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Fenugreek seed extracts show antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential

By Nathan Gray , 13-Dec-2011

The functional compounds that make up fenugreek spice seeds may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits akin to those suggested by traditional medicine, say researchers.

Writing in the journal Food Chemistry, researchers investigated the qualities of fenugreek seeds for their potential use in functional foods by determining its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.

The team, led by Muraleedharan Nair of Michigan State University, USA, and King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, reported that they are the first to extract and isolate beneficial compounds from fenugreek seeds – showing that certain compounds, including fatty acids and flavonoids, have anti-inflammatory properties.

“Our report on the chemistry and biological activity on fenugreek seed extract and isolates is novel,” said the researchers – noting that the seed extract and isolates found by the team “demonstrated antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.”

The team also suggested that polysaccharides found in fenugreek seed “may ameliorate type-2 diabetes.”

Fenugreek

The authors noted that the seeds of the fenugreek plant (Trigonella foenum-graecum) are widely used in the preparation of food seasonings, pickles, and curry powders – in addition to their use in dietary supplements, where the researchers claim the seeds are “one of the leading functional foods with health-beneficial claims.”

Fenugreek seeds also have a long history of use in traditional medicines, where they are said to relieve the common cold, arthritic pain and high blood sugar.

Study details

The team identified and extracted 11 compounds from fenugreek seeds, reporting that the seeds contained 3.9 grams of triglycerides and fatty acids, 6 grams of polysaccharides and 233 miligrams of flavone C-glycosides per 100 grams of seeds.

Nair and his colleagues then tested the 11 compounds to assess the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of each compound.

They used lipid peroxidation (LPO) and cyclooxyganase enzyme (COX) inhibitory activities to assess the potential for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.

The team reported that water extracts and flavonoids from fenugreek showed high antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties, whilst other compounds were found to have weak antioxidant potential.

“The water extracts and flavonoids showed the strongest LPO inhibitory activity. Amongst these flavonoids, there were no significant differences in their radical scavenging potential, as indicated by the LPO inhibitory results. Triglycerides, fatty acids and polysaccharides showed weak LPO inhibition,” explained Nair and his team.

As a result, they concluded that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities shown by isolates from fenugreek seeds “support its anecdotal health claims.”

“Although fenugreek seeds contain these bioactive constituents, the daily effective dose of these seeds for potential health-benefits needs to be investigated,” they added.