Health or Hype: Why is Everyone Eating Turmeric?

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, anuandraj

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, anuandraj

Turmeric drinks, infused-recipes and elixirs seem to be popping up everywhere, with biohackers, food marketers, and health experts touting anti-inflammatory and immunity-boosting properties.

What is Turmeric?

A relative of ginger, turmeric is a golden yellow root, commonly ground into a spice we most often associate with Indian curry recipes.

Fun fact: It’s sometimes used as coloring in food products, such as cheese or mustard.

Why Are People Going Crazy Over It?

The suggested benefits of pure turmeric powder are actually coming from the primary ingredient of turmeric, which is curcumin. Curcumin, as detailed by the University of Maryland Medical Center, is a powerful antioxidant said to lower the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation.

Turmeric Benefit Explained

The most widely suggested benefit of turmeric is the umbrella-like term of “anti-inflammatory properties.” Why umbrella-like? Because inflammation can (and does) happen all over the body, on a small and large scale. Some acute inflammation can be healthy, because it’s your cells recognizing damage and working to rid the body of dead or damaged tissue to make way for healing. Chronic inflammation, however, can lead to chronic diseases, some of which are preventable, such as:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Pulmonary
  • Neurological
  • Autoimmune
  • Diabetes II
  • Arthritis
  • Alzheimer’s

Whenever things go wrong the body will get more and more inflamed, so the amount of overall inflammation can be an indicator for health and a general marker for many chronic diseases.

While there are a few ways to test for inflammation, it turns out that high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) is one of the best indicators currently known.

While curcumin has been demonstrated to be safe in at least six human trials, most studies having taken place in test tubes and animals. According to UMMC, turmeric “may not work as well in humans.” According to the Mayo Clinic, there isn’t enough evidence at this time to recommend curcumin for preventing or treating cancer, but research is ongoing.

Bottom Line: Health

Turmeric is generally regarded as safe in foods. Turmeric and curcumin supplements are considered safe when taken at the recommended doses. According to the UMMC, 400-600mg up to 3x per day of the standardized powder.

FYI the average study tests using 1g of pure curcumin.To put that amount in perspective, an NCBI-published study found that the highest curcumin concentration – found in the form of pure turmeric powder – averaged 3.14% by weight. (Curry powder samples had relatively small amounts of curcumin present, and the variability in content was great).

UMMC also advises that taking large amounts of turmeric for long periods of time may cause stomach upset and, in extreme cases, ulcers.

While the anti-inflammatory properties may have some positive impact on overall inflammation, it’s important to recognize that trying to curb inflammation via a singular spice is only a tool on the belt, not the whole toolbox. Keeping inflammation managed and in the healthy range involves regular physical activity, movement throughout the day, regularly including nutrient-dense foods in your nutrition, and minimizing sugar consumption and processed foods in your diet. These activities are especially key when it comes to building the foundation of a healthy and well body.

In short: It’s not a magic potion.

If you are interested in incorporating turmeric into your diet as means to reducing your inflammation and experiencing other suggested benefits, it’s always wise talk to your doctor before taking herbs for medicinal purposes.

How WellnessFX Can Help

To test the hs-CRP mentioned above, you can find that in our flagship (and most popular) Baseline testing panel, as well as other testing packages. In addition to hs-CRP, there are additional biomarkers that can give insight into inflammation, such as homocysteine, fibrinogen, and lpPla2, which can be found in the Premium testing panel.

Everyone holds their own set of individual biomarkers and risk factors. Everyone’s internal makeup is unique. The data gathered via comprehensive lab testing, along with the creation and sustainment of healthy habits are empowering steps to help you uncover total body health.

Get a blood test

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The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.