Turmeric: A Spice For Life

Posted Fri, 05/08/2009 - 2:53am by Fred Lee

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Besides its ability to add flavor to a variety of dishes, turmeric has long been heralded for its supposed curative and healing abilities. Now it is being examined as a potential aid in fighting obesity and type-2 (adult onset) diabetes

Doctors in New York found that in animals models, a diet that included turmeric actually lowered their susceptibility to diabetes, based on blood glucose levels and insulin tolerance tests. The consumption of turmeric also seemed to significantly reduce the inflammation in the fat and liver tissue.

The researchers speculate that the key to turmeric’s healthful qualities is the compound curcumin, which is believed to be an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation. Consequently, curcumin is thought to lessen the body’s inflammatory response to obesity and thus potentially lower the incidence of insulin resistance and by extension, diabetes.

It is known that in addition to the obvious health consequences, obesity can result in inflammation of certain organs, including the heart and the pancreas, as well as affecting insulin resistance in the muscles and liver. This occurs because certain cells (macrophages) found in the fatty tissue release cell signals, or cytokines, that cause the inflammation.

It stands to reason that having fewer of these macrophages, by way of having less fatty tissue (i.e., losing weight), would reduce these cytokines and thus inflammation. Another approach would be to reduce the impact of the existing macrophages by suppressing their impact with medication. Researchers are hoping that perhaps turmeric would accomplish a similar goal.

Before any concrete conclusions can be drawn, however, more work will be required. There are also some important considerations to keep in mind. First of all, while turmeric showed promise in animal models, that does not necessarily translate into an effective therapy for humans, and further testing needs to be done. Also, the amount of turmeric needed to have a significant enough impact might not be realistic.

Even still, the data is promising, and once again points to the importance of diet to our health. Furthermore, by gaining a better understanding of the mechanism by which turmeric (and curcumins) benefit the body, scientists and researchers can develop alternative therapies based on their mode of action.

Which only goes to show you that good eating is more than just the spice of life.



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