Curcumin's Effectiveness on Harmful Free Radicals
It's hard to say just how much damage free radicals do to individuals in today's atmosphere with all the pollution, chemicals in the air, water and food, not to mention stress and other factors.
Free radicals age you and can cause disease, but the curcumin in turmeric is active against disease in several ways.
Besides the inflammation fighting,11 antioxidants in turmeric neutralize free radicals throughout your body (including your brain, kidney, liver and heart) by its chemical structure.12 According to Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute:
"Curcumin taken orally may reach sufficient concentrations in the gastrointestinal tract and protect the intestinal mucosa against oxidative DNA damage.
In addition to a potentially direct antioxidant activity, curcumin can induce the expression of phase II antioxidant enzymes, including glutamate-cysteine ligase (GCL), the rate-limiting enzyme in glutathione synthesis.
Glutathione is an important intracellular antioxidant that plays a critical role in cellular adaptation to stress. Curcumin was found to upregulate the expression of GCL through the activation of different signaling pathways (and) increases the expression of GCL and other detoxifying enzymes."13
Turmeric May Prevent, Suppress and Kill Cancer Cells
Cancer is negatively affected by curcumin, as numerous studies have demonstrated. One study (among many) showed that it may inhibit the development as well as the spread of cancer at the molecular level.14
There's also evidence that curcumin intake may prevent cancer, particularly of the digestive system, such as colorectal cancer. Large numbers of studies indicate that curcumin has the ability to:
- Reduce the growth of new blood vessels in tumors
- Decrease the spread of cancer (metastasis)
- Help destroy cancer cells15
Similar effects of curcumin on colon cancer have been seen both in the lab and in test animals.16 Research also showed that when 44 men with lesions in the colon, which can turn cancerous, were given 4 grams of curcumin a day for 30 days, they came away with a 40 percent reduction in the number of lesions.17
Studies Show Curcumin May Help Prevent and Treat Alzheimer's
One of the most common neurodegenerative diseases is dementia. Scientists believe the very best way to combat it is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Your body is designed with a natural barrier to protect your brain from toxic molecules that can enter and damage neurons.
Curcumin has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. In one study, researchers designed a curcumin atomizer for curcumin to be breathed in and delivered to the brain18 for significant cognition improvement.
An overview of many benefits delivered by turmeric (besides those for cystic fibrosis, liver disease, hemorrhoids, atherosclerosis and gastric ulcers) showed that in regard to Alzheimer's, turmeric:
"Decreased beta-amyloid plaques, delayed degradation of neurons, metal-chelation, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and decreased microglia formation, the overall memory in patients with AD has improved."19
To explain the significance of beta-amyloid plaques:
"Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have shown how a protein fragment known as beta-amyloid, strongly implicated in Alzheimer's disease, begins destroying synapses before it clumps into plaques that lead to nerve cell death.
Key features of Alzheimer's, which affects about 5 million Americans, are wholesale loss of synapses — contact points via which nerve cells relay signals to one another — and a parallel deterioration in brain function, notably in the ability to remember."20
Things to Remember Regarding Curcumin
While curcumin is the most active ingredient in turmeric, there's only about 3 percent concentration in turmeric per weight.21 Authority Nutrition reported:
"Most of the studies on this herb are using turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin itself, with dosages usually exceeding 1 gram per day. It would be very difficult to reach these levels just using the turmeric spice in your foods. Therefore, if you want to experience the full effects, then you need to take an extract that contains significant amounts of curcumin."22
Another thing to remember about turmeric is that it doesn't absorb very well into your bloodstream, but there's a remedy for that, too; black pepper, which contains a natural element called piperine, is able to increase absorption of curcumin by 2,000 percent!23 Although turmeric is considered generally safe to eat, adverse effects of turmeric may include gastric problems, nausea, diarrhea, skin reactions, and interference with your body's ability to form blood clots.
All in all, turmeric is a root that has innumerable benefits for those who care to explore them. If you're the adventurous type, you can try making "golden milk" at home:
Ginger and Turmeric Latte
1. Combine 1 heaping teaspoon each of grated turmeric and ginger, 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar, 2 teaspoons of coconut oil and a pinch of sea salt in a blender.
2. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of almond milk over medium heat until it's just simmering.
3. Pour the hot almond milk into the blender and whir until smooth and frothy.
If you can't find fresh turmeric, you can use 1 teaspoon of turmeric spice instead.
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Sources and References:
Mercola, J. (2016). “Turmeric: The Spice of Life.” Mercola.com. Joseph Mercola, published 20 June 2016. Accessed 26 June 2016.
Image Credit: National Institute of Health (NIH). Fogarty International Center, “Turmeric may treat retinitis pigmentosa eye disease.” <https://www.fic.nih.gov/News/Examples/Pages/nei-turmeric.aspx>. Published Summer 2014. Accessed 26 June 2016.
13. OSU 2016
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