Turmeric Takes Gold in Health!

Discover how this inflammation-fighting spice can bring you a wealth of health

We live in an inflammatory world, and I’m not talking about the political climate. I’m talking about real inflammation—inflammation driven by processed foods, sugar, refined carbohydrates, pollution, chronic stress, excessive alcohol consumption, and chemicals used to grow our food. Together these factors prompt our bodies to release a steady stream of inflammatory molecules, resulting in a significant number of people being chronically inflamed… and chronically diseased. Chronic inflammation is a root cause of nearly every modern-day disease, from Alzheimer’s and heart disease to arthritis and diabetes.[1] Excessive inflammation has even been linked to premature aging.[2] The one-two punch comes when all of those inflammatory molecules floating around our bodies produce free radicals that damage cells and tissues (oxidative stress), promoting even more disease and aging.[3]

We are experiencing a national health crisis fueled by chronic inflammation—even children and teenagers are experiencing an increase in inflammatory diseases like type-2 diabetes, obesity, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease. So the question remains, what can we do to douse the flames? Of course improving your diet, managing stress, and reducing chemical exposure are vital components, and then there’s turmeric, a serious ally in the fight against inflammation and oxidative stress. Researchers have discovered nearly 100 different ways in which turmeric counters inflammation— no other substance has been found to have such far-reaching anti-inflammatory effects.[4] Read on to discover why turmeric takes gold in health!

Inflammation on the Brain? Turmeric’s the Trick!

turmeric-bowlAn inflamed brain is a sick brain that may manifest in a myriad of ways, from anxiety and depression to the development of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s—excessive inflammation and oxidative damage are common underlying factors. A growing body of research indicates that turmeric has neuroprotective properties, likely due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, allowing it to have a direct effect on brain cells.[5] Researchers have found that supplementation with curcumin—one of the most abundant and researched bioactive compounds in turmeric—can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety,[6] [7] can improve memory,[8] protects the brain from damage caused by heavy metals like lead, and may modulate the damage caused by a stroke.[9]

Turmeric also shows promise in the fight against one of our most dreaded diseases, Alzheimer’s. An epidemiological study found that elderly men and women who consumed turmeric (in the form of curry) “occasionally,” “often,” or “very often” had significantly better scores on a standardized test of mental status compared to subjects who “never or rarely” consumed turmeric. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that India, which has a population that consumes large amounts of turmeric, has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease in the world.9 Scientists are coming to understand that turmeric protects the brain from the disease in a number of ways. Animal models of Alzheimer’s show that turmeric protects the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation, leading factors in the development of the disease,[10] and can prevent the formation of amyloid plaque. Amyloid plaque is a hallmark of the disease and consists of protein fragments that collect in the brain, increasing both inflammation and oxidative stress. Curcumin is also able to bind to existing plaque, increasing the body’s ability to break it up, while also increasing the activity of macrophages, immune cells that move around the body gobbling up foreign material like amyloid plaque.[11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16]

Turmeric’s neuroprotective effects are an exciting area of research, but this golden spice’s health benefits don’t stop there.

Cool Your Flaming Heart

Inflammation is a major factor in the development of coronary heart disease—the progressive narrowing of the arteries that leads to reduced blood flow to the heart—so it is no wonder that turmeric is especially beneficial to cardiovascular health.[17] In addition to keeping inflammation under control, it protects cholesterol from oxidation, the point at which cholesterol becomes dangerous, and helps to inhibit plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis).[18] [19] [20] Turmeric also supports healthy endothelial function, in part by increasing nitric oxide levels, inhibits platelet aggregation, reduces triglyceride levels, reduces LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol, and enhances the antioxidant defenses of cardiovascular cells.[21] [10] [22] [23] [24]

Take Arthritis and Other Aches & Pains Down a Notch

It’s all too easy to reach for an over-the-counter pain reliever to dull arthritic or other chronic pain, but these can come with adverse side effects. Turmeric blocks or reduces the production of many of the same inflammatory molecules as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), so it should come as no surprise that an extract of curcumin, combined with lecithin for increased absorption, was found to have analgesic properties equal to those of acetaminophen.[25] Curcumin extract has also been found to improve symptoms of rheumatoid and osteoarthritis—as effectively as commonly prescribed medications.[26] [27] [28] In addition to reducing inflammation, the curcuminoids appear to have a protective effect on cartilage cells, which can lead to improvements in pain and physical function.[29]

Turn Down the Heat on Diabetes & Obesity

A metabolic disorder is one in which normal metabolic functions in the body are altered or disrupted, leading to poor health—type-2 diabetes and obesity are two you may be most familiar with. Both have an underlying component of inflammation. Diabetics and obese people produce more inflammatory compounds, putting them at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Curcumin reduces inflammatory compounds and improves markers of oxidative stress, while also increasing insulin sensitivity.[30] It has also been found to improve vascular function in type-2 diabetics, comparable to the effects of a common statin drug.[31] One small study found that pre-diabetics who took 250mg of curcumin extract every day for nine months were far less likely to progress to full-blown diabetes than those who took the placebo.[32] And when it comes to obesity, all of those extra fat cells are constantly secreting inflammatory substances and causing more oxidative stress, creating a state of chronic inflammation, and increasing the risk of other disease. Curcumin has been shown to down regulate several inflammatory molecules secreted by fat cells and inhibit a protein closely linked to obesity. It also appears to activate a protein that inhibits the growth of fat cells.[33]

The Sanskrit word for turmeric is jayanti, which translates to “one who wins over disease.” In our modern world of chronic inflammation and all the diseases that come with it, it’s no wonder turmeric has made such a splash. Whether you take it for brain health or cardiovascular health, or anything in between, you’ll be reaping a wealth of health for your whole body from this golden spice of life.

Getting the Most Out of Your Turmeric

As great as turmeric is, there is one catch—even though it is well tolerated, curcumin is poorly absorbed and rapidly metabolized and eliminated from the system.[34] To improve absorption of turmeric we can take a cue from Indians—consume it with fat.  Turmeric is fat-soluble, which means that consuming it with fat utilizes absorption. This might be by quickly sautéing the spice in ghee before it goes into a dish or by adding it to milk or yogurt. Modern supplement manufacturers have also tackled the problem of absorption and have come up with some pretty clever solutions, such as delivering it with piperine from black pepper and formulating it with fatty acids.[35] [36] Micronizing, or reducing the size of the curcumin particles, is another method that appears to be especially effective at enhancing absorption, and many producers are utilizing micronized curcumin in their products Taking your turmeric supplement with omega-3 fish oil or phosphatidylcholine may also improve absorption. [37] [38]


References

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[2] Zhang J, Rane G, Dai X, Shanmugam MK, Arfuso F, Samy RP, Lai MK, Kappei D, Kumar AP, Sethi G. Ageing and the telomere connection: An intimate relationship with inflammation. Ageing Res Rev. 2016 Jan;25:55-69.

[3] Khansari N, Shakiba Y, Mahmoudi M. “Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress as a major cause of age-related diseases and cancer.” Recent Pat Inflamm Allergy Drug Dicov. 2009 Jan;3(1): 73-80

[4] Challem, J. “The Turmeric Cure: How a natural anti-inflammatory can change your life for the better.” Health Hotline, August 2015.

[5] Goel A. Can curcumin solve depression? Natural Medicine Journal. 2014;6(11).

[6] Lopresti AL, Maes M, Maker GL, et al. Curcumin for the treatment of major depression: a randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 2014;167:368-375.

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[8] Cox KHM, Scholey AB. Investigation of the effects of solid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2014: epub ahead of print.

[9] http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2007/10/report_curcumin/Page-02

[10] Lee WH, Loo CY, Bebawy M, et al. Curcumin and its derivatives: their application in neuropharmacology and neuroscience in the 21st century. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2013;11(4): 338-378.

[11] Yang F, Lim GP, et al. “Curcumin inhibits formation of amyloid beta oligomers and fibrils, binds plaques, and reduced amyloid in vivo.” J Biol Chem. 2005 Feb 18;280(7): 5892-901 http://www.jbc.org/content/280/7/5892.long

[12] Hu S, Maiti P, Ma Q, et al. Clinical development of curcumin in neurodegenerative disease. Expert Rev Neurother. 2015;15(6):629-637.

[13] Lim GP, Chu T, Yang F, et al. The curry spice curcumin reduces oxidative damage and amyloid pathology in an Alzheimer transgenic mouse. J Neurosci. 2001;21(21):8370-8377.

[14] Frautschy SA, Hu W, Kim P, et al. Phenolid anti-inflammatory antioxidant reversal of Abeta-induced cognitive deficits and neuropathology. Neurobiol Aging. 2001;22(6):993-1005.

[15] http://www.denvernaturopathic.com/curcuminandAlzheimers.htm

[16] DiSilvestro R, Joseph E, Zhao S, Bomser J. “Diverse effects of a low dose supplement of lapidated curcumin in healthy middle aged people.” Nutrition Journal, 2012;11(79) http://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-11-79

[17] Challem, J. The Inflammation Syndrome. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons; 2010.

[18] Mateljan G. The World’s Healthiest Foods. Seattle, WA: George Mateljan Foundation; 2007.

[19]n.a. Turmeric Root Monograph. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. American Botanical Council Website. Available at: http://cms.herbalgram.org/expandedE/Turmericroot.html

[20] Qin L, Yang YB, Tuo QH. Effects and underlying mechanisms of curcumin on the proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells induced by Chol:MbetaCD. Biochem Biocphys Res Commun. 2009;379(2):277-282.

[21] Fang XD, Yand F, Zhu L, et al. Curcumin ameliorates high glucose-induced acute vascular endothelial dysfunction in rat thoracic aorta. Clin Exp Pharmacolo Physiol. 2009;36(12):1177-1182.

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[23] DiSilvestro R, Joseph E, Zhao S, Bomser J. “Diverse effects of a low dose supplement of lapidated curcumin in healthy middle aged people.” Nutrition Journal, 2012;11(79) http://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-11-79

[24] Adeeb Shehzad, Taewook Ha, et al. “New mechanisms and the anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in obesity and obesity-related metabolic diseases.” Eur J Nutr 2011;50:151-161 http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-011-0188-1

[25] Di Pierro Francesco, Rapacioli G, et al. “Comparative evaluation of the pain-relieving properties of a lecithinized formulation of curcumin (Meriva®), nimesulide, and acetaminophen.” J Pain Res. 2013;6:201-205.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3596124/

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[28] Kkuptniratsaikul V, Daipratham P, Taechaarpornkul W, et al. Efficacy and safety of curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter study. Clin Interv Aging. 2014;9:451-458.

[29] Panahi Y, Rahimnia AR, Sharafi M, et al. Curcuminoid treatment for knee osteoarthritis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Phytother Res. 2014;28(11):1625-1631.

[30] Usharani P, Mateen AA, Naidu MU, Raju YS, Chandra N. Effect of NCB-02, atorvastatin and placebo on endothelial function, oxidative stress and inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled, 8-week study. Drugs RD. 2008;9(4):243-250.

[31] Usharani P, Mateen AA, et al. “Effect of NCB-02, atorvastatin and placebo on endothelial function, oxidative stress, and inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a randomized, paralled-group, placebo-controlled, 8-week study.” Drugs R D. 2008;9(4): 243-50.

[32] Cheungsamarn S, Rattanamongkolgul S, Luechapudiporn R, Phisalaphong C, Jirawatnotai S. Curcumin extract for prevention of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2012;35(11):2121-2127.

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  • Anonymous

    Tks, Heather. You answered my comment of a few weeks back on why “healthy” people (of which I am one, I think) would have chronic inflammation — thus the frequent need for anti-inflammatories/anti-oxidants (AI’s/AO’s) to ward off this harmful condition.

    And, maybe you’re right — pollution, chronic stress, some foods (like sugar), and even the chemicals used to grow our foods — could well be keeping us all constantly “inflamed,” even if we are mostly healthy.

    So, AI’s/AO’s might be continually needed to fight these unhealthy influences.

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