Herbs and spices are essential additions to any culinary dish. Few companies know this better than McCormick & Company, of Sparks, MD. The company recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of its McCormick Science Institute (MSI), a research organization dedicated to advancing scientific knowledge of the potential health benefits of culinary spices and herbs.
Working with nutrition scientists and a 13-member Scientific Advisory Council made up of some of the world’s most renowned nutrition and wellness experts, MSI funds independent studies in five areas related to spices and herbs: antioxidants and phytonutrients, anti-inflammatory properties, weight management, cardiovascular health and overall wellness, including cognitive performance. The studies have been designed and implemented at universities including UCLA, Johns Hopkins, the University of Georgia, Penn State and Purdue.
Over the past five years, MSI has supported 17 studies investigating the health benefits of a variety of culinary spices and herbs, ranging from in vitro and ex vivo experiments, studies on analytical methodology and/or determinations, observational studies and IRB-approved experiments with human subjects.
Several studies funded by MSI have provided new insights on the specific benefits of a variety of herbs and spices, including red pepper’s positive impact on weight management; ginger’s reduction of muscle pain after exercise; high antioxidant spices and heart health measures including improved arterial function and lower blood triglycerides; and antioxidant-rich spices and total antioxidant capacity of the blood.
At present, Johns Hopkins University is hosting a McCormick-funded MSI research endeavor that includes an investigation into whether herbs and spices can help consumers adhere to a low-sodium diet. Another study underway at the University of Georgia was designed to see if black pepper and rosemary give people more mental energy.
MSI sponsors annual research awards at the American Dietetic Association and the American Society of Nutrition. The Institute also provides standardized spices on a complimentary basis to qualified researchers studying healthy humans.
“People have long known about the healthful properties of natural spices and herbs, and now there is growing scientific evidence about their multiple benefits,” said Dr. Hamed Faridi, chief science officer at McCormick. “This field of study is more relevant than ever as scientists continue to discover the unique compounds in plant-foods that hold tremendous potential to enhance the quality of our diets and protect our health.”
Dr. Faridi, a 14-year veteran of McCormick recently promoted to the newly created position of chief science officer, also oversees McCormick’s Technical Innovation Center (TIC) and its 12 strategically located technical facilities around the globe.
“The research conducted through the McCormick Science Institute underscores McCormick’s commitment to exploring ways that flavors can be used to create and inspire more healthful eating options,” commented Alan Wilson, chairman, president, and CEO of McCormick & Company. “We already have data that support the positive link between certain herbs and spices and healthy living, and we look forward to additional findings funded by MSI in the years to come.”
In addition to investing in original scientific research, the MSI is also committed to educating consumers, nutritionists and dietitians about the health benefits of spices and herbs through an extensive online education center at www.McCormickScienceInstitute.com. There is also a consumer-friendly component of the website that offers healthy recipes, meal ideas and tips on how to use spices and herbs to enforce dietary guidelines, such as low-fat and low-sodium meals.