Health Benefits of Turmeric
Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin
Turmeric, deep orangey-yellow spice which gives curry the distinctive color, has been used in Indian Ayurveda medicine for thousands of years. Turmeric contains several biologically very potent compounds: three curcuminoids – curcumin (diferuloylmethane; the primary constituent and the one responsible for its vibrant color), demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin, as well as volatile oils (tumerone, atlantone, zingiberone), sugars, proteins and resins. The most potent of these is curcumin.
Natural Anti-Inflammatory Compound
Curcumin can inhibit many molecules known to play major roles in inflammation. Curcumin blocks NF-kB, a molecule that travels into the nuclei of cells and turns on genes related to inflammation. NF-kB is believed to play a major role in many chronic diseases(1,2). Down-regulation of intercellular signaling proteins, such as protein kinase C, may be another way in which curcumin inhibits cytokine production. Phytochemicals like curcumin, that exert a strong anti-inflammatory effect, are anticipated to have some degree of chemopreventive activity.
Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
Several studies suggest that curcumin leads to improvements in endothelial function. It is known that endothelial dysfunction is a major factor of heart disease and involves an inability of the endothelium to regulate blood pressure, blood clotting and other factors(3). A study conducted on rats being fed a diet rich in saturated fats and low in fiber or a diet that also included curcumin in it for 8 weeks shows that in the rats fed the curcumin diet, serum triglyceride levels reduced by 27%, LDL cholesterol by 56% and total cholesterol by 33.8% as compared to the group fed the high fat diet. Their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels also reduced and they had 20% less blockage in their arteries indicating the benefits of turmeric in preventing plaque buildup and heart disease or stroke.
Curcumin Supplementation and Arthritis
Arthritis always involve some sort of inflammation in the joints. Given that curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory, it makes sense that it could help with arthritis. Indeed, many other studies have looked at the effects of curcumin on arthritis and noted improvements in various symptoms(4). In a study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was even more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug(5).
Curcumin Benefits against Depression
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in the Journal of Affective Disorders showed noticeable and promising results with turmeric for supporting a balanced mood. Two groups were studied over 8 weeks. The first group received curcumin daily, while the other received placebo. After 8 weeks, the depression and anxiety score tests completed by all of the participants showed significant symptom improvements compared to placebo. There is also some evidence that curcumin can boost the brain neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
Turmeric and Cancer
Curcumin can affect cancer growth, development and spread at the molecular level. Studies have shown that it can reduce angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors), metastasis (spread of cancer), as well as contributing to the death of cancerous cells (7). Multiple studies have shown that curcumin can reduce the growth of cancerous cells in the laboratory and inhibit the growth of tumours in test animals (8). Whether high-dose curcumin can help treat cancer in humans has yet to be tested properly. However, there is some evidence that it may help prevent cancer from occurring in the first place, especially cancers of the digestive system (like colorectal cancer). In one study in 44 men with lesions in the colon that sometimes turn cancerous, 4 grams of curcumin per day for 30 days reduced the number of lesions by 40%(9).
Unfortunately, curcumin only makes up about 3% of turmeric by weight, and only a limited percentage of curcumin taken orally will be absorbed into the blood much of what is ingested is metabolized in the intestine and/or excreted in the stool, so getting enough curcumin into your body just through diet is difficult. A variety of special formulations have been developed to improve absorption and bioavailability. One ingredient added to curcumin to enhance bioavailability is patented black pepper extract Bioperine. Be aware not to take Bioperine enhanced products if you are taking medications. It can significantly increase absorption of their compounds as well. Other more bioavailable ingredient are BCM-95 which is about 7 times more bioavailable than of normal curcumin and phytosomal combination with 29 times higher absorption compared to unformulated products.
A more recent formulation, CurcuWIN combines curcumin with hydrophilic carrier making it more dispersible in the water. Of all the formulations, CurcuWIN appears to have the most dramatic effect on bioavailability. A study10 found that CurcuWIN increased curcuminoid levels in the blood plasma 4.490% above the achieved with standard curcumin. The same study evaluated BCM-95 and phytosomal curcumin formulations and shows 30% and 690% increase of total curcuminoid blood levels, respectively.
1.) Sanjaya Singh and Bharat B. Aggarwal: Activation of Transcription Factor NF-KB Is Suppressed by Curcumin
2.) Marín YE, Wall BA, Wang S, Namkoong J, Martino JJ, Suh J, Lee HJ, Rabson AB, Yang CS, Chen S, Ryu JH.: Curcumin downregulates the constitutive activity of NF-kappaB and induces apoptosis in novel mouse melanoma cells.
3.) Wongcharoen W, Phrommintikul A.: The protective role of curcumin in cardiovascular diseases
4.) Deodhar SD, Sethi R, Srimal RC.: Preliminary study on antirheumatic activity of curcumin
5.) Chandran B1, Goel A.: A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis.
6.) Lopresti AL, Maes M.: Curcumin for the treatment of major depression: a randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled study
7.) Jayaraj Ravindran, Sahdeo Prasad, Bharat B.: Curcumin and Cancer Cells: How Many Ways Can Curry Kill Tumor Cells Selectively?
8.) Toshihiko Kawamori, Ronald Lubet, Vernon E. Steele, Gary J. Kelloff, Robert B. Kaskey, Chinthalapally V. Rao, and Bandaru S. Reddy: Chemopreventive Effect of Curcumin, a Naturally Occurring Anti-Inflammatory Agent, during the Promotion/Progression Stages of Colon Cancer
9.) Carroll, Benya, Turgeon, Vareed, Neuman, Rodriguez, Kakarala, Carpenter, McLaren, Meyskens, Brenner: Phase IIa Clinical Trial of Curcumin for the Prevention of Colorectal Neoplasia
10.) Ralf Jäger, Ryan P Lowery, Allison V Calvanese, Jordan M Joy, Martin Purpura, Jacob M Wilson: Comparative absorption of curcumin formulation