January 8/Lansing, Mich./Lansing State Journal -- Dr. Bharat Aggarwal, an oncologist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas is one of the leading researchers in the world looking at the health impact of spices and herbs. In many recent scientific publications and studies, he and his colleagues have uncovered the health benefits of these food ingredients and shown how they may prevent and even help treat a wide array of chronic diseases including cancer.

One of the powerful ways that spices and herbs exert their protective effect in the body is by inactivating a protein complex in cells that's known as NF Kappa B.

NF Kappa B acts like a master control switch for inflammation and cell growth. When  activated, it turns on hundreds of genes that are involved in abnormal cell growth and inflammation; this can allow a cancer cell to continue growing or it can promote ongoing inflammatory responses in the body that can fuel chronic disease.

Blocking NF kappa B can reduce cancer cell growth, or even allow cancer cells to respond better to chemotherapy drugs. Blocking this protein can also reduce the inflammation that leads to a number of chronic diseases including coronary artery disease, Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.

Populations that consume lots of these spices seem to have less chronic disease than consumers in the United States. For example, in India turmeric is frequently consumed in curries. Turmeric contains the phytochemical curcumin, and curcumin is a particularly powerful inhibitor of NF Kappa B.

In India, Alzheimer's disease is far less common than it is in the U.S., and scientists suspect the frequent consumption of turmeric has resulted in this difference.

In addition to turmeric, beneficial spices include mint, rosemary, garlic, basil, ginger, fenugreek, cumin, cloves, coriander, cinnamon, black pepper, and red chili pepper.

Scientists are still trying to determine which of these spices could be useful to prevent or treat disease.

 From the January 9, 2012, Prepared Foods' Daily News.