A compound commonly found in pickled capers has been shown to activate proteins required for normal human brain and heart activity, and may even lead to future therapies for epilepsy and abnormal heart rhythms.

A compound named quercetin, commonly consumed when eating capers, can directly regulate proteins required for bodily processes such as the heartbeat, thought, muscular contraction, and normal functioning of the thyroid, pancreas and gastrointestinal tract, researchers from the University of California said in a paper published in the journal Communications Biology.

The lab of Dr. Geoffrey Abbott found that quercetin, a plant-derived bioflavonoid, modulates potassium in the KCNQ gene family. Potassium channels are important in human health and their dysfunction is linked to diabetes, cardiac arrhythmia, and epilepsy.

“Now that we understand how quercetin controls KCNQ channels,” said Abbott, “future medicinal chemistry studies can be pursued to create and optimize [potential therapeutic drugs].”


Capers are the flower buds of a wild bush, and can lend serious flavor power to your cooking.

Thousands of years ago people of the Mediterranean realized that if they picked the buds of the caper bush before they opened, they could pickle them and use them to add a deliciously pungent flavor to their cooking.

Pickling is key – fresh caper buds are insanely bitter. But once those buds have been dried in the sun and packed in brine, vinegar or dry salt (brining is the most common method today), the bitterness dissipates and the tender, green, pellet-shaped buds develop a deep salty, tangy flavor.

When shopping for capers, head to the pickle or Italian aisle, where you will find them in small jars, usually packed in brine.

How do you use up that bottle? Try these ideas:

•Tuna, chicken, pasta or potato salad: Add them whole or gently crushed for a tangy, salty hit.

• Garden salad: Fry capers (in a skillet) in olive oil until crisp then sprinkle over your salads (but go easy) or over soft cheeses served with bread.

• Fettuccine pasta: Sauté whole capers, garlic and pine nuts in butter for several minutes, then toss with pasta, grated Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley.

• Seafood: Sprinkle finely chopped capers over the top.

• Vinaigrette salad dressing: Blend extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, capers, salt, pepper and garlic.

• Omelet filling: Sauté capers, mushrooms, onions and garlic, then top with shredded jack cheese before putting the mix with your eggs.

– Newswise and FoodNetwork.com

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