Turmeric Health Benefits
You might have noticed the “golden latte” on cafe menus recently. It’s made with hot milk, turmeric, coconut oil, and possibly honey.
Turmeric health benefits, the yellow powder used as a central component in Asian cooking, have been proclaimed a superfood, a health booster.
On the other hand, what does the research say about turmeric’s health benefits? Is there a difference between some forms and others?
What’s The deal with turmeric?
Turmeric was famous as a healing food in the ancient Indian medicine method, Ayurveda, where it was applied to treat respiratory conditions or as a topical application to soothe or heal the skin long before it got its way into your latte.
Today, many people mix it with milk or water to soothe a sore throat or an upset stomach.
Nonetheless, after a 2006 study found that older Singaporeans who ate more curry had less cognitive decline, interest in the spice’s potential health benefits grew.
This sparked an investigation into which curry ingredients might be causing the effect and a spiking interest in the properties of turmeric.
It’s not the spice in and of itself that’s important. Curcumin, an active compound discovered in turmeric, is the culprit. Curcumin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, according to research.
“Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory agent,” said Professor Manohar Garg, director of the University of Newcastle’s nutraceuticals research program.
Because inflammation has been linked to various chronic conditions and diseases, including arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease, researchers believe Curcumin helps reduce the risk of these diseases by limiting inflammation in the body.
Professor Garg said, “It is mighty, the most powerful food I know for fighting inflammation in the body.”
For four weeks, the professor and his team discovered that people who took a mix of Curcumin, a phytosterol (a naturally appearing steroid found in plants), had lower cholesterol levels than those who took a placebo.
“Curcumin has a cholesterol-lowering effect, and phytosterols have a cholesterol-lowering effect, but when they are combined, they have a synergistic effect. It goes beyond what you would forecast from the two compounds on their own, “Professor Garg stated the following.
Is Curcumin Good For Your Brain?
Curcumin has also been studied to improve cognitive function, particularly in the elderly.
Professor Andrew Scholey, director of Swinburne University’s Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, has a research group looking into this.
In a study conducted by the group, researchers divided 80 people in their 60s and 70s into two groups, giving some a curcumin supplement and the other a placebo. The participants took computerized cognitive tests that tested their working memory.
Professor Scholey explained, “Working memory is where you store information in your mind or consciousness.”
“If you’re learning a new credit card PIN, the first thing you’ll do is rehearse it a few times to make sure you recall it.”
While undergoing the cognitive tests over 28 days, the researchers discovered that those given curcumin supplements improved working memory and mood.
According to Professor Scholey, Curcumin may have improved blood flow to the brain in those who took the supplements.
Professor Scholey explained, “There is some work showing that curcumin can improve what is known as endothelial function, which refers to the cells that line blood vessels and can be in various degrees of elasticity or stiffness.”
“You have increased blood flow to all organs, including the brain if your vessels are more elastic. Your cognitive function is likely to improve as your blood flow to the brain improves. That is one aspect, we believe.”
A turmeric supplement manufacturer funded Professor Scholey’s research, but they had no say in the study’s design or results.
What is the overall strength of the evidence?
RECENT research indicates that curcuminoids, an active component in turmeric (Curcumin), can help prevent many illnesses.
Curcuminoids have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol-lowering properties and are a natural Cox-2 inhibitor for relieving pain. Scientists have also noted that curcuminoids support healthy blood sugar metabolism.
More than 400 studies published in the last four years confirm turmeric’s anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
The U.S. National Institute of Health has conducted four clinical trials to test curcuminoids for colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, multiple myeloma, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Bharat B. Aggarwal, professor of tumor medicine at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, which studied the spice for a decade, said the study was funded by the U.S. Department of Defence’s Breast Cancer Research Program. His team is also testing Curcumin against pancreatic cancer and multiple myeloma.
The researchers say curcuminoids block a critical biological pathway needed to develop melanoma and other cancers.
Turmeric Health Benefits
The study, published in the journal Cancer on Aug 15, 2005, demonstrates how Curcumin stops laboratory strains of melanoma from multiplying and directs the cancer cells to die by shutting down nuclear factor-kappa B (NFkB).
This protein promotes an abnormal inflammatory response that leads to disorders, including arthritis and cancer.
Alzheimer’s Disease (A.D.) is a brain illness that affects a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. Its causes are still a mystery, and there is no cure.
A.D. is characterized by amyloid plaques formed in the brain that generate free radicals.
Turmeric helps to neutralize these free radicals. NFkB causes inflammation which contributes to the formation of beta-amyloid.
Turmeric has been shown to reduce the beta-amyloid appearance by inhibiting NFkB, thus preventing and slowing the progression of A.D.
Turmeric has also been used to treat inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis for decades. Together with Celecoxib, a cox-2 inhibitor, curcuminoids were shown to reduce inflammation synergistically.
Cox-2 inhibitors have adverse side effects, but you reduce their dosage and side effects by combining them with curcuminoids.
Scientists also found that curcuminoids can normalize blood sugar levels in animals with experimentally-induced diabetes.
The setback is that turmeric is not water-soluble and is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream.
However, the absorption rate increases when combined with a small amount of piperine (extracted from black pepper). Piperine also helps to inhibit enzymes that break down curcuminoids, letting them stay in the body longer.
To enjoy the full benefits of curcuminoids, get a formulation that combines turmeric extract with patented Bioperine.
How much should you take?
The volume of Curcumin in the above studies ranged from about 80 milligrams (in the cognition study) to 200 milligrams (in the cardiovascular research) (in the cholesterol research).
A full teaspoon of turmeric contains between 100 and 150 milligrams of Curcumin according to Professor Garg, but the amount varies depending on the powder.
Another thing to consider is that Curcumin quickly goes through your body. Professor Garg explained that to keep enough of it in your body to be effectively absorbed and valuable, you should eat it with lunch and dinner most days (as in some Indian diets).
“I believe that getting it from natural foods is the best way to consume these products,” he said, adding that if we can get enough Curcumin turmeric, that is the best way to consume these products.
According to Professor Scholey, the other option is to take supplements, some of which can be tweaked to make them more readily absorbable by the body.
“How much turmeric is absorbed when you eat it as a powder?” he said.
“Studies appear to show it is unlikely to be absorbed at the same level as some of these commercialized extracts, which I understand does not sit well with a nice picture of natural foods and products providing these benefits, but unfortunately, that is what the science shows,” she says.
And why is the golden latte so popular in Australia’s inner cities? Professor Scholey explained that if you take it as a one-time thing, you won’t get a high enough dose of curcuCurcuminave an effect on your health.
“Unfortunately, most of the curcumin in that turmeric latte is likely to come out the other end,” he said.
Can there be a case of overusing of Curcumin?
Turmeric is a safe spice to use in food; the only risk is getting an upset stomach if you use too much.
While turmeric should not be a problem, taking concentrated Curcumin as a supplement can be dangerous for people who are taking blood thinners.
“All anti-coagulants, such as aspirin, warfarin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, are anti-coagulants,” Professor Garg explained.
“If you take curcumin with these medications, you should be cautious because it can slow clotting and increase bleeding, especially if you’re having surgery.”