Tag Archives: curcuma

Dr. Mercola and Dr. LaValley Discuss Curcumin

Dr. Mercola wrote a very interesting article about curcuma which I would like to share with you all. I hope you will enjoy it.

Best regards, Michiel Floris

By Dr. Mercola

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death. What if there was a safe, natural herb that could work for nearly every type of cancer?

According to Dr. William LaValley, who focuses most of his clinical work on the treatment of cancer, curcumin—a derivative of turmeric, and the pigment that gives the curry spice turmeric its yellow-orange color—may fit the bill. It’s a natural compound that has been extensively researched, and has been found to have numerous health applications.

Like me, Dr. LaValley was trained in general medicine, but he’s devoted a considerable amount of time to understanding the biochemical pathways that can support health nutritionally.

In 1982, he participated in an exchange program to the People’s Republic of China, where he got first-hand experience with the ancient practices of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture.

“One of the important messages that I learned there was that natural products, natural molecules, from plants and animals that are already available in nature, have been used by the Chinese for at least hundreds, probably thousands of years. That deeply changed my perspective in the world of medicine,” he says.

“I came back to medical school, and thereafter, looked at how I could integrate the perspective of conventional pharmaceutical administration as well as natural extract, natural product administration.”

Curcumin Has Potent Anti-Cancer Activity

In 2005, he took a 75 percent sabbatical from clinical practice to immerse himself in the science of molecular biology, specifically the molecular biology of cancer. He also devoted approximately 9,000-9,500 hours building a relational database from the PubMed literature about the molecular biology of cancer.

One important lesson he learned through that venture is that the understanding of molecular biology can be applied across a range of diseases and symptoms described in the scientific literature. That knowledge can be applied by searching PubMed and other related databases, looking at the relevant molecular pathways involved.

“In learning the molecular biology of cancer pathways, and in learning that what the evidence actually shows for the effect of natural product extracts on various relevant molecular targets in various cancers, we see that there’s actually quite a large amount of evidence that supports using various molecules, natural products, and pharmaceuticals that are already approved and that have been around for a long time to affect anti-cancer activity along that pathway at that target. That’s called molecularly targeted anti-cancer treatment, and it’s widely practiced in oncology today.

What’s not widely practiced is the use of the natural products for the molecularly targeted anti-cancer activity. I provide that for my patients because the evidence base suggests and supports the use of these treatment recommendations.”

Curcumin—A ‘Universal’ Cancer Treatment?

Interestingly, curcumin appears to be universally useful for just about every type of cancer, which is really odd since cancer consists of a wide variety of different molecular pathologies. You wouldn’t necessarily suspect that there would be one herb that would work for most of them. Dr. LaValley explains how he came to this conclusion:

“I went back to the literature and looked at how I can support the decision-making process and the recommendations that I’m making for treatment from the scientific literature, including literature that goes from the treatment of humans with oral products like pharmaceuticals or natural products.

This is where I learned about this molecule called curcumin, all the way down to its use in animals and then its use in test tubes or petri dish… One of the amazing things about curcumin is that this molecule has some profound anti-inflammatory activity and has activity in many molecular targets.

There are molecules that are in the cells, and those molecules interact with each other along certain pathways or tracks. The traffic of that interaction, the signals that are transferred in that trafficking of information in the molecules, presents many different targets or molecular-specific complexes.”

As explained by Dr. LaValley, whether the curcumin molecule causes an increase in traffic or activity of a particular molecular target, or a decrease/inhibition of activity, studies repeatedly show that the end result is a potent anti-cancer activity. Furthermore, curcumin does not adversely affect healthy cells, suggesting it selectively targets cancer cells. Research has also shown that it works synergistically with certain chemotherapy drugs, enhancing the elimination of cancer cells.

Curcumin Destroys Cancer in Multiple Ways

Curcumin has the most evidence-based literature supporting its use against cancer of any nutrient, including vitamin D, which also has a robust base. Interestingly, this also includes the metabolite of curcumin and its derivatives, which are also anti-cancerous.

Curcumin has the ability to modulate genetic activity and expression—both by destroying cancer cells and by promoting healthy cell function. It also promotes anti-angiogenesis, meaning it helps prevent the development of additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth. As for its effect on molecular pathways, curcumin can affect more than 100 of them, 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)

Why Whole Turmeric Is Ineffective

Unfortunately, while there’s some curcumin in whole turmeric, there’s not enough in the regular spice to achieve clinically relevant results. The turmeric root itself contains only about three percent curcumin concentration. Another major limitation of curcumin as a therapeutic agent is that it is poorly absorbed. When taken in its raw form, you’re only absorbing about one percent of the available curcumin.

“The natural product industry has developed a standard of a 95-percent concentration of curcumin,” Dr. LaValley explains. “Initially, years ago, that was what we had available for patients. Even at that, taking a 95-percent concentration orally in a capsule, only one percent of that could be absorbed. In order to get amounts of curcumin in the bloodstream that are reasonable to have therapeutic effect, people had to take large amounts of curcumin…

In searching the literature, I found that a way to change that, to dramatically increase the bioavailability, is actually a very simple process of bringing water to a boil, putting those capsules or some dry powder (I use it by the teaspoon), and boiling it for 10 to 12 minutes. That increases the amount of curcumin dissolved in water from that one-percent amount up to 12 percent or so. That amount is a vast number of curcumin molecules that are now in a bioavailable or absorbable form.”

However, while this is certainly doable, it’s really inconvenient, and great care must be taken to prevent staining your clothes and kitchen surfaces. It’s a significant enough problem to have been dubbed “yellow kitchen syndrome,” as it’s virtually impossible to get the stains out. Turmeric is in fact an excellent dyeing agent for fabrics, rendering them a yellow-orange color.

Convenience and efficiency has driven many of the changes in the forms of curcumin in later years. Because it’s a fat-loving or lipophilic molecule, many newer preparations now include some sort of oil or fat, which improves its absorbability and bioavailability. Such preparations typically have seven to eight times higher absorption than the raw, unprocessed 95-percent-concentration of dry powder. There are also newer sustained release preparations, which Dr. LaValley prefers and recommends.

The Connection Between Cancer and Insulin Resistance

If you are overweight, or have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and/or diabetes, then in all likelihood insulin and leptin resistance is a factor. Insulin and leptin resistance is also a very common factor among cancer patients. From my perspective, a ketogenic diet (with or without intermittent fasting) would be a prudent treatment strategy to resolve that underlying problem. Once you’ve normalized your insulin and leptin, you don’t necessarily need to maintain a ketogenic diet, if you find it too restrictive.

“I agree with you that a ketogenic diet is really appropriate in many cases, probably the significant majority of cases,” Dr. LaValley says. “It’s been known for probably 80 years or longer that solid tumors, and some of the blood cancers, are sugar-loving. Another term is that they are addicted to sugar.

I use [a] PET scan to demonstrate to patients that here is objective proof that the tumors you have in your body are sugar-avid. They’re taking up sugar at a rate much higher than the other regular healthy cells. I want to drive home that message, so that they are motivated to alter their diet to have a low, low carb intake, causing their body to generate additional nutrient supply molecules called ketones…

What that means is that we’re trying to provide an anti-cancer antagonistic pressure on the cancer cells by reducing the amount of sugar that’s readily available for uptake by reducing the easily available sugar in the diet and compensating for the nutrient reduction and sugar [reduction] by increasing healthy fats.”

Cutting Down on Protein May Be Particularly Useful for Cancer Patients

It would also be prudent to assess your protein intake. Many Americans eat far more protein than required for optimal health. The reason for this is because your body can actually use excess protein (you do need some) to stimulate carbohydrate production. Excess protein also stimulates the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathways, which are useful for building muscles but can be detrimental when treating cancer, as mTOR is a pathway that increases cellular proliferation. (Interestingly, the pharmaceutical drug Metformin, which has anti-cancer activity, also inhibits mTOR, and it turns out that curcumin has a very similar effect.)

The formula I recommend for assessing how much protein you might need in your diet is from Dr. Rosedale, which calls for one gram of high-quality protein per kilogram of lean body mass, or about half a gram per pound of lean body mass.

As an example, if your body fat mass is 20 percent, your lean mass is 80 percent of your total body weight. So, if your total weight is 200 pounds; you would then divide 160 by 2.2 to convert pounds to kilograms and come up with 72.7 grams of protein. If you are doing vigorous exercises or are pregnant, you can add up to another 25 percent or another 18 grams in this illustration to increase your total to 90 grams per day.

More Information

Dr. LaValley is available for consultation on a wide variety of health challenges, including cancer, and he’s licensed to practice medicine in the US and Canada. His medical clinic is located in Chester, Nova Scotia, where he sees patients. Americans can fly there either through Chicago or Newark. His office number is 902-275-4555. He also spends time in Austin, Texas, where he conducts research. When there, he’s available to consult for other physicians and their patients.

“For instance, if a patient has pancreatic cancer and the physician wants to implement one of the protocols that I provide, I will do a consultation with that physician’s patient and then make recommendations to that physician for implementation,” he explains. “In that way, patients are able to get it locally without having to travel to Nova Scotia…

It’s a challenge right now because there’s so much information that’s not readily known by so many physicians that they become afraid. I think one of the biggest issues, certainly in US and Canada, is that when a physician wants to administer one of these natural products, or several of them, as well as some of the off-label pharmaceuticals for their anti-cancer usage, they are afraid of recriminations or disciplinary actions.

That is, I think, very unfortunate, because the evidence base does exist for it, and it’s consistent with the way that other types of conventional medicine or practice using off-label pharmaceuticals as well. I think that the most important movement that needs to occur is for the patients to recognize their own value in the decision-making process and demand that they have access to these therapeutic choices because they’re available, they’re supported in the evidence base, and they have the right to ask for them rather than to just accept whatever the physician is otherwise offering in the conventional realm.”

Source: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/03/02/curcumin-benefits.aspx

 

 

Turmeric (Curcuma longa): to boost your health!

curcuma

Turmeric has a peppery, warm and bitter flavor and a mild fragrance slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger, and while it is best known as one of the ingredients used to make curry, it also gives ballpark mustard its bright yellow color.

Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh. Turmeric has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine. Turmeric was traditionally called “Indian saffron” because of its deep yellow-orange color and has been used throughout history as a condiment, healing remedy and textile dye.

Health Benefits

Turmeric (Curcuma longa), the bright yellow of the spice rainbow, is a powerful medicine that has long been used in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions, including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic.

A Potent, Yet Safe Anti-Inflammatory

The volatile oil fraction of turmeric has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity in a variety of experimental models. Even more potent than its volatile oil is the yellow or orange pigment of turmeric, which is called curcumin. Curcumin is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric. In numerous studies, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin. Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects (ulcer formation, decreased white blood cell count, intestinal bleeding), curcumin produces no toxicity.

An Effective Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Curcumin may provide an inexpensive, well-tolerated, and effective treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, recent research suggests. In this study, mice given an inflammatory agent that normally induces colitis were protected when curcumin was added to their diet five days beforehand. The mice receiving curcumin not only lost much less weight than the control animals, but when researchers checked their intestinal cell function, all the signs typical of colitis (mucosal ulceration, thickening of the intestinal wall, and the infiltration of inflammatory cells)were all much reduced. While the researchers are not yet sure exactly how curcumin achieves its protective effects, they think its benefits are the result of not only antioxidant activity, but also inhibition of a major cellular inflammatory agent called NF kappa-B. Plus, an important part of the good news reported in this study is the fact that although curcumin has been found to be safe at very large doses, this component of turmeric was effective at a concentration as low as 0.25 per cent—an amount easily supplied by simply enjoying turmeric in flavorful curries.

Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Clinical studies have substantiated that curcumin also exerts very powerful antioxidant effects. As an antioxidant, curcumin is able to neutralize free radicals, chemicals that can travel through the body and cause great amounts of damage to healthy cells and cell membranes. This is important in many diseases, such as arthritis, where free radicals are responsible for the painful joint inflammation and eventual damage to the joints. Turmeric’s combination of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects explains why many people with joint disease find relief when they use the spice regularly. In a recent study of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was compared to phenylbutazone and produced comparable improvements in shortened duration of morning stiffness, lengthened walking time, and reduced joint swelling.

Help for Cystic Fibrosis Sufferers

Curcumin, the major constituent of turmeric that gives the spice its yellow color, can correct the most common expression of the genetic defect that is responsible for cystic fibrosis, suggests an animal study published in the Science (April 2004). Cystic fibrosis, a fatal disease that attacks the lungs with a thick mucus, causing life-threatening infections, afflicts about 30,000 American children and young adults, who rarely survive beyond 30 years of age. The mucus also damages the pancreas, thus interfering with the body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients.

Researchers now know that cystic fibrosis is caused by mutations in the gene that encodes for a protein (the transmembrane conductance regulator or CFTR). The CTFR protein is responsible for traveling to the cell’s surface and creating channels through which chloride ions can leave the cell. When the protein is abnormally shaped because of a faulty gene, this cannot happen, so chloride builds up in the cells, which in turn, leads to mucus production.

The most common mutation, which is called DeltaF508, results in the production of a misfolded protein. When mice with this DeltaF508 defect were given curcumin in doses that, on a weight-per-weight basis, would be well-tolerated by humans, curcumin corrected this defect, resulting in a DeltaF508 protein with normal appearance and function. In addition, the Yale scientists studying curcumin have shown that it can inhibit the release of calcium, thus allowing mutated CTFR to exit cells via the calcium channels, which also helps stop the chloride-driven build up of mucus. Specialists in the treatment of cystic fibrosis caution, however, that patients should not self-medicate with dietary supplements containing curcumin, until the correct doses are known and any adverse interactions identified with the numerous prescription drugs taken by cystic fibrosis sufferers.

Cancer Prevention

Curcumin’s antioxidant actions enable it to protect the colon cells from free radicals that can damage cellular DNA—a significant benefit particularly in the colon where cell turnover is quite rapid, occuring approximately every three days. Because of their frequent replication, mutations in the DNA of colon cells can result in the formation of cancerous cells much more quickly. Curcumin also helps the body to destroy mutated cancer cells, so they cannot spread through the body and cause more harm. A primary way in which curcumin does so is by enhancing liver function. Additionally, other suggested mechanisms by which it may protect against cancer development include inhibiting the synthesis of a protein thought to be instrumental in tumor formation and preventing the development of additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth.

Inhibits Cancer Cell Growth and Metastases

Epidemiological studies have linked the frequent use of turmeric to lower rates of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer; laboratory experiments have shown curcumin can prevent tumors from forming; and research conducted at the University of Texas suggests that even when breast cancer is already present, curcumin can help slow the spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs in mice.

In this study, published in Biochemical Pharmacology (September 2005), human breast cancer cells were injected into mice, and the resulting tumors removed to simulate a mastectomy.

The mice were then divided into four groups. One group received no further treatment and served as a control. A second group was given the cancer drug paclitaxel (Taxol); the third got curcumin, and the fourth was given both Taxol and curcumin.

After five weeks, only half the mice in the curcumin-only group and just 22% of those in the curcumin plus Taxol group had evidence of breast cancer that had spread to the lungs.

But 75% of the mice that got Taxol alone and 95% of the control group developed lung tumours.

How did curcumin help? “Curcumin acts against transcription factors, which are like a master switch,” said lead researcher, Bharat Aggarwal. “Transcription factors regulate all the genes needed for tumors to form. When we turn them off, we shut down some genes that are involved in the growth and invasion of cancer cells.”

In another laboratory study of human non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cells published in Biochemical Pharmacology (September 2005), University of Texas researchers showed that curcumin inhibits the activation of NF-kappaB, a regulatory molecule that signals genes to produce a slew of inflammatory molecules (including TNF, COX-2 and IL-6) that promote cancer cell growth. In addition, curcumin was found to suppress cancer cell proliferation and to induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (cell suicide) in the lung cancer cells. Early phase I clinical trials at the University of Texas are now also looking into curcumin’s chemopreventive and therapeutic properties against multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancer, and other research groups are investigating curcumin’s ability to prevent oral cancer.

Turmeric and Onions May Help Prevent Colon Cancer

Curcumin, a phytonutrient found in the curry spice turmeric, and quercitin, an antioxidant in onions, reduce both the size and number of precancerous lesions in the human intestinal tract, shows research published in the August 2006 issue of Clinical Gasteroenterology and Hepatology.

Five patients with an inherited form of precancerous polyps in the lower bowel known as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) were treated with regular doses of curcumin and quercetin over an average of six months. The average number of polyps dropped 60.4%, and the average size of the polyps that did develop dropped by 50.9%.

FAP runs in families and is characterized by the development of hundreds of polyps (colorectal adenomas) and, eventually, colon cancer. Recently, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen) have been used to treat some patients with this condition, but these drugs often produce significant side effects, including gastrointestinal ulcerations and bleeding, according to lead researcher Francis M. Giardiello, M.D., at the Division of Gastroenterology, Johns Hopkins University.

Previous observational studies in populations that consume large amounts of curry, as well as animal research, have strongly suggested that curcumin, one of the main ingredients in Asian curries, might be effective in preventing and/or treating cancer in the lower intestine. Similarly, quercetin, an anti-oxidant flavonoid found in a variety of foods including onions, green tea and red wine, has been shown to inhibit growth of colon cancer cell lines in humans and abnormal colorectal cells in animals.

In this study, a decrease in polyp number was observed in four of five patients at three months and four of four patients at six months.

Each patient received curcumin (480 mg) and quercetin (20 mg) orally 3 times a day for 6 months. Although the amount of quercetin was similar to what many people consume daily, the curcumin consumed was more than would be provided in a typical diet because turmeric only contains on average 3-5 % curcumin by weight.

While simply consuming curry and onions may not have as dramatic an effect as was produced in this study, this research clearly demonstrates that liberal use of turmeric and onions can play a protective role against the development of colorectal cancer. And turmeric doesn’t have to only be used in curries. This spice is delicious on healthy sautéed apples, and healthy steamed cauliflower and/or green beans and onions. Or, for a flavor-rich, low-calorie dip, try adding some turmeric and dried onion to creamy yogurt.

Turmeric Teams Up with Cauliflower to Halt Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer—the second leading cause of cancer death in American men with 500,000 new cases appearing each year—is a rare occurrence among men in India, whose low risk is attributed to a diet rich in brassica family vegetables and the curry spice, turmeric.

Scientists tested turmeric, a concentrated source of the phytonutrient curcumin, along with phenethyl isothiocyanates, a phytochemical abundant in cruciferous vegetables including cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi and turnips.

When tested singly, both phenethyl isothiocyanate and curcumin greatly retarded the growth of human prostate cancer cells implanted in immune-deficient mice. In mice with well-established prostate cancer tumors, neither phenethyl isothiocyanate nor curcumin by itself had a protective effect, but when combined, they significantly reduced both tumor growth and the ability of the prostate cancer cells to spread (metastasize) in the test animals.

The researchers believe the combination of cruciferous vegetables and curcumin could be an effective therapy not only to prevent prostate cancer, but to inhibit the spread of established prostate cancers. Best of all, this combination—cauliflower spiced with turmeric—is absolutely delicious! For protection against prostate cancer, cut cauliflower florets in quarters and let sit for 5-10 minutes; this allows time for the production of phenethyl isothiocyanates, which form when cruciferous vegetables are cut, but stops when they are heated. Then sprinkle with turmeric, and healthy sauté on medium heat in a few tablespoons of vegetable or chicken broth for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and top with olive oil, sea salt and pepper to taste.

Reduce Risk of Childhood Leukemia

Research presented at a recent conference on childhood leukemia, held in London, provides evidence that eating foods spiced with turmeric could reduce the risk of developing childhood leukemia. The incidence of this cancer has risen dramatically during the 20th century, mainly in children under age five, among whom the risk has increased by more than 50% cent since 1950 alone. Modern environmental and lifestyle factors are thought to play a major role in this increase.

Childhood leukemia is much lower in Asia than Western countries, which may be due to differences in diet, one of which, the frequent use of turmeric, has been investigated in a series of studies over the last 20 years by Prof. Moolky Nagabhushan from the Loyola University Medical Centre, Chicago, IL.

“Some of the known risk factors that contribute to the high incidence of childhood leukemia are the interaction of many lifestyle and environmental factors. These include prenatal or postnatal exposure to radiation, benzene, environmental pollutants and alkylating chemotherapeutic drugs. Our studies show that turmeric—and its colouring principle, curcumin—in the diet mitigate the effects of some of these risk factors.”

Nagabhushan has shown that the curcumin in turmeric can:

  • inhibit the mutagenicity of polycyclic      aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (carcinogenic chemicals created by the      burning of carbon based fuels including cigarette smoke)
  • inhibit radiation-induced chromosome damage
  • prevent the formation of harmful heterocyclic      amines and nitroso compounds, which may result in the body when certain      processed foods, such as processed meat products that contain nitrosamines,      are eaten
  • irreversibly inhibit the multiplication of      leukemia cells in a cell culture

Improved Liver Function

In a recent rat study conducted to evaluate the effects of turmeric on the liver’s ability to detoxify xenobiotic (toxic) chemicals, levels of two very important liver detoxification enzymes (UDP glucuronyl transferase and glutathione-S-transferase) were significantly elevated in rats fed turmeric as compared to controls. The researchers commented, “The results suggest that turmeric may increase detoxification systems in addition to its anti-oxidant properties…Turmeric used widely as a spice would probably mitigate the effects of several dietary carcinogens.”

Curcumin has been shown to prevent colon cancer in rodent studies. When researchers set up a study to analyze how curcumin works, they found that it inhibits free radical damage of fats (such as those found in cell membranes and cholesterol), prevents the formation of the inflammatory chemical cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), and induces the formation of a primary liver detoxification enzyme, glutathione S-transferase (GST) enzymes. When the rats were given curcumin for 14 days, their livers’ production of GST increased by 16%, and a marker of free radical damage called malondialdehyde decreased by 36% when compared with controls. During this two week period, the researchers gave the rats a cancer-causing chemical called carbon tetrachloride. In the rats not fed curcumin, markers of free radical damage to colon cells went up, but in the rats given turmeric, this increase was prevented by dietary curcumin. Lastly, the researchers compared giving turmeric in the diet versus injecting curcumin into the rats’ colons. They found injecting curcumin resulted in more curcumin in the blood, but much less in the colon mucosa. They concluded, “The results show that curcumin mixed with the diet achieves drug levels in the colon and liver sufficient to explain the pharmacological activities observed and suggest that this mode of administration may be preferable for the chemoprevention of colon cancer.”

Cardiovascular Protection

Curcumin may be able to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in the body. Since oxidized cholesterol is what damages blood vessels and builds up in the plaques that can lead to heart attack or stroke, preventing the oxidation of new cholesterol may help to reduce the progression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. In addition, turmeric is a good source of vitamin B6, which is needed to keep homocysteine levels from getting too high. Homocysteine, an intermediate product of an important cellular process called methylation, is directly damaging to blood vessel walls. High levels of homocysteine are considered a significant risk factor for blood vessel damage, atherosclerotic plaque build-up, and heart disease; while a high intake of vitamin B6 is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

In research published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, when 10 healthy volunteers consumed 500 mg of curcumin per day for 7 days, not only did their blood levels of oxidized cholesterol drop by 33%, but their total cholesterol droped 11.63% , and their HDL (good cholesterol) increased by 29%! (Soni KB, Kuttan R).

How Turmeric Lowers Cholesterol

Tumeric’s cholesterol-lowering effects are the result of the curry spice’s active constituent, curcumin, which research reveals is a messaging molecule that communicates with genes in liver cells, directing them to increase the production of mRNA (messenger proteins) that direct the creation of receptors for LDL (bad) cholesterol. With more LDL-receptors, liver cells are able to clear more LDL-cholesterol from the body.

LDL-receptor mRNA increased sevenfold in liver cells treated with curcumin at a concentration of 10 microM, compared to untreated cells. (Liver cells were found to tolerate curcumin at levels of up to 12. microM for 24 hours). (Peschel D, Koerting R, et al. J Nutr Biochem)

Practical Tips:

Help increase your liver’s ability to clear LDL-cholesterol by relying on turmeric, not just for delicious fish, meat or lentil curries, but to spice up healthy sautéed onions, potatoes and/or cauliflower; or as the key flavoring for a creamy vegetable dip. Just mix plain yogurt with a little omega-3-rich mayonnaise and turmeric, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with raw cauliflower, celery, sweet pepper, jicama and broccoli florets. Be sure to choose turmeric rather than prepared curry blends. Recent research indicates the amount of turmeric (and therefore curcumin) in curry blends is often minimal.(Tayyem RF et al.,Nutr Cancer)

For the most curcumin, be sure to use turmeric rather curry powder—a study analyzing curcumin content in 28 spice products described as turmeric or curry powders found that pure turmeric powder had the highest concentration of curcumin, averaging 3.14% by weight. The curry powder samples, with one exception, contained very small amounts of curcumin. (Tayyem RF, Heath DD, et al. Nutr Cancer)

Protection against Alzheimer’s Disease

Growing evidence suggests that turmeric may afford protection against neurodegenerative diseases. Epidemiological studies show that in elderly Indian populations, among whose diet turmeric is a common spice, levels of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s are very low. Concurrently, experimental research conducted recently found that curcumin does appear to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s in mice. Preliminary studies in mice also suggest that curcumin may block the progression of multiple sclerosis. While it is still unclear how it may afford protection against this degenerative condition, one theory is that it may interrupt the production of IL-2, a protein that can play a key role in the destruction of myelin, the sheath that serves to protect most nerves in the body.

A number of studies have suggested that curcumin, the biologically active constituent in turmeric, protects against Alzheimer’s disease by turning on a gene that codes for the production of antioxidant proteins. A study published in the Italian Journal of Biochemistry (December 2003) discussed curcumin’s role in the induction of the the heme oxygenase pathway, a protective system that, when triggered in brain tissue, causes the production of the potent antioxidant bilirubin, which protects the brain against oxidative (free radical) injury. Such oxidation is thought to be a major factor in aging and to be responsible for neurodegenerative disorders including dementias like Alzheimer’s disease. Another study conducted jointly by an Italian and U.S. team and presented at the American Physiological Society’s 2004 annual conference in Washington, DC, confirmed that curcumin strongly induces expression of the gene, called hemeoxygenase-1 (HO-1) in astrocytes from the hippocampal region of the brain.

Curcumin Crosses Blood-Brain Barrier, May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Research conducted at UCLA and published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (December 2004), which has been confirmed by further research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (April 2006), provides insight into the mechanisms behind curcumin’s protective effects against Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease results when a protein fragment called amyloid-B accumulates in brain cells, producing oxidative stress and inflammation, and forming plaques between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain that disrupt brain function.

Amyloid is a general term for protein fragments that the body produces normally. Amyloid-B is a protein fragment snipped from another protein called amyloid precursor protein (APP). In a healthy brain, these protein fragments are broken down and eliminated. In Alzheimer’s disease, the fragments accumulate, forming hard, insoluble plaques between brain cells.

The UCLA researchers first conducted test tube studies in which curcumin was shown to inhibit amyloid-B aggregation and to dissolve amyloid fibrils more effectively than the anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen and naproxen. Then, using live mice, the researchers found that curcumin crosses the blood brain barrier and binds to small amyloid-B species. Once bound to curcumin, the amyloid-B protein fragments can no longer clump together to form plaques. Curcumin not only binds to amyloid-B, but also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, supplying additional protection to brain cells.

Turmeric Boosts Amyloid Plaque Clearance in Human Alzheimer’s Patients

The most active ingredient in turmeric root, bisdemethoxycurcumin, boosts the activity of the immune system in Alzheimer’s patients, helping them to clear the amyloid beta plaques characteristic of the disease.

In healthy patients, immune cells called macrophages, which engulf and destroy abnormal cells and suspected pathogens, efficiently clear amyloid beta, but macrophage activity is suppressed in Alzheimer’s patients.

Using blood samples from Alzheimer’s patients, Drs. Milan Fiala and John Cashman have shown that bisdemethoxycurcumin boosts macrophage activity to normal levels, helping to clear amyloid beta. Fiala and Cashman also observed that bisdemethoxycurcumin was more effective in promoting the clearance of amyloid beta in some patients’ blood than others, hinting at a genetic element. Further study revealed the genes involved are MGAT III and Toll-like receptors, which are also responsible for a number of other key immune functions. Bisdemethoxycurcumin enhances the transcription of these genes, correcting the immune defects seen in Alzheimer’s patients.

Source: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78