Learning new information can be an exhilarating thing. Too many of us, unfortunately, are not interested in obtaining new knowledge and growing from it. I had been actively studying nutrition for the last ten years and consider myself somewhat of an authority. However, when I come across new information in the field of nutrition, I find it rather exciting. Well, today is one of those days.
Over the years, although I had read about the herb turmeric it was not until recently that I realized the extent of this very powerful nutrient.
Turmeric, otherwise known as curcumin, is a member of the ginger family that is extensively cultivated throughout India, China and Indonesia. Turmeric is the major ingredient in curry, a spice that is used quite liberally in the Indian diet. I had always known that turmeric had anti-inflammatory effects along with some anti-cancer effects, although after doing some further reading I was blown away by the incredible versatility and benefits of this nutrient.
Researchers from the University of California in Los Angeles have indicated that India has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease in the world, estimated to be about 1% of individuals over the age of 65, whereas approximately 10% of Americans over age 65 reportedly develop Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers suggested that perhaps the curry that was rich in curcumin had some anti-Alzheimer’s effect. Recent literature has indicated that the long term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, these drugs are not without long term consequences leading to an increased risk of GI bleeding, liver and kidney damage.
The UCLA researchers conducted a rather interesting experiment. Mice were genetically bred to develop Alzheimer’s-like lesions in the brain that are known as Alzheimer’s plaques. The mice were then treated with various doses of curcumin.
It was found that relatively low doses of curcumin diminished the destructive Alzheimer’s pathologic changes in the mice brains by about 50%. The researchers concluded that consuming curcumin may be a safer alternative compared to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in helping to reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.
Additionally, there are multiple studies in the medical literature suggesting that curcumin can have some potential in actually treating various forms of cancer. In doing this recent research, I was pleased to see that several micronutrients are currently being examined by the National Cancer Institute for possible chemo-preventive trials for prostate, breast and colon cancers. Among the micro-nutrients that are being examined is curcumin.
In one article published in the journal Anti-Cancer Research from earlier this year, it was indicated that extensive research over the last fifty years suggests that this nutrient can both prevent and treat cancer.
The anti-cancer effects of curcumin stem from its ability to suppress proliferation from a wide variety of tumor cells and seem to be effective not only in suppressing tumor initiation but also tumor promotion and even metastasis (the spread of cancer). Pharmacologically, the nutrient is felt to be safe with human clinical trials showing no dose limiting toxicity up to 10g (10,000 mg) a day. The authors of the paper conclude by saying that studies have suggested that curcumin has enormous potential in the prevention and therapy of cancer.
As a side benefit, curcumin appears to have a positive effect on gall bladder function. It also has some beneficial effects regarding the cardiovascular system including the lowering of cholesterol levels and inhibition of platelet aggregation.
It is not uncommon for the children of patients with Alzheimer’s disease to express concern about their potential for developing a similar dementing illness.
I am asked on a regular basis to recommend certain nutrients. I certainly routinely recommend good doses of vitamins C, E and B complex, fish oil and antioxidants but now having reviewed this literature on turmeric, I will suggest this micro-nutrient as well.
Look for supplement capsules that contain 900 mg of turmeric standardized to 95% curcumin (the highest level available). Further, it should include 5 mg of Bioperine to dramatically enhance the absorption of the curcumin into the blood stream. Capsules are easier to swallow than rock hard tablets that contain binders and artificial colors.
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