Q. You often suggest anti-inflammatory foods as alternatives to pharmacy pain relievers. Why not consider sesame? An ingredient in this seed, sesamin, blocks the inflammatory activity of insulin.
A. Thank you for the suggestion (and the further details below). Although we have been collecting home remedies for decades, we have not encountered any using sesame seeds. That said, we just discovered a clinical trial comparing ground sesame seed to acetaminophen (APAP, Tylenol) for knee arthritis (International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases, Oct., 2013).
The researchers divided 50 people with arthritic knee pain into two groups. One received 2,000 mg of APAP and 500 mg glucosamine daily while the other got 40 grams of sesame daily. After two months, those who had taken the sesame seed had significantly less pain and better function than those taking the drug. (Some people may wonder how to measure out 40 grams of ground sesame seeds. This comes to approximately 4 tablespoons, if you don’t have a kitchen scale.) Other scientists have found that sesamin has a beneficial effect on cartilage (Glycoconjugate Journal, online, Dec. 12, 2013).
You explained the mechanism for sesame seed thus: “Part of insulin’s effect on fatty acid metabolism is to hijack prostaglandin 1 (PG1) and turn it into prostaglandin 2 (PG2). Sesamin from sesame seeds blocks this process. So it is beneficial in insulin resistant people but will have a lesser benefit for people with normal insulin.
“Of course, PG1 decreases platelet aggregation, decreases inflammation, decreases blood pressure, decreases cholesterol and increases Natural Killer cell activity. PG2 does just the opposite.”
Your reasoning might explain why elevated insulin levels, such as occur in pre-diabetes and type-2 diabetes, could have a pro-inflammatory effect. This might also explain why excess fat tissue seems to stir up whole-body inflammation.
We discuss many other foods and food products that fight inflammation naturally in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. It reviews many of our favorite foods as well as home remedies.