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In vitro, in vivo and ex vivo investigations of the anti-inflammatory properties of culinary herbs when combined with non-herb foods

Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing

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Dr E Opara , Dr M Stolinski , Dr Athina-Myrto Chioni Applications accepted all year round

About the Project

Culinary herbs are foods rich in polyphenols and a significant body of work has reported on their (the foods) many properties as a consequence of these compounds. Primary among this list of properties is their ability to protect against as well as combat inflammation. Such reported effects have resulted in these foods being lauded as important in conferring protection against chronic non-communicable diseases in which chronic inflammation plays a key role. However, their true impact is unclear and the main reason for this lack of clarity relates to what form and how these foods have been investigated. Despite the fact that almost all herbs are cooked prior to consumption and then ingested, much of the research in this area is focussed on uncooked herbs that have not undergone digestion. Furthermore, the possible influence of the amount of herb used (which is predictably much lower than for other plant derived foods known for their protective properties) on their bioactive properties has only fleetingly been considered.

Research over the last decade has begun to question how these foods behave in a ‘real world’ context and this approach has resulted in gaining knowledge and understanding of how cooking and/or digestion, or consumption of amounts commonly consumed impact of the bioactive properties of these foods. However, culinary herbs are also mainly consumed as part of a meal yet, compared to work done on the effects of herbs on their own, there has been little on the impact of combining culinary herbs, and also combining them with other foods. Furthermore, of those that have been carried out the results are varied with the literature indicating that there are multiple reasons for these differences – the complexities of the matrices that result from these combination (which will affect the number and amount of the individual foods and also concentrations of their (the matrices) constituents), the type of processes the food combinations have undergone and the methods used to measure the activity of interest. Therefore, to gain further knowledge and understanding of the significance of culinary herbs in the context of their beneficial effects, the aim of this project is to investigate how combining culinary herbs with non-herb foods affects the anti-inflammatory properties of the former in vitro and in vivo and ex vivo.

The project will provide the student with the opportunity to work in the relatively new and growing area of food synergy, develop a range of techniques, with which members of the supervisory team have extensive experience (including 3D cell culture, western blotting and ELISAs, FACS and IncuCyte analyses), and also gain experience designing and implementing a small human study.

Funding Notes

There is no funding for this project: applications can only be accepted from self-funded candidates


Li, Z, Henning, SM, Zhang, Y, Zerlin, A, Li, L, et al. (2010) Antioxidant-rich spice added to hamburger meat during cooking results in reduced meat, plasma, and urine malondialdehyde concentrations. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91: 1180–1184.

Opara, EI. and Chohan, M (2014) Culinary herbs and spices: their bioactive properties, the contribution of polyphenols and the challenges in deducing their true health benefits. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 15(10): 19183-19202.

Percival, SS, Vanden-Heuvel, JP., Nieves, CJ., Montero, C., Migliaccio, AJ., Meadors, J. (2012) Bioavailability of herbs and spices in humas as determined by ex vivo inflammatory suppression and DNA strand breaks. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 31: 288-294

Tapsell. LC, Hemphill, I, Cobiac, L, Sullivan, DR, Fenech, M, et al. (2006) Health benefits of herbs and spices: The past, the present, the future. Medical Journal of Australia 185: S1–S24.

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