Curcumin, the powerful antioxidant of the popular Indian spice Turmeric, may benefit cardiovascular health to the same extent as exercise, says new data from a clinical trial from Japan.
Phytochemicals found in turmeric have been investigated in preliminary research for their beneficial effects on diseases, such as cancer, arthritis, and other clinical disorders
Previous research has shown that daily supplements of curcumin combined with diet and exercise strategies could be associated with more than a 60% reduction in triglyceride levels, a reduction known impossible through pharmaceutical intervention alone.
Powdered turmeric has been used for centuries to treat a host of illnesses. It inhibits inflammatory reactions, has anti-diabetic effects, reduces cholesterol among other powerful health effects. A recent study led by a research team in Munich showed that it can also inhibit formation of metastases.
May Match Exercise in Cardiovascular Health Benefits
Vascular health, as measured by flow-mediated dilation (FMD), improved equally in groups of women receiving the curcumin supplements and those receiving aerobic exercise training, according to findings published in Nutrition Research .
A recent study in the British Journal of Nutrition indicated that decreased FMD is reported to be a predictor of future adverse cardiovascular events, with every 1% decrease in FMD associated with a 12% increase in risk.
“Therefore, regular ingestion of curcumin could be a preventive measure against cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women,” they wrote.
“Furthermore, our results suggest that curcumin may be a potential alternative [...] for patients who are unable to exercise.”
Curcumin, the natural pigment that gives the spice turmeric its yellow color, has increasingly come under the scientific spotlight in recent years, with studies investigating its potential health benefits.
The new study suggests that endothelial function may also be added to the list of potential benefits from curcumin.
Endothelial health is gaining more visibility with the product formulation community. One of the sessions at the recent IFT show in Las Vegas in June focused on the category as a possible avenue for new health claims.
A recent article by NutraIngredients-USA discussed the potential of the market and how to communicate the benefits to consumers.
Researchers from the University of Tsukuba recruited 32 post-menopausal women and assigned them to one of three groups: The first group acted as the controls, the second group underwent an aerobic exercise training regime, and the third group received curcumin supplements (Theracurmin from Theravalues Corporation, Tokyo).
The curcumin used in the study was described as a “highly absorptive curcumin dispersed with colloidal nanoparticles”. A daily dose of 25 milligrams was provided.
The study lasted for eight weeks, after which the results showed that FMD increased significantly and equally by about 1.5% in both the exercise and curcumin groups, compared with no changes in the control group.
“The mechanism responsible for the curcumin ingestion induced improvement in endothelial function is unclear,” said the researchers.
“Curcumin exerts anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects by inhibiting tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), suggesting that its effect on endothelial function may be mediated by the suppression of inflammation and/or oxidative stress via down-regulation of TNF-alpha. However, TNF-alpha levels were mot assessed in this study.
“Further studies are warranted to clarify the mechanism underlying the effect of curcumin on endothelial function.”
The study was funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.
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