6 Reasons to Eat Turmeric Every Day
The benefits of turmeric, the wonder kitchen cure, will have you whipping up a chicken curry even more enthusiastically than usual.
Turmeric, that culinary spice that is native to southern Asia and used as the main ingredient in Indian curries, does so much more than just pop our taste buds. Its healing properties make it arguably the most powerful spice capable of fighting and potentially reversing several chronic, debilitating diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s without adverse side effects. That’s mainly thanks to curcumin, the main active ingredient found in turmeric, and its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. However, keep in mind curcumin content in turmeric is not that high, so the focus is taking an extract that contains a lot of curcumin. Many studies with turmeric root and curcumin have yielded promising results, encouraging experts to look further into how this brightly coloured relative to ginger can benefit our health. While further research is needed, turmeric is definitely not to be underestimated.
Short-term inflammation helps by fighting foreign aggressors and keeps bacteria at bay, as well as repairing damage. However, it can cause problems when it becomes chronic and has been linked to threatening diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and degenerative conditions. Curcumin is such a potent anti-inflammatory, it competes and may be even better than anti-inflammatory drugs, without the side effects. It works by focusing on numerous stages in the inflammatory pathway at the molecular level. The bioactive substance therefore also inhibits NF-kB, a molecule that zooms in on genes related to inflammation and plays a big part in dangerous diseases. As inflammation is painful, curcumin can also help relieve discomfort.
While we need oxygen to survive, it is also one of the reasons we suffer from diseases. During metabolism, the oxygen we take gives rise to free radicals, unstable, highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons that damage cells and contribute to ageing and disease. When the problem becomes even worse due to lifestyle, pollution and the food we eat, and the body can’t cope with fighting free radicals alone, antioxidants become important as they can neutralise free radicals and protect our bodies from them. Curcumin is a naturally occurring antioxidant known as a polyphenol and studies have shown curcuminoids are very effective in hunting free radicals and defusing them. What’s more, the spice stimulates the body’s own antioxidant means.
A role in heart disease
Curcumin may help reverse the many complicated steps that lead to heart disease, said to be the biggest killer in the world. Perhaps its main benefit when it comes to heart disease is improving endothelium function. When the lining of the blood vessels is dysfunctional, the endothelium is unable to regulate blood pressure and blood clotting amongst others. Several studies suggest curcumin leads to improvements in endothelial function, with one even showing it works as well as the drug Atorvastatin. Another French study on mice showed how curcumin might protect arteries from fatty build up, thwarting the development of clogged arteries, a key risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. In addition, curcumin appeared to change the way plaque builds up at the molecular level. We’ve already established how the spice reduces inflammation and oxidation, which is also important for heart disease.
A possible cancer cure
Laboratory and animal research suggests that curcumin may prevent cancer, slow metastasis, the spread of cancer, and reduce angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels in tumours), as well as contributing to the death of cancerous cells. Curcumin is unique in that it appears to help fight just about every type of cancer, specifically breast cancer, bowel cancer, stomach cancer and skin cancer cells. Even though cancer consists of a wide variety of different molecular pathologies, the substance’s ability to affect multiple molecular targets, via multiple pathways, allows it to attack different types of the disease. Amazingly, once it gets into a cell, it affects over 100 different molecular pathways. Plus, the anti-inflammation properties discussed before appear to play a role in cancer. What’s more, curcumin is non-toxic, so it doesn’t adversely affect healthy cells, and research has even shown it can make chemotherapy more effective and protect healthy cells from damage by radiation therapy.
Protects against Alzheimer’s
Since they haven’t found a certified cure for Alzheimer’s disease, probably the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world, at the moment the key is to prevent it from happening. And curcumin may help in averting the leading cause of dementia. For some reason, amyloid protein can divide improperly, leading to beta-amyloids, then beta-amyloid plaque. And one key feature of Alzheimer’s disease is the build-up of these sticky plaques that accumulate between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain, since they slowly obstruct cerebral function. Research has indicated curcumin contains a number of natural agents that block their formation. Plus, it is known that inflammation and oxidative damage play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, and as we know, curcumin has beneficial effects on both. Interestingly, India has one of the lowest dementia rates in the world, leading experts to believe it’s because most of them consume between 25-50 milligrams of turmeric in their daily diet over their entire lifetime.
Fights off depression
Researchers are still at work trying to see exactly how curcumin affects depressive symptoms, but there are a few notions. Curcumin naturally inhibits monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that is linked to depression when high levels are involved. It also blocks the release of substances known as cytokines, which can stimulate the movement of cells towards sites of inflammation, infection and trauma. It may also boost the brain neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Plus, depression is linked to reduced levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BNDF) and a shrinking hippocampus, and curcumin boosts BNDF levels, potentially reversing some of these changes. A breakthrough study on very depressed human subjects in 2013, published in Phytotherapy Research, found curcumin to be as effective as Prozac in alleviating the symptoms of depression.