Turmeric – Have we struck gold?


Several months ago the Aging Matters column highlighted an article written by a University of Hawai’i at Manoa student as a part of the course “Middle Age and Aging” in the Family and Consumer Sciences Department. This month features another of the award-winning articles from that course and was written by Tara Salima who graduated with a double major in human development and family studies and psychology and is planning to begin graduate school this fall to pursue a master’s in social work.

In developing this article, Tara reviewed several studies, and the information she presents below are taken from two: “Turmeric: An overview of potential health benefits” by K. Singletary, which appeared in Nutrition Today this year and a review paper titled “Nutritional and health benefits of curcumin” by researchers at the University of Osijek and ZADA Pharmaceuticals and appeared in a 2017 issue of the Food in Health Disease Journal.

What is turmeric?

In the nutritional world, many people know the benefits that different vitamins, minerals and supplements can bring to the aging human body. Many may be familiar with the plant root turmeric, as it’s well known for being used for cooking and its notable zesty orange/golden color. Curcumin, turmeric’s main active component, is known for many health benefits that are beneficial for all, including older adults. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may help with conditions more common in later life such as inflammatory bowel disease, joint pain and arthritis, cancer, allergies, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and bronchial inflammation in the airways of the lungs.

Anti-inflammatory benefits

Clinical studies have indicated that adequate amounts of curcumin may help with alleviating symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease as well as ulcerative colitis, which causes inflammation in the digestive tract and ulcers in the colon. Research has also shown that the curcumin contained in turmeric may suppress the growth of cancer tumor biomarkers and lesions. In other words, curcumin may have anti-cancer benefits. A clinical study stated in the academic journal Nutrition Today that patients with advanced colorectal cancer who consumed 3.6 grams of curcumin per day for four months showed a reduction in markers that are related to slower cancer growth.

Curcumin may also help with joint pains and arthritis. Studies show that curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties in combination with Celecoxib, another anti-inflammatory drug, may alleviate symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Allergies may also be helped by the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin in turmeric. Data from several animal studies indicate that curcumin can alleviate the symptoms of immune bronchial inflammation in the airways of the lungs. It is also important to consider that although results from animal studies don’t always happen in humans, it is safer to test the results in humans if animal studies were successful.

Curcumin may also benefit those with diabetes and metabolic syndrome. One early clinical study had reported that curcumin can decrease blood sugar levels in a diabetic patient, while a more recent study in the Nutrition Today journal found that curcumin lowered blood levels that relate to inflammatory stress in people with Type 2 diabetes.

Antioxidant benefits

Curcumin in turmeric is not only known to have anti-inflammatory benefits, but it is a powerful antioxidant as well. Antioxidants are substances that remove damaging substances that cause chemical imbalances in a living being. The antioxidant properties in curcumin make it a powerful substance that has demonstrated to decrease those chemical imbalances in the body.

These chemical imbalances that can take place in the body are associated with health problems such as diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

What is considered a safe dose of turmeric?

It is important to note that although turmeric is good for the body and that adequate amounts are healthy, too much is not healthy. The curcumin in turmeric has a low toxicity rate and most people can tolerate it quite well. However, it is important to note that previous studies have generally not looked at toleration with specific medications. Toxicity rates and side effects can possibly change with medication, so always consult a doctor before using with medication!

Evidence and clinical studies continue to be done and are in progress to further explain the many health benefits of turmeric. For now, it’s safe to say that turmeric may be a gold mine that has been found when it comes to anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits! The question is: the next time that turmeric comes to mind, what step will you take? Will you add it to your grocery list or even grow some in your garden at home?

* Aging Matters covers topics of interest to the aging Maui community and appears on the third Saturday of each month.


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