I bet you’ve been wondering if everything they say about turmeric is true. Don’t worry. I won’t judge you. It’s good to be skeptical. After all, you’ve seen miracle claim after miracle claim being tossed around in connection with turmeric.
- Turmeric can help with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Turmeric can help prevent Alzheimer’s.
- Turmeric attacks free radicals with a freakin’ samurai sword and shreds them to pieces.
And why is the health world so obsessed with free radicals anyway?
You’ve got a long memory and that’s ok. You probably remember Hoodia being the best weight loss supplement ever. (Most Hoodia was actually counterfeit) Or that time everyone was selling acai and it was the greatest subjugator of free radicals with an ORAC (ummm…what?) of 1 million and you could sign up for a free trial! (And they’d steal your money)
But the difference between turmeric and these other false hopes is that turmeric didn’t just suddenly appear on the scene. Turmeric’s been in use for thousands of years, so although the spotlight hasn’t been on it until recently, it’s been around as a health booster basically forever. But it’s not really turmeric you want. Science has discovered the critical component that leads to most of the health benefits is actually curcumin.
Studies on Curcumin
In 2009, there weren’t a whole lot of studies on curcumin. So you may find sites that look critically at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and conclude that turmeric isn’t worth its weight in sand. Check for yourself, though. The only studies listed are from 2009. Seven years ago. In this day and age, it may as well be a quarter-century ago.
So let’s take a quick journey to PubMed. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. A meta-analysis is the quickest way to get an overview of a bunch of clinical trials. People have already done the work for you. A meta-analysis is simply where a bunch of scientists get together and review the available literature. They read it all for you and give you an assessment. Warning: They can be extremely narrow in scope. But if it helps you get right to the point, it’s perfect.
Curcumin and Inflammation
A group of scientists completed a meta-analysis of 8 randomized controlled trials on curcumin prior to September 2015 to figure out if it could lower inflammation.
Here’s the difficult thing about going to PubMed to try to find what you’re looking for. The scientists are writing to other scientists, so they expect them to know what they’re talking about. Thus, they have a tendency to skip a bunch of important facts. In the meta-analysis, inflammation isn’t mentioned anywhere in what PubMed shows you. Instead, the scientists call it “Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha” and they abbreviate it as TNF-α. What they’re doing is defining what causes the inflammation and aren’t expanding on it. So I’ll expand on it for you.
TNF-α is a protein that can cause inflammation. Yes, it’s that simple. We’ve located the culprit, but what’s it guilty of?
To clarify, TNF-α requires certain conditions to become a nuisance in your body. In small amounts, it’s generally fine and beneficial. But when it gets too high for too long, that’s when everything starts getting out of sorts.
In cases of chronic inflammation, TNF-α can cause or worsen Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, cancer, and even AIDs.
So now that we know what they’re talking about, head to the conclusion:
“This meta-analysis of RCTs suggested a significant effect of curcumin in lowering circulating TNF-α concentration.”
Great. So if you have too much TNF-α, curcumin can help lower it and thus, can help lower your risk of the diseases mentioned above – as proven by 8 studies.
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