Turmeric’s gotten tons of health hype lately due to curcumin, its main bioactive compound. Scientists have already conducted over 100 clinical trials on the antioxidant-like compounds found in the curry spice, called curcuminoids.
But since so many studies on this golden seasoning have been misreported, it’s time to set the record straight. Here are some of turmeric’s top claims, debunked:
1. It reduces inflammation.
The polyphenolic compounds in the spice have been linked to reduced risk of chronic inflammation, the biological state where your body’s cells work overtime to get their regular job done. Doctors can identify inflammation (a.k.a. blood work) by looking at certain biomarkers of oxidative stress, a result of biological processes that causes organ tissue damage. The curcumin in turmeric may help to mitigate this by protecting blood vessels from inflammation.
Your lifestyle (how often you exercise, what you eat and whether or not you smoke) can also impact inflammation, while some of it is out of your control. That said, dumping turmeric onto any old meal won’t completely reverse any inflammation that’s already underway, especially when you’re eating a diet high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugar. In other words, one trendy spice can’t undo the effects of an otherwise poor-quality diet.
2. It fights pain.
Some studies have linked turmeric to reduced arthritis pain, as well as some GI pain associated with inflammatory bowel disease. In fact, preliminary research indicates turmeric use could provide pain relief without the tummy-upsetting side effects of other pain medications. That said, a recent meta-analysis found that there isn’t any conclusive evidence that turmeric can replace commercial pain medication like ibuprofen.
But as long as you’re using turmeric in the way it was intended to be used (i.e. to flavor your food!), there’s no reason why turmeric on veggies, beans, 100% whole grains, and lean protein can’t lend a hand. Use turmeric to add flavor but don’t rely on it for pain management or in place of a treatment recommended by your physician.
3. It reduces risk of chronic diseases.
Curcumin can powerfully affect the biological pathways that ultimately lead to oxidative stress, an underlying factor in chronic, lifestyle-related diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancers. Some preliminary research even linked turmeric to a lower risk of heart attack post-bypass surgery. That said, your dietary patterns as a whole are more important than a single compound. Topping a deep-fried anything with turmeric won’t reverse your diabetes risk, no matter how much you add!
4. It helps your skin.
Newer research has linked turmeric — both in ingestible and topical forms — with aiding in some skin disorders, including psoriasis, alopecia and even acne. However, scientists haven’t determined the specific mechanisms (how it works), the right dosage (how much you’ll need) and who it works best for just yet.
5. It reduces risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Curcumin has also been linked to protection against cognitive decline, such as limiting the plaques that leads to neurological impairment in Alzheimer’s disease. While it seems promising, it’s important to know that there simply isn’t enough evidence from human trials just yet. The studies that have been done to-date are super small; one recent turmeric studyshowing tremendous potential had just three participants!
Another recent study links curcuminoids to a possible reduced risk of cognitive decline, indicating that the spice as part of a meal can be beneficial rather than a curcurmin supplement alone. That’s why I’m a big proponent for using the spice when cooking — not in pill form.
Read more: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/a46225/turmeric-health-benefits/