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Turmeric

By David Crocker

Diet and Exercise

 

Today I’d like to share information on a dietary supplement many folks don’t know very much about…Turmeric.

Turmeric comes from a flowering plant called “curcuma longa”. This plant is native to India and Southeast Asia. It actually belongs to the ginger family, “Zingiberaceae”, along with the spice’s cardamom and galangal (sometimes known as Thai ginger).

The curcuma longa plant’s rhizomes (underground stems) are collected, boiled, dried, then ground into an orange-yellow powder commonly used for coloring, and as a seasoning in many Asian cuisines. Turmeric is the ingredient in curry that gives it a vibrant yellow color.

Folks in the middle ages called turmeric “Indian Saffron”, because it was often used as a less expensive alternative to saffron. Turmeric has many color and flavor compounds that mingle together to lend a complex, rich flavor to curry.

In addition to being a culinary spice, turmeric and particularly its active compound “curcumin”, provides many healthful benefits. Here are a few.

Anti-inflammatory

Curcumin is commonly used to fight inflammation in the body. In fact, one study suggests, in the right dose, curcumin may be a more effective anti-inflammatory treatment than standard inflammation-fighting medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin.

May prevent and help treat cancer

Considering inflammation is linked to tumor growth, curcumin might play a role in treating and preventing a variety of cancers, including colorectal, pancreatic, prostate, breast and gastric cancers.

Protect against coronary disease

One study showed that curcumin improves “endothelial function”. The endothelium is a thin membrane that lines the inside of the heart, and all blood vessels. Its main job is to provide a barrier between blood, and the rest of the body, but it is also responsible for the production of nitric oxide, proper blood clotting, blood vessel formation and regulating blood pressure. Lower endothelial function is associated with an increased risk for heart disease. Curcumin may help protect against age related loss of endothelial function. In fact, one study showed that curcumin was equally effective at improving endothelial function in folks with type 2 diabetes, as the drug “Lipitor (atorvastatin)”.

Help treat or prevent diabetes

The curcumin found in turmeric, may help treat, or even prevent diabetes, as well as associated disorders like diabetic nephropathy (also known as diabetic kidney disease), which affects those with type 1 diabetes, and type 2 diabetes. Curcumin may help prevent diabetes, by virtue of its anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, and improve factors which contribute to diabetes, including insulin resistance, high blood sugar and hyperlipidemia (elevated levels of fat in the blood).

Help delay or reverse Alzheimer’s disease

Turmeric may protect the brain against common degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s by increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein found in the brain. Common brain disorders like Alzheimer’s are associated with lower levels of BDNF.

Help treat depression

Like Alzheimer’s, depression can be associated with lower levels of BDNF. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial, researchers in Australia assigned 56 patients with major depressive disorder (MMD) to receive either curcumin, or placebo capsules twice a day for eight weeks. From the fourth week through the eighth week, there was a significantly greater improvement in scores in the curcumin group.

Ease symptoms of osteoarthritis

Thanks to its potent anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin may be a safe and effective long-term treatment option for folks with osteoarthritis. A study of mice, published in the June 2016 issue of Arthritis Research & Therapy found that 50 mg oral curcumin per kilogram (2.2 pounds) body weight, markedly slowed the progression of OA.

Protects the body from free radicals

Free radical are a class of highly reactive atoms that occur as a result of normal metabolic process, or from environmental pollutants. Free radicals can cause damage to segments of cells like fats, proteins and even DNA (the molecule that contains an organism’s genetic code). Curcumin, specifically is able to scavenge distinct types of free radicals, control enzymes that neutralize free radicals and impede particular enzymes from creating specific free radical types. Curcumin also shows promise as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a chronic inflammatory disorder that commonly affects joints. Studies show curcumin improves joint tenderness and swelling, and is safe, resulting in no harmful effects.

Questions? Contact David at dwcrocker77@gmail.com