Since going more or less vegan, I’ve been putting a pinch of turmeric in my breakfast cereal or oatmeal, every morning (along with a few spoons of flaxseed). That’s because I’ve seen so many news items and information in my reference books about the potential beneficial effects.
The culinary powder I use is from the ground up root of the plant, a relative of ginger, and has always been widely used in Asian cooking. But why the hype now about its health benefits, when at least according to Wikipedia “there is no high-quality clinical evidence for using turmeric or its constituent, curcumin, to treat any disease”?
In “How not to Die”, Doctor Greger recommends ¼ tsp turmeric daily, based on various published studies and trials, because:
• It appears to protect DNA from damage.
• In terms of lung cancer, Turmeric (or the active ingredient Curcumin) may help prevent cancer and arrest cancer cell growth. Cancer cells often disable their suicide mechanism (apoptosis) but Curcumin seems able to re-activate this mechanism.
• There’s similar evidence regarding brain disease, and various cancers, including myeloma.
• It can treat rheumatoid arthritis better than leading drugs.
He notes that “You can boost the levels that go into the blood by having a little black pepper with it. (active ingredient is called piperine).” Also: “Turmeric and curcumin supplements are effective, but not as much as Turmeric. It’s possible that components other than curcumin are in turmeric.”
In Medical News Today, they point out that:
• It has traditionally been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat inflammatory conditions, skin diseases, wounds, digestive ailments, and liver conditions.
• The Arthritis Foundation cites several studies in which turmeric has reduced inflammation.
• The antioxidant effect of turmeric appears to be so powerful that it may stop your liver from being damaged by toxins.
• Curcumin shows promise as a cancer treatment. Studies suggest it has protective effects against pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, and multiple myeloma.
A page on the UK National Health Service site refers to a set of experiments in 2009 published in the British Journal of Cancer. The conclusion from these experiments:
• In the laboratory, curcumin was tested on a range of different types of cancer cells from the gullet (esophagus). Introducing the chemical induced a type of cell death, called mitotic catastrophe.
• It is likely that curcumin may be a realistic option for future consideration as a molecular method to prevent and treat cancer.
This ties in with previous research that has shown that “curcumin induces ‘cell death’ in malignant cells. Many tumor cells are resistant to cell death, and any substance that can change this without affecting healthy cells has potential as an anti-cancer agent.”
A study reported in the US journal “Foods” in 2017 concludes that:
“Curcumin has received worldwide attention for its multiple health benefits, which appear to act primarily through its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
These benefits are best achieved when curcumin is combined with agents such as piperine (the major active component of black pepper), which increase its bioavailability significantly.
Research suggests that curcumin can help in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia.
It may also help in the management of exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness, thus enhancing recovery and subsequent performance in active people.
In addition, a relatively low dose can provide health benefits for people that do not have diagnosed health conditions.”
It’s all enough evidence for me that a small daily “dose” of turmeric has the potential to do good, with no real downside. I’ve been putting a pinch in my breakfast cereal for some time, but I’m now going to add a touch of black pepper too.
Incidentally, the benefits in these studies seem as good or better when taking turmeric itself, rather than supplements based on turmeric or curcumin. That’s good news, as powdered turmeric costs next to nothing!
What if you want toast or muffins for breakfast? Well, I just mix up a little muesli with flaxseed and turmeric, and soy milk, and have it as a starter.
British Journal of Cancer: https://www.nature.com/articles/6605308
Foods article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/