Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Turmeric – The Spice of Life

There's a lot of buzz around this golden-yellow spice but is it worthy of this hype? Our nutritionist Pippa Mitchell gives us the lowdown on turmeric....

Curcumin is the yellow pigment associated with the spice Turmeric. Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and curcumin is also found to a lesser extent in ginger.

There have been numerous studies that show curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and antioxidant properties and that is has multiple uses for many health conditions.

But it can be difficult to absorb this valuable chemical into the blood stream (most is quickly metabolised by the liver and walls of the intestines and then excreted from the body) so this should be borne in mind when using supplements to ensure that they are effective. 

There are good scientific studies which show that Curcumin:

    Reduces inflammation in many conditions
    Osteoarthritis: there appears to be significant reductions in symptoms of osteoarthritis, with the largest decrease noted 8 months after supplementation and more halved symptoms
    Improved function in the elderly with osteoarthritis – subjects were able to cover more than twice the distance than those who took a control
    Reduces oedema – swelling under the skin and in the body
    Pain reduction: at doses of 400-500mg the spice can reduce pain generally but also in post-operative and arthritic symptoms.
    Possibly increases HDL cholesterol (so called ‘good’ cholesterol) that brings circulating cholesterol and fatty acids back to the liver for clearance; high HDL levels are considered heart protective.
    Possibly reduces triglycerides but studies are inconsistent: circulating levels of fatty acids excessively high levels of which contribute to cardiovascular disease.
    Increases blood flow (blood circulation)
    Colorectal cancer risk: Appears to be associated with a reduced risk for colon cancer
    Fatigue: A decrease in postoperative fatigue has been noted with curcumin supplementation
    Mucositis is the painful inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes lining the digestive tract, usually as an adverse effect of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment for cancer. Curcumin has been noted to decrease symptoms.
    Prostate cancer: appears to be associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer; has been noted to decrease prostate specific antigen levels following supplementation
    Crohns Disease and Ulcerative colitis: Symptoms reduced with supplementation of curcumin.
What supplement should you take?

As curcumin is poorly absorbed into the blood stream, supplement companies often combine it with piperine – an extract of black pepper that improves absorption.

In the case of curcumin, taking it with piperine is useful because it gets the supplement to the extremities rather than being broken down by the liver.

However there may be some contraindications in taking piperine if you are on prescribed medication so you should consult your GP, consultant or other health professional if that's the case.

There are a number of good quality supplements on the market that do not contain piperine but have been processed in ways to increase their absorption.

Another way to aid absorption is to take curcumin with a source of fat (as it is a fat soluble) – so pick a supplement that contains a healthy oil to enhance absorption.

The University of Maryland makes these recommendations:

The following doses are recommended for adults:
    Cut root (fresh): 1.5 to 3 g per day
    Dried, powdered root (spice): 1 to 3 g per day
    Standardized powder (curcumin): 400 to 600 mg, 3 times per day
    Fluid extract (1:1) 30 to 90 drops a day
    Tincture (1:2): 15 to 30 drops, 4 times per day

Dietary sources
Alternatively you can add the spice Turmeric to cooking along with black pepper and by ensuring you have a good source of fat with it. So perfect for curries containing ghee, coconut oil, sesame oil or others. Scrambled tofu with turmeric and pepper is also delicious as it turmeric tea, also known as Golden Milk!


More on Pippa and booking in with her here.