What is Turmeric? Turmeric is an aromatic spice, traditionally used as a food additive in curries, giving them their distinctive flavour and colour. It has been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of liver complaints such as jaundice, skin diseases like psoriasis, inflammation of the joints, as well as for treatment of cold and flu symptoms. The active compounds within turmeric are curcuminoids - powerful antioxidants that combat the damaging effects of free-radicals within our bodies. Since, free-radicals are believed to play a significant role in the aging process, powerful antioxidants, like turmeric, are believed to protect us from, and slow down the aging process. Research suggests that turmeric can protect us against damage to our DNA, reduce the risk of cancer and artheriosclerosis (Hardening and furring of the arteries), as well as reduce joint inflammation.
Who might benefit from Turmeric extracts? Turmeric appears to be extremely effective at reducing the damaging effects of free-radicals, within our bodies. It should therefore be of benefit, as a general health supplement to protect against ageing, reduce inflammation, and to reduce the risk of some diseases associated with ageing. It should also be of benefit to sports people looking to improve recovery and to reduce the damaging effects of free-radicals during exercise
What does research say about Turmeric? Turmeric is known to be a very potent antioxidant that is capable of disarming, and preventing damage, by free-radical compounds (Miquel et al., 2002; Jayaprakashi et al., 2005). Free radicals are believed to play a major role in the development of diseases of aging such as neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases (Auddy et al., 2003). Free-radicals are generated continuously within our bodies through normal metabolic processes. They cause damage to any structure they come into contact with, including: cell walls, muscle fibres, nerve cells, and even our DNA.
The amount of free radicals increases greatly during exercise, when we are ill, as we age, and when we are exposed to chemical pollutants, such as exhaust fumes, or cigarette smoke – every inhalation of cigarette smoke, releases millions of free-radicals within your body. Antioxidants disarm and reduce these damaging molecules so that they are unable to cause damage within our bodies.
Research has demonstrated a number of positive health benefits through supplementation with turmeric extract. Turmeric has proved to be very effective at reducing the level of inflammation (Ammon, 1991; Ammon et al., 1992; Chuang et al., 2000). It appears to have this effect by inhibiting inflammation factors (Skrzypezac-Jankun et al., 2000) such as histamine (Arora et al., 1971). It should therefore be of benefit to people looking to reduce joint pain and swelling and to aid recovery from injury.
Turmeric also appears to reduce the risk of cancer (Miquel et al., 2002). A study by Inano et al., (2000) looked at the risk of tumours in rats following whole body exposure to X-irradiation. They found that 70.3% of the mice developed tumours. However, in the group of rats receiving 1% curcumin (turmeric extract) in their diet, the risk of tumour development was only 18.5%. Further studies have also demonstrated reduced risk of cancer following turmeric supplementation (Huang et al., 1997; Limtrakul et al., 1997). It is believed that the curcumin, within turmeric, is able to suppress tumour formation as well as interfering with the processes involved in tumour progression (Gescher et al., 2001) and is also able to protect against DNA damage (Ahsan et al., 1999). Curcumin is considered to be a safe and non-toxic cancer preventative agent (Goel et al., 2001). The curcumin within turmeric may therefore prove to be an effective means of reducing the risk of certain cancers.
Research suggests that turmeric extract may prove to be beneficial in the treatment of artherosclerosis – build up of fatty deposits on the artery walls – which is one of the major risk factors for heart attacks (Miquel et al., 2002) and may help to significantly lower cholesterol levels (Asai and Miyazawa, 2001). One of the primary causes of artherosclerosis is through the oxidation of the low density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol (Holvoet and Collen, 1994). Turmeric extracts have been demonstrated to significantly reduce blood cholesterol levels (Asai and Miyazawa, 2001; Deshpande et al., 1997), specifically the LDL cholesterol which is responsible for the build up of cholesterol on artery walls. Humans studies have demonstrated that around 200mg of turmeric extract is effective at lowering cholesterol levels (RamirezBosca et al., 1997). Turmeric should, therefore prove to be beneficial in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.
Turmeric has also been shown to have lipid (fat) lowering properties, and can reduce weight gain in adipose tissue (Asai and Miyazawa, 2001). It may therefore prove to be useful for weight management.
Further benefits associated with supplementation with turmeric extract include: positive effects on psoriasis (Heng et al., 2000), the treatment of HIV (Sui et al., 1993), depression (Yu et al., 2002), reducing the risk of cataracts (Pandya et al., 2000).
Turmeric appears to be safe with no adverse side effects (Miquel et al., 2002; Jayaprakasha et al., 2005).
Is Turmeric extract effective? Research appears to show many positive effects. It appears to be particularly effective at reducing inflammation and lowering cholesterol levels. It may also be of benefit as an anti-aging supplement as well as reducing the risk of cancers and may be of benefit in the treatment of obesity.
How should I take Turmeric supplements? Always use a good quality turmeric extract. Look for one that contains at least 90% curcumminoids to ensure its potency. Research is not completely clear on what dose level to consume. Between 200-500mg, twice daily, should be of benefit for general health benefits, to reduce inflammation, and is in line with levels used in research for treatment of high cholesterol.
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Ammon, H. P. T., Anazoda, M. I., Safayhi, H., Dhawan, B. N. and Srimal, R. C. (1992) Curcumin: A potent inhibitor of Leukotriene B4 formation in rat peritoneal polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNL). Planta Medica. 58, 26-28.
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Asai, A. and Miyazawa, T. (2001) Dietary Curcuminoids Prevent High-Fat Diet-Induced Lipid Accumulation in Rat Liver and Epididymal Adipose Tissue. J Nutr. 131, 2932-2935.
Auddy, B., Ferreira, M., Blasina, F., Lafon, L., Arredondo, F., Dajas, F., Tripathi, P. C., Seal, T. and Murkerjee, B. (2003) Screening of antioxidant activity of three Indian medicinal plants, traditionally used for the management of neurodegenerative diseases. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 84, 131-138.
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Inano, H., Onoda, M., Inafuku, N., Kubota, M., Kamada, Y., Osawa, T., Kobayashi, H. and Wakabayashi, K. (2000) Potent preventative action of curcumin on radiation-induced initiation of mammary tumorigenesis in rats. Carcinogenesis. 18, 83-88.
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Miquel, J., Bernd, A., Sempere, J. M., Diaz-Alperi, J. and Ramirez, A. (2002) The curcuma antioxidants: pharmacological effects and prospects for future clinical use. A review. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics. 34, 37-46.
Pandya, U., Saini, M. K., Jin, G. F., Awasthi, S., Godley, B. F. and Awasthi, Y. C. (2000) Dietary curcumin prevents ocular toxicity of napathalene in rats. Toxicology Letters. 115, 195-204.
Ramirez-Bosca, A., Carrion Gutierrez, M. A., Soler, A., Puerta, C., Diez, A., Quintantilla, E., Bernd, A. and Miquel, J. (1997) Effects of the antioxidant tumeric on lipoprotein peroxides: implications for the prevention of atherosclerosis. Age. 20, 165-168.
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