Everyday foods found to have potent anti-inflammatory properties

Everyday foods found to have potent anti-inflammatory properties

Researchers discover strong anti-inflammatory properties in cinnamon, sweet potato and mushrooms.

An international team of scientists has found a handful of common foods such as cinnamon, sweet potato and oregano to have powerful and previously unreported anti-inflammatory properties.

The study, recently published in the European Journal of Nutrition, screened 115 dietary plants and mushrooms for in vitro anti-inflammatory activities.

“Of the foods we tested, onion, oregano, red sweet potato, oyster mushroom and cinnamon had the most significant anti-inflammatory properties. However we also found potent anti-inflammatory activity in lime zest, English breakfast tea, honey-brown mushroom, button mushroom, oyster mushroom, and cloves,” co-author of the study, Dr Lezanne Ooi said.

The study also found that cooking had virtually no effect on the anti-inflammatory activity of these foods.

Dr Ooi, a neuroscientist and regenerative medicine expert who holds dual roles at the University of Wollongong’s School of Biological Sciences and the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, said these foods could aid in the prevention of a variety of age-related diseases. She also noted that a further study (published in Food Chemistry on 1 April) examining the anti-inflammatory properties of different types of mushrooms, revealed that raw oyster, shiitake and enoki mushrooms had significant anti-inflammatory potential.

“There is increasing evidence to suggest that systemic low-grade inflammation is a contributing factor in age-related diseases, such as diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease and inflammatory bowel disease.”

Dr Ooi said herbal medicines derived from plants rich in the secondary metabolite salicylic acid, such as the bark of the willow tree, have been used for the treatment of pains and fevers for thousands of years.

“Until now, very few studies have attempted a systematic comparison of a large number of commercially available plant and mushroom foods in search of those with the highest degree of anti-inflammatory activities,” she said.

Dr Ooi and her colleagues are now looking at extracting the anti-inflammatory ingredients in these foods and studying how they work in the hope that they can be used to create new medications to treat a number of inflammatory and age-related conditions. 

Media contact: Dr Lezanne Ooi is available for interview. Please contact Elise Pitt, Media & PR Officer at the University of Wollongong, on +61 2 4221 3079, +61 422 959 953 or epitt@uow.edu.au