The healing power of the golden spice Curcumin
Nalin Siriwardhana, PhD, interviewed Professor Bharat B Aggarwal from the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.
More than 4000 scientific studies provide evidence that the Curcumin of turmeric protects us against many chronic disease conditions. Those validated benefits are specifically against diabetes, obesity, cancer, and nervous system disorders. Also, Curcumin is known to protect us from many chronic illnesses affecting the eyes, lungs, liver, kidneys, digestive system and cardiovascular system.
Most of these activities are primarily due to the promising anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects of Curcumin.
Curcumin is the major bioactive compound of the golden dietary spice turmeric and is a yellow colored polyphenolic compound.Turmeric is not only a popular culinary spice, but also an ingredient in the Indian, Chinese and several other Asian medicinal systems for thousands of years. Another intriguing nature of Curcumin is its safety at higher dosages compared to other natural compounds. Curcumin reported minimum toxicity at doses as high as 10-12 grams per day. Not all natural bioactive compounds are equally safe at such high doses.However, the maximum safe dose of Curcumin is yet to be identified.
Nutrition Remarks interviewed Prof. Bharat B Aggarwal, a renowned scientist researching in the area of immunology and cancer experimental therapeuticsfor many years.A simplified version of the conversation is as follows:
Question from Nutrition Remarks: What are the most promising and validated health benefits of Curcumin?
Answer from Dr. Aggarwal: Curcumin is a strong anti-inflammatory agent and thus has promising effects to prevent and cure many chronic diseases including cancer. Over 200 different molecules linked to many chronic diseases have been shown to be modulated by Curcumin.
Question:What are the negative benefits of Curcumin documented after clinical studies/trials?
Answer: None reported so far.
Question:Other than in the clinical studies, are there any other recorded negative effects of Curcumin?
Answer: Although Curcumin is known to potentiate the effect of most chemotherapeutic agents, there are some exceptions.A study conducted by Dr. Robert Z. Orlowski and colleagues indicated that Curcumin can counteract with CYCLOPHOSPHAMIDE, a chemothraputic drug used for breast cancer. Although these studies have not been reproduced by other groups, they suggested further scientific studies to investigate whether cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, should limit dietary supplementation of Curcumin.
Question: Animal studies have shown that Curcumin has promising anti-diabetes, anti-obesity, anti-cancer and many other health benefits.When you consider the available clinical data and those animal studies, how do you see the potential of Curcumin to be more popular and successful in future clinical studies?
Answer:Because cost and safety is not an issue, investigations and determining efficacy is relatively easy. On the other hand, multiple scientific studies and epidemiological data provide evidence for promising benefits. Therefore, more and more clinical studies will hopefully validate the benefits against a variety of chronic diseases and uncover if there are any negative effects.
Question: Are there any epidemiological evidence available for the health benefits of Curcumin?
Answer: In general, countries/regions where Curcumin is consumed heavily, most chronic disease are less frequent, especially cancer. However, more focused analysis considering proper adjustments relevant to dietary and behavioral parameters will uncover more precise information. In other words, we will not see significant benefits of Curcumin if the study population is consistently expose to other serious health risk factors. In such cases we need to carefully analyze and interpret data.
Question: What is the average safe intake levels reported for Curcumin?
Answer: It is estimated that an average person consumes 100-200 milligrams of Curcumin every day. However, a study from Dr. Mack Ruffin’sgroupreported that a doses as high as 10 - 12 grams per day showed minimum toxicity.
Question: Are there any special medical conditions that patients should avoid Curcumin?
Answer: Curcumin is thought to be a blood thinner, thus people who are undergoing surgery should avoid this. Also, Curcumin has been shown to bind Iron. Although not clearly demonstrated, it will be important to be careful and get appropriate consultation under Iron deficiency conditions. And of course, patients undergoing chemotherapy should consult their physicians/nutritionists.
Question: What are the other important facts that we did not discuss here?
Answer: It has been shown that most chronic diseases are caused by chronic inflammation and thus can only be treated by chronic uptake of anti-inflammatory agents. Curcumin is perhaps one such agent that can be given chronically without any side effects.
Professor Bharat B Aggarwal, Ph.D.,
Dr. Bharat B Aggarwal is a Ransom Horne, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Cancer Research, Professor of Cancer Medicine, Professor of Immunology, Professor of Biochemistry and Professor of Experimental Therapeutics, and Chief, Cytokine Research Section, in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas. He also serves as member of the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Houston, and as an Adjunct Professor at Albert B. Alkek Institute of Biosciences and Technology, Texas A&M University, Houston, Texas and member in various Institutional committees of MDACC.
More about Prof. Bharat B Aggarwal and work
The authors acknowledge the following:
Prof. Bharat B Aggarwal acknowledges a variety of private and government funding sources including Clayton Foundation and National Institute of Health.
Written by Nalin Siriwardhana, PhD. and Amanda Fields
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