By Dr. Mercola
One of the simplest and most enjoyable ways to up the health ante of your meals is by adding herbs and spices, and in the realm of spices, turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin may be king.
If you’re a fan of curry, you’re probably also a fan of turmeric, as this is the yellow-orange spice that makes the foundation of many curry dishes. It’s a great addition to your diet, but to get the full benefits curcumin has to offer, look for a turmeric extract that contains 100 percent certified organic ingredients and at least 95 percent curcuminoids.
Research is emerging showing that this potent spice may play a beneficial role in preventing and treating numerous chronic diseases, and may offer promise in helping people deal with obesity and obesity-related metabolic diseases.
Does Curcumin Boost Weight Loss?
Research in the European Journal of Nutrition suggests that curcumin may be useful for the treatment and prevention of obesity-related chronic diseases, as the interactions of curcumin with several signal transduction pathways — the process by which biological functions are recognized — also reverse insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and other inflammatory symptoms associated with obesity and metabolic disorders.
Curcumin is known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties, and chronic inflammation is the hallmark of most chronic disease, including diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. But many people are not aware that obesity contributes to a state of low-grade, chronic inflammation in your body that can trigger metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Curcumin appears to modulate several cellular transduction pathways that contribute to this damaging process.
As a result, researchers concluded:
“These findings might enable novel phytochemical treatment strategies as well as curcumin translation to the clinical practice for the treatment and prevention of obesity-related chronic diseases. Furthermore, the relatively low cost of curcumin, safety and proven efficacy make it advisable to include curcumin as part of a healthy diet.”
Past research has revealed similar findings, including that curcumin reduces the formation of fat tissue by suppressing the blood vessels needed to form it. As the researchers stated:
“Our results clearly demonstrate that curcumin at cellular and whole organism levels displays remarkable potential health benefits for prevention of obesity and associated metabolic disorders.”
Weight Loss is Just the Icing on the Cake
The benefits of curcumin go way beyond weight loss. The compound has been shown to influence more than 700 genes, and it can inhibit both the activity and the synthesis of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2) and 5-lipooxygenase (5-LOX), as well as other enzymes that have been implicated in inflammation.
But that’s not all. Curcumin currently has the most evidence-based literature supporting its use against cancer than any other nutrient. Interestingly this also includes the metabolite of curcumin and its derivatives, which are also anti-cancerous. Best of all, curcumin appears to be safe in the treatment of all cancers. Researchers have found that curcumin can affect more than 100 different pathways, once it gets into the cell.
More specifically, curcumin has been found to:
✓ Inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells
✓ Decrease inflammation
✓ Inhibit the transformation of cells from normal to tumor
✓ Inhibit the synthesis of a protein thought to be instrumental in tumor formation
✓ Help your body destroy mutated cancer cells so they cannot spread throughout your body
✓ Help prevent the development of additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth (angiogenesis)
However, much of curcumin’s power seems to lie in its ability to modulate genetic activity and expression — both by destroying cancer cells and by promoting healthy cell function. As such, evidence suggests curcumin may play a beneficial role in the following conditions:
✓ Cystic fibrosis
✓ Type 2 diabetes
✓ Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease
✓ Rheumatoid arthritis
✓ Muscle regeneration and regenerate brain cells after stroke
✓ Alzheimer’s disease
✓ Reduce cholesterol levels
✓ Inhibit platelet aggregation
✓ Protect against liver damage
✓ Inhibit HIV replication
✓ Suppress tumor formation
✓ Suppress symptoms of multiple sclerosis
Tips for Using Curcumin Therapeutically
You can use turmeric in your cooking (choose a pure turmeric powder, rather than a curry powder, as at least one study has found that curry powders tend to contain very little curcumin), but you may also want to consider taking it in supplement form. For many this is a more convenient method to obtain the potential health benefits, especially if it is from a high-quality organic source, and also if you don’t particularly enjoy the taste of curry.
Unfortunately, at the present time there really are no formulations available for the use against cancer, as relatively high doses are required and curcumin is not absorbed that well.
According to Dr. William LaValley, one of the leading medicine cancer physicians I personally know, typical anticancer doses are up to three grams of good bioavailable curcumin extract, three to four times daily. One work-around is to use the curcumin powder and make a microemulsion of it by combining a tablespoon of the powder and mixing it into 1-2 egg yolks and a teaspoon or two of melted coconut oil. Then use a high-speed hand blender to emulsify the powder.
Another strategy that can help increase absorption is to put one tablespoon of the curcumin powder into a quart of boiling water. It must be boiling when you add the powder as it will not work as well if you put it in room temperature water and heat the water and curcumin. After boiling it for ten minutes you will have created a 12 percent solution that you can drink once it has cooled down. It will have a woody taste.
The curcumin will gradually fall out of solution however. In about six hours it will be a 6 percent solution, so it’s best to drink the water within four hours. Be aware that curcumin is a very potent yellow pigment and can permanently discolor surfaces if you aren’t careful.
Be Sure Your Weight Loss Strategy is Comprehensive
It can’t hurt to add curcumin to your comprehensive weight loss program, but it should not be your only strategy for weight loss if you’re currently overweight or obese.
You can read an in-depth explanation of the common factors that contribute to weight loss here, but the key is the quality of your calories and exercise. Typically you will need to replace grains and sugars, including fructose, with high-quality protein and fats AND add in high-intensity exercise training like Peak Fitness. I realize that this might conflict with your previous understanding of a healthy diet, but that is clearly what the bulk of the science and anecdotal evidence supports.
For more comprehensive details, please see my nutrition plan, which is divided into beginner, intermediary and advanced, so that you can slowly work your way toward achieving your weight loss goals.