- Unexpected Finding Shows Chili Powder, Pepper and Turmeric
Prevent Destruction of E. coli in Tests
- Researchers in India say that some common spices "
red chili powder, black pepper and turmeric " can actually prevent
bacteria such as E. coli from being destroyed by irradiation. On the plus
side, however, the researchers believe their findings indicate that spice
extracts could be used to protect healthy tissue in people undergoing radiation
- The research, conducted at the Bhabha Atomic Research
Centre in Mumbai, India, is reported in the current print issue (April
17) of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed
monthly publication of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest
- The finding that the spices protect some bacteria against
irradiation was "contrary to expectations, according to the article.
"The observed protection of microbes may essentially be due to the
protection of their DNA by the constituents of spices, say the researchers.
Chili offered the highest level of protection' followed by black pepper
- Besides the unexpected finding of the spices, ability
to shield bacteria from irradiation' the test-tube study also "draws
attention to the radioprotective effect of spices, says lead researcher
Arun Sharma, Ph.D.
- "Spices potentially can offer protection to organisms
against the damaging effects of gamma radiation' and also offer hope for
the development of better radioprotective agents, claims Sharma.
- Two antioxidants in black pepper and turmeric "
piperine and curcumin " were found to help protect the bacteria's
DNA from damage by irradiation during the study. "However, the article
notes, "these compounds may not be the sole protecting agents present
- The findings from the study are not a cause for concern'
says Shamra. The irradiation doses routinely used to process prepared foods
are high enough to kill any E. coli, he points out.
- Several other food constituents - including some proteins,
fats and carbohydrates - also are known to protect microorganisms from
decontamination by irradiation' as well as by heat and chemicals, says
- The researchers evaluated the spices against two microorganisms
during the study: Escherichia coli and Bacillus megaterium.
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