107–13
  24. Affenito SG, Thompson D, Dorazio A, Albertson A, Loew A, Holschuh N. Ready-to-eat cereal consumption and the school breakfast program: the relationship to nutrient intake and weight. J Sch Health 2013;83:28–35
  25. Williams P. Breakfast and the diets of Australian children and adolescents: an analysis of data from the 1995 National Nutrition Survey. Int J Food Sci Nutr 2007;58:201–16
  26. Grieger J, Kim S, Cobiac L. Where do Australian children get their dietary fibre? A focus on breakfast food choices. Nutr Diet. 2013;70:132–8
  27. Drewnowski A, Rehm C. Sodium intakes of US children and adults from foods and beverages by location of origin and by specific food source. Nutrients 2013;5:1840–55
  28. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey: nutrition first results—foods and nutrients, 2011–2012. Canberra (Australia): Australian Bureau of Statistics; 2014
  29. Deshmukh-Taskar PR, Radliffe J, Liu Y, Nicklas T. Do breakfast skipping and breakfast type affect energy intake, nutrient intake, nutrient adequacy, and diet quality in young adults? NHANES 1999–2002. J Am Coll Nutr 2010a;29:407–18
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  31. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2007) 61 (Suppl 1), S132–S137; doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602943. FAO/WHO Scientific Update on carbohydrates in human nutrition: conclusions.
  32. Increasing total fiber intake reduces risk of weight and fat gains in women. Tucker LA, Thomas KS. J Nutr. 2009 Mar; 139(3):576-81.
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  35. Dietary fiber intake in relation to coronary heart disease and all-cause mortality over 40 y: the Zutphen Study. Streppel MT, Ocké MC, Boshuizen HC, Kok FJ, Kromhout D. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Oct; 88(4):1119-25.
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Diet, Food & FitnessFoods



What is cardamom

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum Maton) sometimes cardamon or cardamum, is a spice made from the seeds of several plants in the genera Elettaria and Amomum belonging to the ginger family Zingiberaceae 1. Both genera are native to India/Pakistan (known as Elaichi), Bhutan, Indonesia and Nepal. They are recognized by their small seed pods: triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin papery outer shell and small black seeds; Elettaria pods are light green and smaller, while Amomum pods are larger and dark brown.

There are two main types of cardamom:

  • True or green cardamom [Elettaria cardamomum Maton] (or, when bleached, white cardamom) comes from the species Elettaria cardamomum and is distributed from India to Malaysia. What is often referred to as white cardamon is actually Siam cardamom, Amomum krervanh.
  • Black cardamom (Amomum subulatum Roxburgh), also known as brown, greater, large, longer, or Nepal cardamom, comes from species Amomum subulatum and is native to the eastern Himalayas and mostly cultivated in Eastern Nepal, Sikkim and parts of Darjeeling district in West Bengal of India, and Southern Bhutan.

Both forms of cardamom are used as flavourings and cooking spices in both food and drink, and as a medicine. Elettaria cardamomum (green cardamom) is used as a spice, a masticatory, and in medicine; it is also smoked.

Dry pods of cardamom contain volatile oils, phenolic acids, lipids and sterols 2. Both black and green cardamom contain terpenes in the essential oils, with 1,8-cineole and α-terpineol found in black cardamom and α-terpinyl acetate and 1,8-cineole in green cardamom 3. Black cardamom improved alcoholic fatty liver 4, lowered lipids in cholesterol diet-fed rabbits 5, improved glucose metabolism in fructose-fed rats 6 and decreased inflammation in carrageenan-induced paw oedema in rats 7.

It is assumed, but not proved, that the volatile oils are the major bioactive principles of cardamom. Further, cardamom contains unknown amounts of phenolic and flavonoid components that may have biological activity.

Cardamom is a good source of volatile oils, fixed oils, phenolic acids and sterols 8. Phytochemical studies revealed the presence of multiple chemicals, such as α-terpineol, myrcene, heptane, subinene, limonene, cineol, α-phellandrene, menthone, α-pinene, β-pinene, β-sitostenone, γ-sitosterol, phytol, eugenyl acetate 9. In folkloric medicine, cardamom is used as carminative, stomachic, diuretic, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and is considered useful in treatment of constipation, colic, diarrhea, dyspepsia, vomiting, headache, epilepsy and cardiovascular diseases 10. Volatile oils in cardamom was found to exhibit analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antispasmodic properties 11. Moreover, cardamom fruit is used against cardiac disorders, renal and vesicular calculi, dyspepsia, debility, anorexia, asthma, bronchitis, halitosis and gastrointestinal disorders 12. Cardamom also possesses antioxidant, antihypertensive, gastro protective, and antispasmodic, antibacterial, antiplatelet aggregation and anticancer properties 13. High-performance liquid chromatography analysis showed that ethanol extract of cardamom consists of (−)-epicatechin, vanillin, p-coumaric acid, trans-ferulic acid, ellagic acid which have highly anti inflamatory and antioxidant activities. According to the literature review of cardamom, the major constituents of cardamom are α-terpinyl acetate, α-terpineol, 1,8-cineole and limonene, which have potential effects in metabolic syndrome as these terpenes reduced blood pressure in normotensive rats and also showed endothelium dependent vasorelaxation in male Wistar rats 8.

Figure 1. Cardamom pods (green cardamom)


Figure 2. Black cardamom

black cardamom

Cardamom Uses in Food and Beverage

Besides use as flavorant and spice in foods, cardamom-flavored tea, also flavored with cinnamon, is consumed as a hot beverage in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.

Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic, resinous fragrance. Black cardamom has a distinctly more smokey, though not bitter, aroma, with a coolness some consider similar to mint.

Green cardamom is one of the more expensive spices by weight, but little is needed to impart flavor. It is best stored in the pod as exposed or ground seeds quickly lose their flavor. Grinding the pods and seeds together lowers both the quality and the price. For recipes requiring whole cardamom pods, a generally accepted equivalent is 10 pods equals  1 1⁄2 teaspoons of ground cardamom.

It is a common ingredient in Indian cooking. It is also often used in baking in the Nordic countries, in particular in Sweden, Norway and Finland, where it is used in traditional treats such as the Scandinavian Jule bread Julekake, the Swedish kardemummabullar sweet bun, and Finnish sweet bread pulla. In the Middle East, green cardamom powder is used as a spice for sweet dishes, as well as traditional flavouring in coffee and tea. Cardamom is used to a wide extent in savory dishes. In some Middle Eastern countries, coffee and cardamom are often ground in a wooden mortar, a mihbaj, and cooked together in a skillet, a mehmas, over wood or gas, to produce mixtures as much as 40% cardamom.

In Asia both types of cardamom are widely used in both sweet and savory dishes, particularly in the south. Both are frequent components in spice mixes, such as Indian and Nepali masalas and Thai curry pastes. Green cardamom is often used in traditional Indian sweets and in masala chai (spiced tea). Both are also often used as a garnish in basmati rice and other dishes. Individual seeds are sometimes chewed and used in much the same way as chewing gum. It is used by confectionery giant Wrigley; its Eclipse Breeze Exotic Mint packaging indicates the product contains “cardamom to neutralize the toughest breath odors”. It is also included in aromatic bitters, gin and herbal teas.

In Korea, medicinal cardamom (Amomum villosum var. xanthioides) and black cardamom (Amomum tsao-ko) is used in traditional tea called jeho-tang.

Cardamom Composition

The content of essential oil in the seeds is strongly dependent on storage conditions, but may be as high as 8%. In the oil were found α-terpineol 45%, myrcene 27%, limonene 8%, menthone 6%, β-phellandrene 3%, 1,8-cineol 2%, sabinene 2% and heptane 2%. Other sources report 1,8-cineol (20 to 50%), α-terpenylacetate (30%), sabinene, limonene (2 to 14%), and borneol.

In the seeds of round cardamom from Java (A. kepulaga), the content of essential oil is lower (2 to 4%), and the oil contains mainly 1,8 cineol (up to 70%) plus β-pinene (16%); furthermore, α-pinene, α-terpineol and humulene were found 14.

Table 1. Cardamom analysis

VariableGreen CardamomBlack Cardamom
Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) area (%)
α-terpinyl acetate72.73-*
Energy (KJ/100 g)15571477
Protein (% w/w)10.89.3
Total fat (% w/w)10.31.7
Moisture (% w/w)12.29.4
Total carbohydrate (%)58.473.9

Values are represented as mean of duplicate analysis; * not detected by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.

[Source 15]

Cardamom health benefits

Green cardamom has been used since the 4th century BC by Indian Ayurvedic practitioners and ancient Greek and Roman physicians for the treatment of indigestion, bronchitis, asthma and constipation, and to stimulate appetite in anorexia 16; other indications include diarrhoea, dyspepsia, epilepsy, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, ulcers, gastro-intestinal disorders and vomiting 17. Similarly, black cardamom is used by Ayurvedic and Unani practitioners for many ailments including indigestion, vomiting, rectal diseases, dysentery, liver congestion, gastrointestinal disorders and genitourinary complaints 7.

The results of various studies have shown that cardamom flavonoids, which are mainly terpenoids, are responsible for the high antioxidant and medicinal benefits of the spice 18. They also point out to the fact that flavonoids function in different mechanisms 19.

There is no clear literature evidence that intervention with cardamom, either black or green, decreases the signs of the metabolic syndrome. So far, there have been only two clinical trials that studied the effects of cardamom supplementation in humans 20. One such study showed that cardamom supplementation favorably changed the atherogenic lipid profile—such as low density lipoprotein (LDL-C) “bad” cholesterol, triglyceride (TG), total cholesterol—increased plasma fibrinolytic activity, and improved serum total antioxidant status 21. Verma et al’s study 22 reported that consumption of 3 g cardamom powder for 12 weeks by people with hypertension (stage 1) significantly decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Furthermore, the Verma et al 22 study did not show any changes in the blood lipids level in the intervention group. But in another study, even after 2 months of 3 g cardamom powder supplementation, systolic and diastolic blood pressure did not show any significant improvement 20.

Other clinical trial showed that cardamom supplementation significantly reduced blood pressure and improved serum total antioxidant status in subjects with hypertension 23. However, only a few studies have been carried out on the benefits of cardamom consumption by humans. In a randomized clinical trial 20 evaluating the effects of green cardamom supplementation on serum lipids, glycemic indices, and blood pressure in overweight and obese pre-diabetic women – found a reduction was seen in triglyceride (TG) (−10 vs. -4.6%), total cholesterol (TC) (−4.6 vs. -0.4%), and low density lipoprotein (LDL-C) “bad” cholesterol (−6.4 vs. -0.7%). Although that study shows green cardamom supplementation improves some blood parameters in pre-diabetic subjects, its effects are not different from placebo 20. Another study by Verma 21, which was conducted on 30 male patients with ischemic heart disease (coronary heart disease), showed that consuming 3 g of large cardamom (Amomum subulatum Roxb.) powder for 12 weeks significantly reduced atherogenic blood lipids level, including low density lipoprotein (LDL-C) “bad” cholesterol, triglyceride and total cholesterol in the intervention group. Higher content of 1,8-cineole has been accounted for the significant hypolipidemic activity of large cardamom. Indeed, cardamom may have a protective effect on HDL-C level. Further research is needed to clarify the effects of green cardamom in pre-diabetic subjects and in subjects with high cholesterol.

The positive properties of cardamom are mainly due to its volatile oil, which has terpene, esters, flavonoids, and other compounds. The major compounds of the oil are 1, 8 cineole (36.3%) and α-terpinyl acetate (31.3%) 24. 1, 8 -cineole, a monoterpenic oxide, has vascular relaxant, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties 25. In addition, studies show that the health effects of spices are related to their flavonoids component, so similar effects of different spices on blood pressure, glucose indices, and lipid profile can largely be explained by their flavonoids content as well.

It has also been shown that by preventing pancreatic lipase activity, some flavonoids can reduce the absorption of fats 26. They can directly affect the active site of enzyme or by increasing the size of fat micelles (triglycerides), indirectly reducing access of enzyme to substrate 26. The result of some studies on patients with metabolic syndrome has shown foods with high flavoniods content reduce serum triglyceride, total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL-C) “bad” cholesterol and increase high density lipoprotein (HDL-C) “good” cholesterol. Moreover, flavoniods have an effect on transcription factors such as proteins, Sterol Regulatory Element-Binding Protein (SREBP-1), and SREBP-2 sterol regulatory element-binding, which increase cholesterol and triglyceride synthesis 27.

The role of flavonoids in the prevention of insulin resistance has also been researched. One of the main factors, which results in insulin resistance in adipose tissue is the increase of fat storage in adipocytes, which leads to inflammation. Flavonoids, by reducing fat storage, might improve insulin function in the body 27.

  1. Amma KP, Rani MP, Sasidharan I, Nisha VN. Chemical composition, flavonoid-phenolic contents and radical scavenging activity of four major varieties of cardamom. Int J Biol Med Res. 2010;1(3):20–24.
  2. Analysis of the essential oil of large cardamom (Amomum subulatum Roxb.) growing in different agro-climatic zones of Himachal Pradesh, India. Joshi R, Sharma P, Sharma V, Prasad R, Sud RK, Gulati A. J Sci Food Agric. 2013 Apr; 93(6):1303-9.
  3. Padmakumari Amma K.P., Rani M.P., Sasidharan I., Nisha V.N.P. Chemical composition, flavonoid-phenolic contents and radical scavenging activity of four major varieties of cardamom. Int. J. Biol. Med. Res. 2010;1:20–24.
  4. Parmar M.Y., Shah P., Thakkar V., Gandhi T.R. Hepatoprotective activity of Amomum subulatum Roxb against ethanol-induced liver damage. Int. J. Green Pharm. 2009;3:250–254. doi: 10.4103/0973-8258.56286.
  5. Bairwa G., Jasuja N., Joshi S. Lipid lowering and antioxidant effects of Amomum subulatum seeds (Family Zingiberaceae) in cholesterol fed rabbits. Arch. Phytopathol. Plant Prot. 2011;44:1425–1431. doi: 10.1080/03235408.2010.505369.
  6. Vavaiya R., Patel A., Manek R. Anti-diabetic activity of Amomum subulatum Roxb. fruit constituents. Int. J. Parm. Innov. 2010;2:50–65.
  7. Alam K., Pathak D., Ansari S.H. Evaluation of anti-inflammatory activity of Ammomum subulatum fruit extract. Int. J. Pharm. Sci. Drug Res. 2011;3:35–37.
  8. Green and Black Cardamom in a Diet-Induced Rat Model of Metabolic Syndrome. Bhaswant M, Poudyal H, Mathai ML, Ward LC, Mouatt P, Brown L. Nutrients. 2015 Sep 11; 7(9):7691-707.
  9. Antimicrobial activity of the bioactive components of essential oils from Pakistani spices against Salmonella and other multi-drug resistant bacteria. Naveed R, Hussain I, Tawab A, Tariq M, Rahman M, Hameed S, Mahmood MS, Siddique AB, Iqbal M. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013 Oct 14; 13():265.
  10. Eikani MH, Golmohammad F, Amoli HS, Sadr ZB. An experimental design approach for pressurized liquid extraction from cardamom seeds. Sep Sci Technol. 2013;48:1194–1200. doi: 10.1080/01496395.2012.734365.
  11. Identification of novel anti-inflammatory agents from Ayurvedic medicine for prevention of chronic diseases: “reverse pharmacology” and “bedside to bench” approach. Aggarwal BB, Prasad S, Reuter S, Kannappan R, Yadev VR, Park B, Kim JH, Gupta SC, Phromnoi K, Sundaram C, Prasad S, Chaturvedi MM, Sung B. Curr Drug Targets. 2011 Oct; 12(11):1595-653.
  12. Sengupta A, Bhattachanjee S, Aggarwal B, Kunnumakkara A. Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) and its active constituent, 1, 8-cineole. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing; 2009.
  13. Role of aberrant crypt foci in understanding the pathogenesis of colon cancer. Bird RP. Cancer Lett. 1995 Jun 29; 93(1):55-71.
  14. Farooq Anwar, Ali Abbas, Khalid M. Alkharfy, Anwar-ul-Hassan Gilani (2015). Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum Maton) Oils. In Victor R. Preedy, (Ed.) (2015) Essential Oils in Food Preservation, Flavor and Safety. Amsterdam: Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-12-416641-7. Chapter 33 (pages 295-301). doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-416641-7.00033-X
  15. Bhaswant M, Poudyal H, Mathai ML, Ward LC, Mouatt P, Brown L. Green and Black Cardamom in a Diet-Induced Rat Model of Metabolic Syndrome. Nutrients. 2015;7(9):7691-7707. doi:10.3390/nu7095360.
  16. Bisht V.K., Negi J.S., Bhandari A.K., Sundriyal R.C. Amomum subulatum Roxb: Traditional, phytochemical and biological activities—An overview. Afr. J. Agric. Res. 2011;6:5386–5390. doi: 10.5897/AJAR11.745.
  17. Gut modulatory, blood pressure lowering, diuretic and sedative activities of cardamom. Gilani AH, Jabeen Q, Khan AU, Shah AJ. J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Feb 12; 115(3):463-72.
  18. Potential health benefits of Indian spices in the symptoms of the metabolic syndrome: a review. Iyer A, Panchal S, Poudyal H, Brown L. Indian J Biochem Biophys. 2009 Dec; 46(6):467-81.
  19. Basic biochemical mechanisms behind the health benefits of polyphenols. Fraga CG, Galleano M, Verstraeten SV, Oteiza PI. Mol Aspects Med. 2010 Dec; 31(6):435-45.
  20. Fatemeh Y, Siassi F, Rahimi A, et al. The effect of cardamom supplementation on serum lipids, glycemic indices and blood pressure in overweight and obese pre-diabetic women: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders. 2017;16:40. doi:10.1186/s40200-017-0320-8.
  21. Verma SK, Jain V, Singh DP. Effect of greater cardamom (Amomum Subulatum Roxb) on blood lipids, fibrinolysis and total antioxidant status in patients with ischemic heart disease. Asian Pac J Trop Dis. 2012;2:739–743. doi: 10.1016/S2222-1808(12)60255-2.
  22. Verma SK, Jain V, Katewa SS. Blood pressure lowering, fibrinolysis enhancing and antioxidant activities of cardamom (Elettaria Cardamomum) Indian J Biochem Biophys. 2009;46:503–506.
  23. Blood pressure lowering, fibrinolysis enhancing and antioxidant activities of cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum). Verma SK, Jain V, Katewa SS. Indian J Biochem Biophys. 2009 Dec; 46(6):503-6.
  24. Sengupta A, Bhattacharjee S. Cardamom (Elettaria Cardamomum) and its active constituent, 1,8-cineole. In: Aggarwal BB, Kunnumakkara AB, editors. Molecular targets and therapeutic uses of spices. New Jersey: World Scientific; 2009. pp. 65–85.
  25. Inhibitory activity of 1,8-cineol (eucalyptol) on cytokine production in cultured human lymphocytes and monocytes. Juergens UR, Engelen T, Racké K, Stöber M, Gillissen A, Vetter H. Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2004; 17(5):281-7.
  26. In vitro polyphenol effects on activity, expression and secretion of pancreatic bile salt-dependent lipase. Sbarra V, Ristorcelli E, Petit-Thévenin JL, Teissedre PL, Lombardo D, Vérine A. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 Sep 5; 1736(1):67-76.
  27. Flavonoids and metabolic syndrome. Galleano M, Calabro V, Prince PD, Litterio MC, Piotrkowski B, Vazquez-Prieto MA, Miatello RM, Oteiza PI, Fraga CG. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2012 Jul; 1259():87-94.
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Diet, Food & FitnessFoods

Black pepper


What is black pepper

Black pepper (Piper nigrum L.) is a flowering vine, an important member of the family Piperaceae, which is cultivated chiefly for its fruit as a major cash crop more than 30 tropical countries of the world, such as Vietnam, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, and Brazil 1. Black pepper is considered as the “king of spice” due to its global trade and widespread use in cooking and the preservation of food and even has medicinal properties 2. Due its medicinal properties, black pepper is used in traditional medicine for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties 3. The black pepper fruit which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning, known as a peppercorn. When fresh and fully mature, it is approximately 5 millimetres (0.20 in) in diameter and dark red, and contains a single seed like all drupes. Peppercorns and the ground pepper derived from them may be described simply as pepper, or more precisely as black pepper (cooked and dried unripe fruit), green pepper (dried unripe fruit), and white pepper (ripe fruit seeds).

Black pepper is native to south India and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions. Currently, Vietnam is the world’s largest producer and exporter of pepper, producing 34% of the world’s black pepper crop as of 2013.

Dried ground pepper has been used since antiquity both for its flavor and as a traditional medicine. Black pepper is the world’s most traded spice and is one of the most common spices added to cuisines around the world. Its spiciness is due to the chemical piperine, not to be confused with the capsaicin characteristic of chili peppers. It is ubiquitous in the modern world as a seasoning and is often paired with salt.

Pepper gets its spicy heat mostly from piperine derived both from the outer fruit and the seed. Black pepper contains between 4.6% and 9.7% piperine by mass, and white pepper slightly more than that. Refined piperine, by weight, is about one percent as hot as the capsaicin found in chili peppers 4. The outer fruit layer, left on black pepper, also contains aroma-contributing terpenes, including germacrene (11%), limonene (10%), pinene (10%), alpha-phellandrene (9%), and beta-caryophyllene (7%) 5, which give citrusy, woody, and floral notes. These scents are mostly missing in white pepper, which is stripped of the fruit layer. White pepper can gain different odors (including musty notes) from its longer fermentation stage. The aroma of pepper is attributed to rotundone (3,4,5,6,7,8-Hexahydro-3α,8α-dimethyl-5α-(1-methylethenyl)azulene-1(2H)-one), a sesquiterpene originally discovered in the tubers of cyperus rotundus, which can be detected in concentrations of 0.4 nanograms/L in water and in wine.

Piperine has already shown in test tube study to have leishmanicidal [killing leishmania parasites] activity 6. Furthermore, secondary metabolites of black pepper possess active compounds with insecticidal activity, antibacterial, antifungal, and others 7.

Figure 1. Black pepper

black pepper

White pepper vs black pepper

Both white and black peppercorns are berries come from the same plant – the piper nigrum plant. The difference between the two is a matter of processing. Black peppercorns are the ones with which most people are familiar and are picked when the berries are close to being ripe. The berries are sun-dried after picking which darkens their outer layer. With white peppercorns, the outer layer of the berry is removed either before or after it is dried so that only the lighter colored inner seed remains. The outer layer can be removed in a couple of ways. For instance, the berry may be soaked in water and this allows the darker-colored skins to fall off. Another way of removing the skin involves washing the skin off with a continuous flow of water. The latter method creates a cleaner final product. Rubbing then removes what remains of the fruit and the naked seed is dried. Sometimes alternative processes are used for removing the outer pepper from the seed, including removing the outer layer through mechanical, chemical, or biological methods. Because its production process involves more steps, white pepper is usually more expensive than black pepper.

When it comes to heat, white pepper wins out as its spiciness is more pronounced when compared to black pepper. However, many food experts believe that the flavor of white pepper is markedly less complex when compared high-quality black pepper. The outer layer found on black pepper contains compounds that add to the complexity of its flavor. The fact that it has the outer layer gives black pepper a greater range of flavor notes including floral and fruit notes.

Ground white pepper is used in Chinese and Thai cuisine, but also in salads, cream sauces, light-colored sauces, and mashed potatoes (where black pepper would visibly stand out). White pepper has a different flavor from black pepper; it lacks certain compounds present in the outer layer of the drupe. However, in many dishes, you can use whichever of the two peppers you want or have available. While it is possible to substitute either peppercorn for the other, it is also important to note that white pepper is often used to preserve a uniform appearance in cream sauces and other lighter colored dishes. In such dishes, it may not be possible to use black pepper as a substitute unless you have no problem with seeing black specks. It is also important to note that because white pepper is spicier than black pepper, it may be necessary to use more black pepper when using it in place of white.

Figure 2. White pepper


Black pepper essential oil

In black pepper essential oil, 42 compounds were identified, comprising 89% of the oil. The essential oil was characterized by the presence of sesquiterpenes (58.9%) and monoterpenes (26.3%). The sesquiterpene β-caryophyllene was identified as the major compound, representing 26.2% of the oil, followed by the monoterpenes hydrocarbons σ-ocymene (5.8%) and α-pinene (5.5%).

The constituents of black pepper essential oils can vary with environmental conditions, such as climate, soil type and brightness. The biological properties of β-caryophyllene have been confirmed in previous studies involving Leptinotarsa decemlineata [the Colorado potato beetle] (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), S. littoralis 8, larvae of Aedes aegypti [larvae of mosquito that can spread dengue fever, chikungunya, Zika fever, Mayaro and yellow fever viruses] 9 and Tetranychus urticae [spider mites] 10. The compound α-pinene has been reported with insecticidal activity in larvae of Culex pipiens [common house mosquito larvae] 11 and as a fumigant against the adult mushroom fly Lycoriella mali (Diptera: Sciaridae) 12. In summary, an appropriately formulated black pepper or derivative product may have potential as a larvicide for mosquitos control.

Table 1. Composition of black pepper oil

ConstituentsPiper nigrum (%)
Monoterpenes hydrocarbons
 σ -Ocymene5.8
 γ – Terpinene0.5
Oxygenated monoterpenes
 Limonene oxide –cis
 Limonene oxide –trans
Sesquiterpene hydrocarbons
 α -Humulene2.9
 9- EPI – (E)-Caryophyllene0.3
 α –Selinene1.1
 Germacrene B0.5
Oxygenated sesquiterpenes
 Bergamotol α-trans
 Caryophyllene oxide4.2
 Neril format
 Neril acetate
 Geranyl acetate
 Guaiol acetate0.7
 Benzil benzoato3
Total identified 89
[Source 13]

Black pepper nutrition facts

One tablespoon (6 grams) of ground black pepper contains moderate amounts of vitamin K (13% of the daily value or DV), iron (10% DV) and manganese (18% DV), with trace amounts of other essential nutrients, protein and dietary fiber.

Table 2. Black pepper nutrition facts

NutrientUnitValue per 100 g
Total lipid (fat)g3.26
Carbohydrate, by differenceg63.95
Fiber, total dietaryg25.3
Sugars, totalg0.64
Glucose (dextrose)g0.24
Calcium, Camg443
Iron, Femg9.71
Magnesium, Mgmg171
Phosphorus, Pmg158
Potassium, Kmg1329
Sodium, Namg20
Zinc, Znmg1.19
Copper, Cumg1.33
Manganese, Mnmg12.753
Selenium, Seµg4.9
Fluoride, Fµg34.2
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg0
Pantothenic acidmg1.399
Vitamin B-6mg0.291
Folate, totalµg17
Folic acidµg0
Folate, foodµg17
Folate, DFEµg17
Choline, totalmg11.3
Vitamin B-12µg0
Vitamin B-12, addedµg0
Vitamin A, RAEµg27
Carotene, betaµg310
Carotene, alphaµg12
Cryptoxanthin, betaµg25
Vitamin A, IUIU547
Lutein + zeaxanthinµg454
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg1.04
Vitamin E, addedmg0
Tocopherol, betamg0
Tocopherol, gammamg6.56
Tocopherol, deltamg0
Vitamin D (D2 + D3)µg0
Vitamin DIU0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)µg163.7
Fatty acids, total saturatedg1.392
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg0.739
16:1 undifferentiatedg0.077
18:1 undifferentiatedg0.647
18:1 cg0.647
18:1 tg0
22:1 undifferentiatedg0
24:1 cg0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg0.998
18:2 undifferentiatedg0.694
18:3 undifferentiatedg0.152
18:3 n-3 c,c,c (ALA)g0.152
18:3 n-6 c,c,cg0
20:2 n-6 c,cg0
20:3 undifferentiatedg0.152
20:4 undifferentiatedg0
20:5 n-3 (EPA)g0
22:5 n-3 (DPA)g0
22:6 n-3 (DHA)g0
Fatty acids, total transg0
Fatty acids, total trans-monoenoicg0
Amino Acids
Aspartic acidg1.413
Glutamic acidg1.413
Alcohol, ethylg0
Proanthocyanidin dimersmg0
Proanthocyanidin trimersmg0
Proanthocyanidin 4-6mersmg0
Proanthocyanidin 7-10mersmg0
Proanthocyanidin polymers (>10mers)mg0
[Source 14]

Black pepper health benefits

Piperine, a major alkaloid of black pepper has been shown to possess analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antioxidant, antidepressant and cognitive-enhancing effects 15. It has been shown that piperine protects against neurodegeneration and cognitive impairment in animal model of cognitive deficit like condition of Alzheimer’s disease 16. Furthermore, in a recent study researchers were able to show that the methanolic extract of black pepper fruits ameliorated Aβ (1–42)-induced spatial memory impairment by attenuation the oxidative stress in the rat hippocampus 17. Moreover, this may be one of the reasons that this extract could also exert anxiolytic and antidepressant activities 18. It has been reported that piperine inhibited monoamine oxidase activity, increased monoamine neurotransmitters levels, and thus produced antidepressant-like activity in various mouse models of behavioral despair 19. The antidepressive effect of piperine has been also observed in mice exposed to chronic mild stress and it was linked to up-regulation of hippocampal progenitor cell proliferation 20. This antidepressant-like effect of piperine in chronically stressed mice was also shown to be mediated by brain-derived neurotrophic factor signaling 21.

  1. Ahmad N, Fazal H, Abbasi BH, Rashid M, Mahmood T, Fatima N. Efficient regeneration and antioxidant potential in regenerated-tissues of Piper nigrum L. Plant Cell Tissue Organ Cult. 2010;102:129–34.
  2. High-throughput sequencing of black pepper root transcriptome. Gordo SM, Pinheiro DG, Moreira EC, Rodrigues SM, Poltronieri MC, de Lemos OF, da Silva IT, Ramos RT, Silva A, Schneider H, Silva WA Jr, Sampaio I, Darnet S. BMC Plant Biol. 2012 Sep 17; 12():168.
  3. Ethanol extracts of black pepper or turmeric down-regulated SIRT1 protein expression in Daudi culture cells. Nishimura Y, Kitagishi Y, Yoshida H, Okumura N, Matsuda S. Mol Med Rep. 2011 Jul-Aug; 4(4):727-30.
  4. Lawless, Harry T.; Heymann, Hildegarde (2010). Sensory Evaluation of Food: Principles and Practices. Springer. pp. 62–3. ISBN 1441964886.
  5. Aroma compound analysis of Piper nigrum and Piper guineense essential oils from Cameroon using solid-phase microextraction-gas chromatography, solid-phase microextraction-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and olfactometry. J Chromatogr A. 2002 Nov 8;976(1-2):265-75.
  6. Leishmanicidal effects of piperine, its derivatives, and analogues on Leishmania amazonensis. Ferreira C, Soares DC, Barreto-Junior CB, Nascimento MT, Freire-de-Lima L, Delorenzi JC, Lima ME, Atella GC, Folly E, Carvalho TM, Saraiva EM, Pinto-da-Silva LH. Phytochemistry. 2011 Dec; 72(17):2155-64.
  7. Ahmad N., Fazal H., Abbasi B. H., Farooq S., Ali M., Khan M. A. Biological role of Piper nigrum L. (Black pepper): A review. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. 2012;2(3):S1945–S1953. doi: 10.1016/S2221-1691(12)60524-3.
  8. Rodilla J. M., Tinoco M. T., Morais J. C., et al. Laurus novocanariensis essential oil: Seasonal variation and valorization. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology. 2008;36(3):167–176. doi: 10.1016/j.bse.2007.09.001.
  9. A study of the larvicidal activity of two Croton species from northeastern Brazil against Aedes aegypti. Dória GA, Silva WJ, Carvalho GA, Alves PB, Cavalcanti SC. Pharm Biol. 2010 Jun; 48(6):615-20.
  10. Acaricidal activity and repellency of essential oil from Piper aduncum and its components against Tetranychus urticae. Araújo MJ, Câmara CA, Born FS, Moraes MM, Badji CA. Exp Appl Acarol. 2012 Jun; 57(2):139-55.
  11. Insecticidal properties of essential plant oils against the mosquito Culex pipiens molestus (Diptera: Culicidae). Traboulsi AF, Taoubi K, el-Haj S, Bessiere JM, Rammal S. Pest Manag Sci. 2002 May; 58(5):491-5.
  12. Choi W.-S., Park B.-S., Lee Y.-H., Jang D. Y., Yoon H. Y., Lee S.-E. Fumigant toxicities of essential oils and monoterpenes against Lycoriella mali adults. Crop Protection. 2006;25(4):398–401. doi: 10.1016/j.cropro.2005.05.009.
  13. Vinturelle R, Mattos C, Meloni J, et al. In Vitro Evaluation of Essential Oils Derived from Piper nigrum (Piperaceae) and Citrus limonum (Rutaceae) against the Tick Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus (Acari: Ixodidae). Biochemistry Research International. 2017;2017:5342947. doi:10.1155/2017/5342947.
  14. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.
  15. Involvement of serotonergic system in the antidepressant-like effect of piperine. Mao QQ, Xian YF, Ip SP, Che CT. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Jun 1; 35(4):1144-7.
  16. Piperine, the main alkaloid of Thai black pepper, protects against neurodegeneration and cognitive impairment in animal model of cognitive deficit like condition of Alzheimer’s disease. Chonpathompikunlert P, Wattanathorn J, Muchimapura S. Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 Mar; 48(3):798-802.
  17. Methanolic extract of Piper nigrum fruits improves memory impairment by decreasing brain oxidative stress in amyloid beta(1-42) rat model of Alzheimer’s disease. Hritcu L, Noumedem JA, Cioanca O, Hancianu M, Kuete V, Mihasan M. Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2014 Apr; 34(3):437-49.
  18. Hritcu L, Noumedem JA, Cioanca O, Hancianu M, Postu P, Mihasan M. Anxiolytic and antidepressant profile of the methanolic extract of Piper nigrum fruits in beta-amyloid (1–42) rat model of Alzheimer’s disease. Behavioral and Brain Functions : BBF. 2015;11:13. doi:10.1186/s12993-015-0059-7.
  19. Piperine from the fruits of Piper longum with inhibitory effect on monoamine oxidase and antidepressant-like activity. Lee SA, Hong SS, Han XH, Hwang JS, Oh GJ, Lee KS, Lee MK, Hwang BY, Ro JS. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2005 Jul; 53(7):832-5.
  20. Antidepressant like effects of piperine in chronic mild stress treated mice and its possible mechanisms. Li S, Wang C, Wang M, Li W, Matsumoto K, Tang Y. Life Sci. 2007 Mar 20; 80(15):1373-81.
  21. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor signalling mediates the antidepressant-like effect of piperine in chronically stressed mice. Mao QQ, Huang Z, Zhong XM, Xian YF, Ip SP. Behav Brain Res. 2014 Mar 15; 261():140-5.
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Diet, Food & FitnessFoods

Black currant

black currant

What is black currant

Black currant (Ribes nigrum L.) is a small, perennial shrub native to central Europe and northern Asia, is cultivated throughout the world, including the United States where it prefers damp fertile soils 1. Black currant is winter hardy, but cold weather at flowering time during the spring reduces the size of the crop. Bunches of small, glossy black fruit develop along the stems in the summer and can be harvested by hand or by machine. The raw fruit is particularly rich in vitamin C and polyphenol phytochemicals. Blackcurrants can be eaten raw but are usually cooked in a variety of sweet or savory dishes. They are used to make jams, jellies and syrups and are grown commercially for the juice market. The fruit is also used in the preparation of alcoholic beverages and both fruit and foliage have uses in traditional medicine and the preparation of dyes.

The fruit of black currants can be eaten raw, but it has a strong, tart flavor. It can be made into jams and jellies which set readily because of the fruit’s high content of pectin and acid. For culinary use, black currant is usually cooked with sugar to produce a purée, which can then be passed through muslin to separate the juice. The purée can be used to make black currant preserves and be included in cheesecakes, yogurt, ice cream, desserts, sorbets and many other sweet dishes. The exceptionally strong flavor can be moderated by combining it with other fruits, such as raspberries and strawberries in summer pudding or apples in crumbles and pies. Black currant juice can be used in syrups and cordials. Black currants are a common ingredient of Rødgrød, a popular kissel-like dessert in North German and Danish cuisines.

Black currants are also used in savory cooking because their astringency creates added flavor in many sauces, meat and other dishes and they are included in some unusual combinations of foods. They can be added to tomato and mint to make a salad, used to accompany roast or grilled lamb, used to accompany seafood and shellfish, used as a dipping sauce at barbecues, blended with mayonnaise, used to invigorate bananas and other tropical fruits, combined with dark chocolate or added to mincemeat in traditional mince pies at Christmas.

Black currant juice

Black currant juice forms the basis for various popular cordials, juice drinks, juices and smoothies. Typically blended with apple or other red fruits, it is also mixed with pomegranate and grape juice. Macerated blackcurrants are also the primary ingredient in the apéritif liqueur crème de cassis, which in turn is added to white wine to produce a Kir or to champagne to make a Kir Royale.

In the United Kingdom, blackcurrant cordial is often mixed with cider (hard cider) to make a drink called “cider and black”. If made with any common British lager beer, it is known as a “lager and black”. The addition of blackcurrant to a mix of cider and lager results in “diesel” or “snakebite and black” available at pubs. A “black ‘n’ black” can be made by adding a small amount of blackcurrant juice to a pint of stout. The head is purple if the shot of juice is placed in the glass first. Blackcurrant juice is sometimes combined with whey in an endurance/energy-type drink.

In Russia, blackcurrant leaves may be used for flavouring tea or preserves, such as salted cucumbers, and berries for home winemaking. Sweetened vodka may also be infused with blackcurrant leaves making a deep greenish-yellow beverage with a tart flavour and astringent taste. The berries may be infused in a similar manner. In Britain, 95% of the blackcurrants grown end up in Ribena (a brand of fruit juice whose name is derived from Ribes nigrum) and similar fruit syrups and juices.

Figure 1. Black currant 

black currant

Black currant nutrition facts

Raw black currants are 82% water, 15% carbohydrates, 1% protein and 0.4% fat (see Table 1). Per 100 g serving providing 63 calories, the raw fruit has high vitamin C content (218% of the Daily Value, DV) and moderate levels of iron and manganese (12% DV each). Other nutrients are present in negligible amounts (less than 10% DV).

Major anthocyanins in blackcurrant pomace are delphinidin-3-O-glucoside, delphinidin-3-O-rutinoside, cyanidin-3-O-glucoside, and cyanidin-3-O-rutinoside, which are retained in the juice concentrate among other yet unidentified polyphenols.

Black currant seed oil is rich in vitamin E and unsaturated fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid and gamma-linolenic acid.

Table 1. Black currant (raw) nutrition facts

NutrientUnitValue per 100 g
Total lipid (fat)g0.41
Carbohydrate, by differenceg15.38
Calcium, Camg55
Iron, Femg1.54
Magnesium, Mgmg24
Phosphorus, Pmg59
Potassium, Kmg322
Sodium, Namg2
Zinc, Znmg0.27
Copper, Cumg0.086
Manganese, Mnmg0.256
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acidmg181
Pantothenic acidmg0.398
Vitamin B-6mg0.066
Vitamin B-12µg0
Vitamin A, RAEµg12
Vitamin A, IUIU230
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)mg1
Fatty acids, total saturatedg0.034
Fatty acids, total monounsaturatedg0.058
16:1 undifferentiatedg0.001
18:1 undifferentiatedg0.056
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturatedg0.179
18:2 undifferentiatedg0.107
18:3 undifferentiatedg0.072
Fatty acids, total transg0
(-)-Epicatechin 3-gallatemg0
(-)-Epigallocatechin 3-gallatemg0
Total isoflavonesmg0.07
Proanthocyanidin dimersmg2.9
Proanthocyanidin trimersmg2.2
Proanthocyanidin 4-6mersmg7.8
Proanthocyanidin 7-10mersmg7.2
Proanthocyanidin polymers (>10mers)mg135.1
[Source 2]

Black currant oil

Blackcurrant seed oil is a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid (omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acid) ~ 17 percent 3 and is typically consumed as a part of a dietary supplement. This gamma-linolenic acid (omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid) is used for prevention and/or treatment of various degenerative pathologies such as osteoporosis 4, diabetes 5 and cancer 6, 7. Additionally, gamma-linolenic acid has been shown to suppress in vitro (test tube) tumor growth 8, improve oxygenation status 9, exert anti-inflammatory activity and display beneficial effects in the early stages of sepsis 10.

Black currant oil benefits

Numerous studies primarily carried out in the 1980s and 1990s demonstrated that gamma-linolenic acid-enriched botanical oils (evening primrose, borage, blackcurrant seed, and fungal-derived) had the capacity to relieve the signs and symptoms of several chronic inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and atopic dermatitis 11. However, several more recent reviews and meta-analyses have questioned these earlier studies and raised doubts about the clinical effectiveness of gamma-linolenic acid-enriched supplements particularly in the context of atopic dermatitis and rheumatoid arthritis 12 (see Table 2). A variety of issues complicate these studies including the fact that many of the trials have: 1) relatively low subject numbers; 2) less than ideal study designs (e.g. the absence of washout period in cross-over design trials); 3) variations in the types of gamma-linolenic acid supplements and how they are administered (e.g. dose, duration); and 4) differences in selection/inclusion criteria (e.g. population demographics and disease states) 13.

Table 2. Effect of gamma-linolenic acid-enriched oil supplements on various human disease from meta-analyses and recent studies

StudyDisease1 and Study
Supplement3location# subjects# studiesdurationoutcomeeffect
Morse et al., 1989 14Atoptic dermatitis
(CO, parallel)
UK, Italy,
3119 (EPO)4, 8, or
12 wk
Severity of
reduced severity of
Van Gool et al., 2004 15Atoptic dermatitis
Italy, UK,
107122 (total)
BO (6)
EPO (12)
BCO ( 1)
3–24wkSeverity of
no effect
Bamford et al., 2013 12Eczema (AE, AD, AEDS)
adult, children (RCTs)
EPO, BOUK, Italy,
India, NZ,
159627 (total)
19 (EPO)
8 (BO)
3–24wkSeverity of
no effect
Morse and Clough, 2006 16Atopic eczemaEPO
1207264–8wksSeverity of
reduced severity of
Fiocchi et al., 1994 17Atoptic dermatitis,
3g oil/d
Italy10na4wkLesion number;

Severity of

decrease number
reduced severity of
van Gool et al., 2003 18Atoptic dermatitis,
infants (RCT)
BO, 100mg/dNetherlands118na6moIncidence in 1st yr;
Severity of
no prevention benefit;
reduced severity of
symptoms (trend)
Kitz et al., 2006 19Atoptic dermatitis, infantsGLA,
Germany131na6 moPreventionno effect
Kawamura et al., 2011 20Atoptic dermatitis,
200mg/d, oil
in food
Japan130na16wkTrans-water loss;
Nocturnal itching
no effect;
Simon et al., 2014 21Atoptic dermatitis,
children and adult (open
study, non-controlled)
EPA, 4–6g
Switzerland21na12wkSCORAD4 indexplasma GLA content
correlates with
Cameron et al., 2011 22
Macfarlane et al., 2011 23
Rheumatoid arthritis
(RCT, parallel, placebo
UK, USA286 (total)
>90 (in 3
22 (total)
EPO (2)
BCO (1)
6moMorning stiffness;
decreased (2 of 3);
no effect
Cameron et al., 2011 22
Macfarlane et al., 2011 23
Rheumatoid arthritis1400-
USA, Finland>111EPO (1)
BO (2)
BCO (1)
Morning stiffness;
Joint tenderness;
Joint swelling;
Arm et al., 2013 24Mild asthma, adults
(ex vivo)
>50% decrease
(basophil response);
>35% decrease
(neutrophil response)
Ziboh et al., 2004 25Mild asthma, adults
BO (2g
(ex vivo);
Peak flow
>20% decrease
no effect
1AD, atopic dermatitis; AE, atopic eczema; AEDS, atopic eczema/dermatitis syndrome;
2RCT, randomized clinical trial; CO crossover; CCT, controlled clinical trial
3BO, borage oil: BCO. Blackcurrant oil; EPO, evening primrose oil; EO, echium oil; GLA, gamma-linolenic acid; SDA, stearidonic acid
4SCORAD, SCOing Atopic Dermatitis
[Source 26]

Several studies have also investigated the effects of gamma-linolenic acid when given in combination with botanical or marine omega-3 (n-3) enriched PUFA supplements. Enteral diets enriched with marine oils containing omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (i.e. eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA, 20:5n-3] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA, 22:6n-3]) and gamma-linolenic acid have been shown to reduce cytokine production and neutrophil recruitment into the lung resulting in fewer days on ventilation and shorter stays in the intensive care unit in patients with acute lung injury or acute respiratory distress syndrome 27. Importantly, these dietary combinations of gamma-linolenic acid and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids were also shown to reduce both morbidity and mortality of critically ill patients 27. However, as with the studies of gamma-linolenic acid alone, the results combining gamma-linolenic acid and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have not been reproducible. Other clinical studies, such as the OMEGA trial, did not show a benefit of these gamma-linolenic acid/omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid combinations on patient outcomes 28.

Supplementation strategies providing gamma-linolenic acid together with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (i.e. EPA and DHA) have also been utilized in patients with atopic asthma 29 and have been shown to block ex vivo synthesis of leukotrienes from whole blood and isolated neutrophils. Importantly when provided as an emulsion, daily consumption of these combinations was associated with an improved quality of life in asthma patients and a decreased reliance on rescue medication 29. These results compared favorably with quality of life scores obtained in mild asthmatics treated with montelukast or zafirlukast 30.

Alternatively, botanical oil combinations (e.g. borage and echium oils) containing gamma-linolenic acid, the n-3 18C-PUFAs, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, 18:3n-3) and stearidonic acid (SDA, 18:4n-3), have been shown to reduce leukotriene generation and forced expiratory volume in mild asthmatics 31, improve glucose tolerance in insulin-resistant monkeys 32 and reduce total and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels in patients with diabetes and metabolic syndrome 33. These botanical oil studies, however, have yet to be replicated in larger human clinical trials.

Together, these data indicate that the outcomes of clinical studies utilizing gamma-linolenic acid supplementation, alone or in combination with other fatty acid-based supplements, while promising are highly inconsistent. More recent studies suggest that there are important metabolic and genetic factors within the human host that significantly impact the study of gamma-linolenic acid or gamma-linolenic acid/omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids combinations and reveal that a “one size fits all” model of supplementation may not be appropriate. Furthermore, these studies suggest that it may be necessary to better understand key metabolic and genetic issues regarding gamma-linolenic acid metabolism before gamma-linolenic acid-enriched supplements can be effectively used to address human disease.

Black currant benefits

In addition to its anecdotal use in traditional herbal medicine, modern laboratories have demonstrated the potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial effects of black currant constituents on a myriad of disease states. Various reports also describe the beneficial functions of black currant for human health, vasodilatation 34, eyestrain 35 and as an antivirus agent 36. These properties are mainly due to the anthocyanins (specifically delphinidin-3-O-glucoside, delphinidin-3-O-rutinoside, cyanidin-3-O-glucoside and cyanidin-3-O-rutinoside), flavonols, phenolic acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids in black currant. In previous studies, researchers found immunostimulating effects of a polysaccharide, which called cassis polysaccharide, derived from black currant 37 and its antitumor activity and ability to induce tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) production in a mouse study 37. Scientists also found that cassis polysaccharide has an effect on macrophage activation in in vitro (test tube) experiments 37.

Anthocyanins are effective antioxidants 38 but they have also been proposed to have other biological activities that are independent of their antioxidative capacities and produce health benefits. Examples range from inhibition of cancer cell growth in vitro 39, induction of insulin production in isolated pancreatic cells 40, reduction of starch digestion through inhibition of a-glucosidase activity 41, suppression of inflammatory responses 42, slow down patient’s glaucoma progression 43, as well as protection against age-related declines in cognitive behavior and neuronal dysfunction in the central nervous system 44.

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  10. Enteral nutrition with eicosapentaenoic acid, γ-linolenic acid and antioxidants in the early treatment of sepsis: results from a multicenter, prospective, randomized, double-blinded, controlled study: the INTERSEPT study. Pontes-Arruda A, Martins LF, de Lima SM, Isola AM, Toledo D, Rezende E, Maia M, Magnan GB, Investigating Nutritional Therapy with EPA, GLA and Antioxidants Role in Sepsis Treatment (INTERSEPT) Study Group. Crit Care. 2011 Jun 9; 15(3):R144.
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  19. Kitz RJ, et al. Impact of early dietary gamma-linolenic acid supplementation on atopic eczema in infancy. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2006;17:112–117.
  20. Kawamura A, et al. Dietary supplementation of gamma-linolenic acid improves skin parameters in subjects with dry skin and mild atopic dermatitis. J Oleo Sci. 2011;60:597–607.
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  34. Endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation induced by black currant concentrate in rat thoracic aorta. Nakamura Y, Matsumoto H, Todoki K. Jpn J Pharmacol. 2002 May; 89(1):29-35.
  35. Differential effects of black currant anthocyanins on diffuser- or negative lens-induced ocular elongation in chicks. Iida H, Nakamura Y, Matsumoto H, Kawahata K, Koga J, Katsumi O. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther. 2013 Jul-Aug; 29(6):604-9.
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