Have you heard all the rage about curcumin as a new health supplement? From turmeric shots to turmeric lattes this golden spice is rising in popularity. Have you wondered what is turmeric, what makes it so popular and what is it good for?
Turmeric is a spice that has been actively used in eastern cooking for thousands of years. Its distinct yellow color and flavor is the reason why most curries taste so good!
But, is that all this spice has to offer? Let's take a deep dive and understand the potential benefits of this spice which resembles a yellow ginger root in its natural form.
Ayurveda, a natural system of medicine which originated in the Indian subcontinent more than 5000 years ago, prescribes turmeric for a host of illnesses and ailments.
A bulk of potential health benefits this spice has to offer is derived from one of its primary active ingredient and that is curcumin. Turmeric contains many other curcuminoids, but curcumin by far is the most potent. The percentage amount of this compound in turmeric is low and hence it is advised to consume a supplement containing curcumin in larger amount to experience its complete benefit. One of the reasons why most researchers are isolating this compound to be used on its own. (1) (2)
Listed below are some of the reasons why you should include curcumin in your diet,
Inflammation is you bodies response, when foreign agents like bacteria enter your body. This response is essential, but it becomes a issue when its chronic. For instance people suffering from osteoarthritis suffer from chronic inflammation in the joints which gradually breaks down joint cartilage. Curcumin has shown promise in greatly reducing these symptoms. Thereby greatly decelerating the degeneration. caused by the disease. (3) (4)
It is a known fact that free radicals are one of the main culprits behind aging and antioxidants protect your body from free radicals. Curcumin is a very potent antioxidant which not only inhibits the free radicals but also boost your body's antioxidant enzymes. It is a lipophilic compound which make it a effective eliminator of peroxyl radicals. (5) (6)
Curcumin has shown some level of effectiveness in preventing certain types of cancer. It does this by reducing the growth of cancer causing cells and inhibits metastasis. There is active research going on in this topic and the future may lead to some promising results in inhibition of this disease. Some studies have also shown curcumin averting further damage to the colon and in the process avoiding the onset of colon cancer. (7) (8)
Obesity & Heart Disease:
Curcumin has been proven to inhibit the inflammatory pathway involved in obesity. Thereby helping you to regulate body fat. It also decreases the chance of heart disease by reducing LDL cholesterol in the body and improving endothelial function, the malfunction of which is one of the major causes of heart disease. Studies show that in discouraged the development of clogged arteries by altering the genetic signaling in the body. Which in turn also results in lower chances of individuals developing heart disease. (9) (10)
Anti-fungal and Antibacterial:
Curcumin has widely been used in the east for wound healing , all thanks to its anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. It inhibits the growth of a number of infection causing bacteria in the wound. It has also shown efficacy in fighting some strains of Candida species. It achieves this by damaging the cell membrane integrity of the fungi. (11)
Curcumin has shown to helps in reducing the level of glucose in the blood, thereby helping in the management and prevention of diabetes. Curcumin could also help in managing other diabetes related conditions like insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and islet apoptosis and necrosis. But extra case must be taken while consuming higher doses of curcumin especially when individuals suffer from symptoms like hypoglycemia as it is known to reduce the blood glycemic index. (2) (12)
The brain changes with age. This affects the structure and connectivity of neurons within the brain. This is a result of oxidative stress. The recovery post the stress reduces with age. The process as a whole isn't the cause of a disease, but the structural change can increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's or vascular dementia. The issues in the cognitive abilities of the brain due to aging can be blamed on the three processes, namely, inflammatory, oxidative stress and the apoptotic process. Curcumin as a compound affects the same three areas by anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiapoptotic pharmacological response. Thereby reducing the negative effects age related neural degeneration. (13)
Curcumin as a compound has its fair share of challenges. It is not easily bio available. This cause it to be undigested and passed through the gut without being absorbed.
Since curcumin has bio availability challenges, the best the most effective form of consumption is through a supplement. Turmeric has 3% curcumin, whereas supplements may contain upto 95%, which makes it a logical choice.
Another way to increase the bio availability of curcumin is to add pepper in your diet. This is highly beneficial if you consume your share of curcumin from the food source. It has been found that a compound called piperine commonly found in peppers increase the bio availability of curcumin by 2,000%. (14)
It is advised that people with iron deficiency, kidney stone, hypoglycemia, gallbladder disease and blood clotting disorders should avoid higher doses of this compound. The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has established the dietary intake of curcumin at 1.4 mg per pound (3 mg/kg) of body weight per day, or approximately 245 mg for a 175-pound (80-kg) person. (15)
To sum it up, curcumin with its potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties as well as its diabetes and cancer preventive powers is a excellent addition to your diet. With a carefully supplemented intake this compound can prove to be a boon for your life while sustaining your glycemic, gut and cognitive health. So the next time you grab a meal, do think of getting a turmeric latte or a lip smacking bowl of curry!