In recent years, more than five thousand articles have been published on curcumin, the pigment in the Indian spiceturmeric that gives it its golden color. Curcumin was first isolated more than a century ago, but of the thousands of experiments conducted in the twentieth century, only a few were of a clinical nature involving humans.
Since the beginning of this century, curcumin has been tested in more than 50 clinical trials analyzing its effects on various diseases, and the results of dozens of studies are still pending.
Turmeric is the most effective herbal food supplement in existence. Numerous scientific studies prove the benefitsof turmeric for the body.
The biologically active substances contained in turmeric have a healing effect. These compounds are called curcuminoids, the most important of which is curcumin . The amount of curcumin, which is responsible for the bright yellow color, in ginger is not high - it is only about 3-4 percent. all masses.
Curcumin consists of curcumin I (94%), curcumin II (6%), and curcumin III (0.3%). Although the amount of curcumin in turmeric is small, it is the main active ingredientin turmeric . Curcumin has a strong anti-inflammatory effect and is a very powerful antioxidant that inhibits inflammatory processes in the body.
Curcumin neutralizes free radicals, but also stimulates the body's production of antioxidant enzymes. Its antioxidant activity is similar to that of vitamins C and E.
The effects of curcumin on brain activity and cognitive functions have also been proven. This biologically active substance enhances neurogenesis (formation of new nerve cells) and cognitive functions (memory, attention, reaction mechanisms) during aging. However, again, more human studies are needed.
Turmeric improves the function of vascular endothelium, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Many studies have looked at the effects of curcumin on arthritis and documented improvements in various symptoms. Curcumin also has an antidepressant effect - it can increase the effect of brain neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, as well as increase the amount of one biologically active substance - BDNF - brain derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF stimulates the formation of new nerve cells (neurogenesis) and blood vessels (angiogenesis) in the brain structure responsible for memory, prolongs the survival of nerve cells, which is important for learning and memory.
Curcumin has also been proven to have powerful anti-cancer effects.
Although research has yet to prove a strong correlation between turmeric and reduced cancer risk, curcumin is being widely studied for the prevention and treatment of a variety of human cancers, including rectal, pancreatic, breast, prostate, multiple melanoma, lung, and head and neck cancers. The anti-cancer effect of curcumin is really powerful.
Curcumin is believed to help regulate programmed cell death. Our cells are pre-programmed to die naturally to make room for new cells and this process is called apoptosis. In a sense, our body regenerates itself every few months using the building blocks we provide it with proper nutrition.
However, some cells - namely cancer cells - turn off their own death mechanism and do not die when they should. As cancer cells continue to grow and divide, tumors can eventually form and potentially spread throughout the body. So how does curcumin affect this process?
Curcumin seems to be able to reprogram the self-destruction mechanism in cancer cells. All cells have so-called death receptors that trigger a sequence of self-destruction, but cancer cells can "turn off" their death receptors. Curcumin is thought to be able to reactivate them.
Unlike most chemotherapy drugs, to which cancer cells can become resistant over time, curcumin affects multiple cell death mechanisms simultaneously, making it harder for cancer cells to avoid destruction. For reasons not yet fully understood, curcumin does not affect non-cancerous cells.
Turmeric is high in soluble oxalates, which can bind to calcium to form insoluble calcium oxalates, which make up about three-quarters of all kidney stones. Thus, even moderate amounts of turmeric are not recommended for people prone to kidney stones.
It is also important to know that there is not enough evidence thatturmeric supplements are safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding; with gallbladder disease,turmeric can cause the gallbladder to contract, worsening symptoms; in bleeding disorders, the use ofturmeric can slow down blood clotting, in iron deficiency, the use of turmeric can interfere with iron absorption.
Pay attention in these situations.
Unfortunately, curcumin itself is poorly absorbed. Therefore, the combined use of black pepper, which contains piperine (about 5%), increases the absorption of curcumin by about 2000%. Therefore, turmeric alone does not have the same effect as when used together with piperine . Even a small pinch of pepper – 1/20 of a teaspoon – can significantly increase the absorption of curcumin. One of the ways our liver gets rid of foreign substances is by making them water-soluble so they can be excreted more easily. And the active component of black pepper, piperine, inhibits this process. In this way, curcumin together with piperine is fully absorbed into the blood and begins its action.
Guess what's a common ingredient in curry powder without turmeric ?
Black pepper. Another way to increase curcumin absorption is in the form of wholeturmeric root (fresh or dried) and powdered form, as the natural oils inturmeric root andturmeric powder can improve the bioavailability of curcumin by seven to eight times.
Also, since curcumin is fat-soluble, when eaten with fat, it can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream via the lymphatic system, thus partially bypassing the liver.
High dosesof turmeric and curcumin are not recommended for long-term use due to a lack of research to support their safety. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) has established an acceptable daily dose of 1.4 mg per kilogram (0-3 mg/kg) of body weight.
I would suggest trying to find ways to incorporateturmeric into your daily diet, just a few downsides, but the health benefits are endless.
Sandrija Čapkauskienė - doctor of biomedical sciences, LSU associate professor and nutritionist.