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Here are five compelling, science-based reasons why your diet shouldn't miss out on sesame seeds -- be they roasted, soaked or sprouted -- beyond the occasional sprinkling and added texture on your burger bun
In Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, the legendary phrase "open sesame" opens the mouth of a cave where a treasure lies hidden. Besides actually being derived from the plant, the phrase applies to sesame in the modern world, revealing a world of benefits for human health and well-being.
The presence of lignans, as well as tocopherols and phytosterols, protects against reactive oxygen species as well as keeps the oil from easily becoming rancid. In fact, sesame has earned the title "Queen of Oilseeds" because it is highly resistant to oxidation and rancidity.
Sesame seed in particular boasts of excellent nutritional value, including high protein, vitamin B1 and dietary fiber content.[ii] Southern Indian cuisine relies on sesame oil for cooking, just like Chinese cuisine where it was the only cooking oil until fairly recently.
The seed can be consumed raw or roasted. Here are five reasons to consume sesame seeds and make them a part of your regular diet.
1. Lowers High Blood Pressure
Sesame seeds are chock full of magnesium, which may assist in helping blood pressure.[iii] A 2017 study showed that sesame consumption can reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure, potentially owing to its high polyunsaturated fatty acids, fiber, phytosterol and lignan content.[iv] High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, myocardial infarction, stroke and renal failure.
In a separate study, subjects with high blood pressure ate 2.5 grams (g) of powdered black sesame seeds in capsules every day.[v] At the end of four weeks, they had significantly decreased systolic blood pressure, suggesting potential anti-hypertensive effects via improving antioxidant status and decreasing oxidant stress.
2. Reduces Inflammation
A separate study also found that orally supplementing with sesamol and sesamin, compounds in sesame seeds and their oil, controlled inflammatory and oxidative stress markers in animal models.[viii] The team advocated the use of the two components as an adjunct therapy where both inflammatory conditions and oxidative stress are a concern.
3. Soothes Knee Arthritis
Osteoarthritis is the most common culprit behind joint pain, frequently affecting the knees. Arthritis may be various factors coming together, such as inflammation and oxidative damage to the cartilage tasked with cushioning the joints.[ix]
In a study out of Tabriz University of Medical Sciences in Iran, researchers evaluated the effects of sesame seed supplement on clinical signs in knee osteoarthritis patients.[x] They divided 50 subjects with knee osteoarthritis into two groups, with one group receiving 40 g of sesame seed daily for two months along with standard drug treatment and the other getting 40 g of placebo powder along with standard medical therapy.
At the end of the trial, the sesame seed group showed significant decreases in markers of inflammation and oxidative stress. The researchers suggested sesame may benefit knee osteoarthritis patients and offer complementary treatment in this cohort. In separate research, sesamin was found to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action, potentially protecting your cartilage.[xi]
4. Addresses Type 2 Diabetes and Its Deleterious Effects
Growing evidence shows that sesame seeds may help protect against diabetes. Here are some relevant studies:
- Sesame seed paste may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in Type 2 diabetics[xii]
- White sesame seed oil mitigates blood glucose levels, slashes oxidative stress and enhances biomarkers of blood and renal function in Type 2 diabetes patients[xiii]
- It may work synergistically with antidiabetes medication glibenclamide in helping Type 2 diabetes patients and improving hyperglycemia[xiv]
- Sesamol has favorable effects against diabetes-associated cognitive decline in animal models, with chronic treatment significantly reducing acetylcholinesterase, oxidative stress and inflammation[xv]
- Sesamol helps suppress neuropathic pain linked to diabetes, mainly through mechanisms such as modulating oxidative stress and inflammatory cytokine release in diabetic animal subjects[xvi]
5. Promotes Hormone Balance During Menopause
Sesame seeds are a rich source of phytoestrogens or plant compounds similar to estrogen, potentially benefiting women in menopause, whose estrogen levels drop.[xvii] This makes them likely helpful for women at this life stage; phytoestrogens, for instance, may help control hot flashes and other signs of low estrogen.[xviii]
These compounds may also assist in pushing down the risk of cancer during menopause, such as breast cancer.[xix],[xx] You can learn more about the impressive health benefits of sesame seeds on the GreenMedInfo.com database.
[i] Pathak N et al "Value addition in sesame: A perspective on bioactive components for enhancing utility and profitability" Pharmacogn Rev. 2014 Jul-Dec; 8(16): 147-155.
[ii] Pathak N et al "Value addition in sesame: A perspective on bioactive components for enhancing utility and profitability" Pharmacogn Rev. 2014 Jul-Dec; 8(16): 147-155.
[iii] Schutten J et al "Magnesium and Blood Pressure: A Physiology-Based Approach" Adv Chronic K. 2018 May;25(3):244-250.
[iv] Khosravi-Boroujeni H et al "Can sesame consumption improve blood pressure? A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials" J Sci Food Agric. 2017 Aug ;97(10):3087-3094. Epub 2017 May 12.
[v] Wichitsranoi J et al "Antihypertensive and antioxidant effects of dietary black sesame meal in pre-hypertensive humans" Nutr J. 2011 Aug 9;10:82.
[vi] Narasimhulu C et al "Anti-atherosclerotic and anti-inflammatory actions of sesame oil" J Med Food. 2015 Jan ;18(1):11-20.
[vii] Ostovan M et al "The Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Pistacia Lentiscus in a Rat Model of Colitis" J Inflamm Res. 2020 ;13:369-376. Epub 2020 Jul 22.
[viii] Yashaswini P et al "In vivo modulation of LPS induced leukotrienes generation and oxidative stress by sesame lignans" J Nutr Biochem. 2017 Mar ;41:151-157. Epub 2016 Dec 29.
[ix] Haghighian M et al "Effects of sesame seed supplementation on inflammatory factors and oxidative stress biomarkers in patients with knee osteoarthritis" Acta Med Iran. 2015;53(4):207-13.
[x] Haghighian M et al "Effects of sesame seed supplementation on inflammatory factors and oxidative stress biomarkers in patients with knee osteoarthritis" Acta Med Iran. 2015;53(4):207-13.
[xi] Phitak T et al "Chondroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects of sesamin" Phytochemistry. 2012 Aug;80:77-88.
[xiii] Aslam F et al "White Sesame Seed Oil Mitigates Blood Glucose Level, Reduces Oxidative Stress, and Improves Biomarkers of Hepatic and Renal Function in Participants with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus" J Am Coll Nutr. 2019 Mar-Apr;38(3):235-246. Epub 2018 Sep 27.
[xiv] Sankar D et al "Sesame oil exhibits synergistic effect with anti-diabetic medication in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus" Clin Nutr. 2011 Jun ;30(3):351-8. Epub 2010 Dec 16.
[xv] Kuhad A et al "Effect of sesamol on diabetes-associated cognitive decline in rats" Exp Brain Res. 2008 Mar ;185(3):411-20. Epub 2007 Oct 23.
[xvi] Chopra K et al "Sesamol suppresses neuro-inflammatory cascade in experimental model of diabetic neuropathy" J Pain. 2010 Oct ;11(10):950-7. Epub 2010 Apr 24.
[xvii] Penalvo J et al "Dietary sesamin is converted to enterolactone in humans" J Nutr. 2005 May;135(5):1056-62.
[xviii] Bedell S et al "The pros and cons of plant estrogens for menopause" J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2014 Jan;139:225-36. Epub 2012 Dec 25.
[xix] Sacco S et al "Interaction of sesame seed and tamoxifen on tumor growth and bone health in athymic mice" Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2007 Jun;232(6):754-61.
[xx] Sacco S et al "Lignan-rich sesame seed negates the tumor-inhibitory effect of tamoxifen but maintains bone health in a postmenopausal athymic mouse model with estrogen-responsive breast tumors" Menopause. Jan-Feb 2008;15(1):171-9.