Open Sesame: Two Huge Uses for the Tiny Seed
Lots of seeds get lots of attention. Sesame seeds, though, are seldom in the spotlight. It’s time to move the spotlight. Check out these incredible studies on sesame seed.
It seems that scientists have paid more attention to the tiny sesame seed than everyone else. For some reason, their important findings have not gotten through. Maybe it’s time for it to get through. Open sesame!
Sesame seeds are remarkable for your heart. One study split type 2 diabetics into two groups. One group ate their regular breakfast; the other added 2 tablespoons of tahini, or sesame paste, to their breakfast. After only 6 weeks, there was a significant decline in triglycerides in the tahini group. There was also a slight decrease in total cholesterol and the harmful LDL cholesterol, while the heart healthy HDL cholesterol increased slightly: all good news. But, perhaps, the best news is that there was a significant 39% decrease on the atherogenic index of plasma (AIP). The AIP is a strong marker for predicting the risk of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. That means sesame paste significantly reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease (Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2013 Apr;20(2):202-8).
And that’s not the only study to show sesame seeds protect your heart. When postmenopausal women were given either a placebo powder or 50g, or about 3 tablespoons, of ground toasted sesame seeds a day for 5 weeks, there were no changes in the placebo group. Not so for the sesame group. Their LDL cholesterol went down by 10%, their vitamin E levels went up and they had slower oxidation of LDL cholesterol, an important factor in preventing heart disease (Journal of Nutrition 2006;136:1270-5).
When people with high blood pressure and diabetes used sesame oil instead of other cooking oils for 45 days in an unblinded study, their systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased “remarkably.” When they went back to their regular oil, they went right back up. The sesame seed oil also reduced weight, BMI and waist to hip ratio. Total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides all went down as did blood sugar and HbA1c, the most important marker of long term blood sugar and diabetes control. Markers of free radical damage to cholesterol were reduced while antioxidant activity was increased (J Med Food. 2006;9(3):408-12).
But that’s not all. Sesame seeds are also potent for pain. When 50 people with osteoarthritis in their knee received either standard drug treatment or the same treatment plus 40g (about 4 tablespoons) of sesame for 2 months, there was significantly greater improvement in the sesame group (Int J Rheum Dis. 2013 Oct;16(5):578-82).
A new study that was controlled, but not blinded, compared a combination of black sesame extract oil, turmeric and boswellia to acetaminophen in people with acute musculoskeletal pain. Musculoskeletal pain includes lower back pain, neck pain and arthritis. Six hours after taking either treatment, there was a positive response in 66% of the herb group and 73% of the drug group. When they had their pain measured 3 and 7 days later, there was significant improvement in both groups and the improvement was comparable. According to the McGill Pain Questionnaire the pain relief in both groups was significant and equal no matter how bad the original pain was.
But here’s the interesting part that we usually don’t consider when talking about pain killers. The combination of black sesame oil, turmeric and boswellia was a significant 8.57 times better than acetaminophen in improving the “unpleasantness and emotional aspects” of acute pain (Medicine (Baltimore) 2020;99(28):e20373).
So, maybe it’s time to pay larger attention to the tiny sesame seed!