Turmeric - a wonder food

The studies below found some significant facts regarding health effects of certain food.  This is an attempt by us to interpret the findings so that it could be implemented in everyday health practices.  It has to be understood that good eating habits are necessary for optimal health and that means that a variety of good foods have to be consumed every day.  We do believe that some food has medicinal value and could be used to help in the prevention and support of treatment in certain illnesses.  However, if it is not part of a good nutritious diet, it might lose its value.    Although we do believe in the power of natural food, we absolutely do not claim to cure any disease through the consumption of specific foods.

Yanyan Li, Tao Zhang.  Targeting Cancer Stem Cells by Curcumin and Clinical Applications.  Cancer Lett. 2014 Jan 23. Epub 2014 Jan 23. PMID: 24463298  

Our interpretation:

This is a composite article reviewing all the articles published regarding the ability of curcumin, an ingredient in turmeric, to protect against cancer.  It deals specifically with targeting cancer stem cells which now is believed to not only initiate cancer but also play a role in drug resistant cancers and recurrence of cancer.  Although much research is still needed, this article acknowledges the potential of curcumin to control the renewal of cancer stem cells, and thus the development of cancer as well as recurrence and response to treatment.  Studies were done to test the efficacy of this agent independently as well with traditional cancer therapies.  Numerous studies have shown both turmeric and curcumin to be tolerated very well as food and supplement.  Although only a small portion of ingested curcumin is absorbed, it could be improved multiple times with the simultaneous ingestion of pepper. 

So what does this mean to the nutritionist?  Although not guaranteed to protect from all cancers it could be beneficial to add this spice to your food and drinks.  Turmeric is not an overwhelming spice and blends very well with all curry dishes, tomato and pumpkin based soups and stews.  It also makes a flavorful drink for bedtime when it is mixed into warm milk (of any kind) with honey and ginger. Remember to always add pepper to enhance the absorption of curcumin. 

 

R Thomas, M Williams, H Sharma, A Chaudry, P Bellamy.  A double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised trial evaluating the effect of a polyphenol-rich whole food supplement on PSA progression in men with prostate cancer-the UK NCRN Pomi-T study.  Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2014 Mar 11. Epub 2014 Mar 11. PMID: 24614693

This was a study with very exciting results showing the benefit of consumption of a supplement of nutrients by men with localized prostate cancer.  In this case the supplement included pomegranate, green tea, broccoli and turmeric. None of these men received active medical treatment and they were divided into two groups. One of the groups took a supplement containing the above mentioned nutrients while the other group received an identical placebo.  The efficacy of the experimental supplement was measured in the increase of PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels from baseline.  PSA is elevated in men with prostate cancer and an increase is thus a measurement of the progression of the disease. 

The amazing results showed an increase of 14.7% PSA in the men on the experimental supplement while the increase in the other group was 78.5%!  The supplement was well tolerated and because the study ran for only six months, the investigators will only claim short term effects.  As a nutritionist, this is only reinforcement of the belief that nutrient rich food will not only have benefits for general health, but will specifically help in the enormous task today to protect against, stop or at least hinder the progression of cancer.