My blogs aren’t just about my thoughts, feelings and experiences. My blogs also reflect my keen interest in all aspects of lifestyle choices and healthy living, including Nutrition and alternative remedies.
Today I’m looking at Turmeric. In its raw form, Turmeric looks a bit like ginger root, but ground down, you get the familiar and distinctive yellowy orange powder.
Thousands of scientific papers have been published looking at turmeric in the laboratory, but these have mostly been carried out in laboratory conditions on mice, using unrealistically high doses. There have been few experiments done on humans in the real world.
Recently, the BBC recruited nearly 100 volunteers to do a real world experiment. The volunteers were divided into three groups. One group was asked to consume a teaspoon of turmeric every day for six weeks, mixed in with their food. Another group were asked to take a supplement containing the same amount of turmeric and a third group were given a placebo, or dummy pill.
The idea was to establish what, if any effect eating turmeric had. This was investigated at University College, London, by Professor Martin Widschwendter and his team.
Professor Widschwendter’s job is to research into how cancers start. His team has been comparing tissue samples taken from women with breast cancer and from women without it and they’ve found a change that happens to the DNA of cells well before they become cancerous.
The change is in the ‘packaging’ of the genes, called DNA methylation. If this change is detected in time, this can, potentially be reversed, before the cells turn cancerous. DNA methylation may explain why, for instance, our risk of developing lung cancer drops dramatically once you give up smoking.
It could be that the unhealthy methylation of genes, caused by tobacco smoke, stops or reverses once you quit. Professor Widschwendter was asked whether testing the DNA methylation patterns of the volunteers’ blood cells at the start and end of the experiment would reveal any change in their risk of cancer and other diseases, like allergies. It was something that had not been done before.
Not surprisingly the results did not find any changes in the group taking the placebo. The supplement group also didn’t also show any difference. However, the group who mixed turmeric powder into their food saw quite substantial changes. One particular gene showed the biggest difference.
What’s interesting is that this gene is involved in three specific diseases, depression, asthma, eczema and cancer. Professor Widschwendter said; “this is a really striking finding.”
A key question is why were changes only seen in those eating turmeric, not in those taking the same amount as a supplement? Dr Kirsten Brandt, a senior lecturer at Newcastle University and who helped run the experiment, thinks it may have something to do with the way the turmeric was consumed.
For instance, it could be that adding fat or heating it up makes the active ingredients more soluble, which would make it easier for us to absorb the turmeric. Additionally, because all the volunteers all tried consuming the turmeric in different ways, the researchers can be confident it was the turmeric that was making the difference and not some other ingredient used.
The study’s author says there is a lot more research that needs to be done, including repeating the experiment to see if these findings can be confirmed, but agree the findings at this stage are very exciting.
Turmeric is also an anti-inflammatory and contains antioxidant properties, which protects the body from free radicals. If you think you may have a problem with Turmeric, always consult a medical practitioner.