Turmeric has been used as a major anti-inflammatory herb, and is considered a panacea herb in Ayurveda. Now research, both in vitro and in vivo, shows that it may have another benefit. The May, 2009 issue of the Journal of Nutrition reported the discovery of researchers at Tufts University in Boston that that mice given curcumin experienced a reduction in the formation of fat tissue and the blood vessels that feed it. Curcumin is the major polyphenol in the spice turmeric.
The growth and expansion of fat tissues requires new blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis. In fat tissue, this process is mediated by the secretion of adipokines, such as leptin, adiponectin, resistin, interleukin-6 and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The researchers first investigated the effect of curcumin in cultured human umbillical cells to which adipokines had been added to stimulate angiogenesis. They found the ability of curcumin to inhibit angiogenesis was partly due to the reduced expression of VEGF. They then fed mice a high-fat diet supplemented with 500 milligrams curcumin per kilogram diet for 12 weeks. Weight gain was reduced in mice that received curcumin despite the same caloric intake. The researchers attributed this reduction to a decrease in total body fat in the curcumin-fed animals. Mice that received curcumin also had lower liver weights, and experienced a reduction in VEGF, indicating reduced angiogenesis. Reducing angiogenesis is also important to slow the growth of cancers. While this was not studied in this report, turmeric is frequently used in the herbal treatment of cancer. The mice fed curcumin were less likely to suffer from fatty liver. Total cholesterol, triglycerides, and free fatty acids were lower in mice that received curcumin compared with groups of unsupplemented animals.
It is important to note that the dose of curcumin fed to the mice is about the same as a human gets in a capsule. To get the equivalent for a human body weight would require much higher dosages. Pepper with turmeric, at about 10% helps boost turmeric to curcumin levels, but you are unlikely to get enough to duplicate the results of this study from diet or supplements. Nonetheless, taking large amounts of turmeric, both dietarily and in supplement form is good for your health. Sources: Life Extension Magazine April 21, 2009