Turmeric may be the most effective nutritional supplement on the market.
Many high-quality studies show that turmeric has significant health benefits for both the body and the brain. Many of these advantages are attributed to its main active ingredient, curcumin.
Continue reading to learn more about turmeric and curcumin, as well as their benefits.
What exactly are turmeric and curcumin?
Turmeric is the spice responsible for the yellow colour of curry.
It has been used as a spice and medicinal herb in India for thousands of years. Science has recently begun to support traditional claims that turmeric contains compounds with medicinal properties (1).
Curcuminoids are the name given to these compounds. Curcumin is the most important.
Turmeric's main active ingredient is curcumin. It has potent anti-inflammatory properties and is a potent antioxidant.
The top ten evidence-based health benefits of turmeric and curcumin are listed below.
1. Turmeric contains bioactive compounds that are medicinal in nature.
Turmeric, however, does not have a high curcumin content. By weight, it is around 3% (2). The majority of studies on this herb have used turmeric extracts containing mostly curcumin, with dosages typically exceeding 1 gram per day.
It would be extremely difficult to achieve these levels simply by using turmeric as a spice in your foods.
That is why some people prefer to take supplements.
Curcumin, on the other hand, is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. To reap the full benefits of curcumin, its bioavailability (the rate at which your body absorbs a substance) must be improved (3).
It is beneficial to combine it with black pepper, which contains piperine. Piperine is a natural substance that increases curcumin absorption by 2,000%. (4).
In fact, the best curcumin supplements contain piperine, which increases their potency significantly.
Curcumin is also fat soluble, which means it dissolves and breaks down in fat or oil. As a result, taking curcumin supplements with a high-fat meal may be beneficial.
Curcumin, a substance with potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, is found in turmeric. The majority of studies use turmeric extracts containing high levels of curcumin.
2. Curcumin is a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compound.
Inflammation is very important. It aids in the fight against foreign invaders and aids in the repair of bodily damage.
Although acute, short-term inflammation is beneficial, it can be problematic if it becomes chronic and attacks your own tissues.
Chronic low-level inflammation, according to scientists, may play a role in some health conditions and diseases. These are some examples (5, 6, 7):
- heart disease
- metabolic syndrome
- various degenerative diseases
As a result, anything that can help fight chronic inflammation has the potential to be useful in preventing and treating these conditions.
While the topic of inflammation is complex, and there is likely no one-size-fits-all solution, the key takeaway from curcumin is that it is a bioactive substance that can fight inflammation. However, extremely high doses are required to produce therapeutic results (8, 9, 10).
Chronic inflammation is linked to a number of common health problems. Curcumin has the ability to suppress many molecules known to play important roles in inflammation, but its bioavailability must be improved.
3. Turmeric can boost the body's antioxidant capacity.
One of the mechanisms underlying ageing and many diseases is thought to be oxidative damage.
It involves the use of free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons. Free radicals have a tendency to react with important organic substances like fatty acids, proteins, and DNA.
The primary benefit of antioxidants is that they protect your body from free radicals.
Because of its chemical structure, curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that can neutralise free radicals (11).
Furthermore, animal and cellular studies indicate that curcumin may inhibit the action of free radicals while stimulating the action of other antioxidants. More human clinical trials are needed to confirm these benefits (12).
Curcumin has antioxidant properties, though more research is needed to confirm the benefits.
4. Curcumin can increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels.
Prior to scientists' better understanding of neurons, it was thought that they couldn't divide and multiply after early childhood. They now know, however, that this is not the case.
Neurons can form new connections and multiply and increase in number in certain areas of the brain.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor is one of the primary drivers of this process (BDNF). This is a gene that is involved in the production of a protein that promotes the life of neurons.
The BDNF protein is involved in memory and learning, and it is found in areas of the brain that control eating, drinking, and body weight (13, 14).
Many common brain disorders, including depression and Alzheimer's disease, have been linked to decreased BDNF protein levels (15, 16).
Curcumin has been shown in animal studies to increase BDNF levels in the brain (17, 18).
It may be effective in delaying or even reversing many brain diseases and age-related declines in brain function by doing so. Still, because these studies were conducted on animals, it's difficult to say what the findings mean for humans (19, 20).
It may also aid in the improvement of memory and attention, which seems logical given its effects on BDNF levels. More research, however, is required to confirm this (21).
Curcumin increases levels of the brain hormone BDNF, which promotes the growth of new neurons and may aid in the fight against various degenerative processes in the brain.
5. Curcumin may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide (22). Researchers have been studying it for decades and have learned a lot about why it occurs. Heart disease is extremely complicated, and a variety of factors contribute to it.
Curcumin may aid in the reversal of many steps in the heart disease process (23, 24).
Curcumin may have the greatest benefit for heart disease by improving the function of the endothelium, the lining of your blood vessels (25).
Endothelial dysfunction is a major contributor to heart disease. This occurs when your endothelium is unable to control blood pressure, clotting, and other factors (26).
Several studies suggest that curcumin can improve heart health (27, 28). Furthermore, one study discovered that it is just as effective as exercise in postmenopausal women (29).
Furthermore, as previously discussed, curcumin can help reduce inflammation and oxidation, both of which can play a role in heart disease.
In one study, researchers gave 121 people undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery either a placebo or 4 grams of curcumin per day for a few days before and after the surgery.
The curcumin group had a 66% lower risk of having a heart attack in the hospital (30).
Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties and has been linked to a reduction in the risk of heart disease. It's also an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
6. Turmeric may aid in the prevention of cancer.
Cancer is a disease marked by uncontrollable cell growth. Curcumin supplements appear to be effective against a wide range of cancers (31).
Curcumin has been studied as a cancer-fighting herb and has been shown to inhibit cancer growth and development (32).
According to studies (33, 34), it can:
- aid in the death of cancerous cells
- inhibit angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels in tumors)
- lessen metastasis (spread of cancer)
High-dose curcumin, preferably in combination with an absorption enhancer like piperine, has yet to be thoroughly studied in humans.
However, there is evidence that it may help to prevent cancer, particularly cancers of the digestive system such as colorectal cancer (35).
In a 30-day study of 44 men with colon lesions that can turn cancerous, 4 grams of curcumin per day reduced the number of lesions by 40%. (36).
Curcumin causes several molecular changes that may aid in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
7. Curcumin may be beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for up to 70% of all dementia cases (37).
While there is treatment for some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's, there is no cure as of yet. That is why it is critical to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Curcumin has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, so there may be some good news on the way (38).
It is well understood that inflammation and oxidative damage play a role in Alzheimer's disease, and curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (39).
Furthermore, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease is the formation of protein tangles known as amyloid plaques. Curcumin has been shown in studies to help clear these plaques (40).
Curcumin's ability to slow or even reverse the progression of Alzheimer's disease in humans is currently unknown and needs to be researched.
Curcumin has been shown to improve the pathological process of Alzheimer's disease by crossing the blood-brain barrier.
8. Curcumin supplements work well for arthritis patients.
In Western countries, arthritis is a common problem. There are several types of arthritis, the majority of which involve joint inflammation.
Given that curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound, it stands to reason that it could aid in the treatment of arthritis. Several studies, in fact, show that there is a link.
Curcumin was found to be more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug in a study of people with rheumatoid arthritis (41).
Several other studies have looked at the effects of curcumin on arthritis and found that it improves a variety of symptoms (42).
Arthritis is a common disease that causes joint inflammation. Many studies show that curcumin can help treat arthritis symptoms and is even more effective than anti-inflammatory drugs in some cases.
9. Curcumin has antidepressant properties.
Curcumin has shown promise in the treatment of depression.
In a randomised controlled trial, 60 people with depression were randomly assigned to one of three groups (43). One group received Prozac, another received 1 gram of curcumin, and the third received both Prozac and curcumin.
Curcumin produced results comparable to Prozac after 6 weeks. The group that received both Prozac and curcumin fared the best (44).
Curcumin is as effective as an antidepressant, according to this small study.
Depression is also associated with lower BDNF levels and a shrinking hippocampus, a brain area involved in learning and memory. Curcumin has been shown to increase BDNF levels, potentially reversing some of these changes (45).
There is also evidence that curcumin can increase the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine in the brain (46, 47).
Curcumin was found to be as effective as Prozac in alleviating depression symptoms in a study of 60 people.
10. Curcumin may aid in the prevention and treatment of age-related chronic diseases.
If curcumin can truly help prevent heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's, it may also help with longevity.
This suggests that curcumin could be useful as an anti-aging supplement (48).
Given that oxidation and inflammation are thought to play a role in ageing, curcumin may have effects that extend far beyond disease prevention (49).
Curcumin may aid longevity due to its numerous positive health effects, including the potential to prevent heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer.
Turmeric, and particularly its most active compound, curcumin, has numerous scientifically proven health benefits, including the ability to improve heart health and prevent Alzheimer's and cancer.
It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It may also aid in the treatment of depression and arthritis symptoms.
While these benefits are possible, they are currently limited due to curcumin's low bioavailability.