Turmeric – What’s it all about?

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What is it?

Mainly grown in Asia, this yellow spice is related to the ginger family and can be found in all sorts of meals, drinks and even cosmetics. Curcumin is the main curcuminoid and is responsible for its bright yellow colour as well as its proposed health properties, with turmeric powder containing approximately 5% curcumin. Turmeric has mainly been used throughout time as a traditional medicine for many conditions, such as breathing problems, rheumatism, pain, and fatigue.

The Claims…

The main claim being made about turmeric is that it can help reduce inflammation around the body and assist with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Whilst some studies provide supporting evidence for this health claim, turmeric powder only contains a small percentage of curcumin.  The studies indicating turmeric’s positive effects on inflammatory conditions use higher dosages of curcumin than what is found in regular turmeric powder. Curcumin is also difficult for your body to absorb with only 2-3% of the curcumin ingested ending up in your bloodstream. You can increase how much curcumin is absorbed by the body by consuming turmeric alongside black pepper and a source of healthy fat in your cooking (e.g. using it to make a chicken and vegetable curry).

There are also claims that turmeric reduces the risk of cancer. However, most of the research we have available studying turmeric and its effects on cancer risk have been done using animal models such as rats and mice, and have resulted in conflicting findings. Therefore, translating this research it to the effect of turmeric on cancer risk in humans may not yield the same promising results.

A simple google search will tell you about the benefits of turmeric and how it can cure all types of cancer and arthritis, however the research behind all of these claims is still inconclusive. There are studies with positive effects on humans, however some of these websites and internet posts are using information from animal studies to support the health claims they are making about a turmeric product or supplement for sale.

Overall turmeric is unlikely to cause you any harm when consumed in normal amounts and can be used in all sorts of cooking. You may find it provides some health benefits however more research is needed to determine how positive its effects are in humans.