Obesity is a rapidly growing epidemic and it’s closely tied to everything from type-2 diabetes to cardiovascular disease and hypertension. But what if the secret to curbing the obesity epidemic was as simple as sprinkling a little spice on your dinner?
In the United States, turmeric is best known as curry spice and the ingredient that gives Indian dishes their yellow tint. But throughout Asia’s history, turmeric has been used to treat a variety of health conditions because of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties. The primary component of turmeric is curcumin, which is a photochemcial extract of the turmeric root.
Hundreds of studies about the health benefits of turmeric have been conducted by reputable research institutions over the past decade. These studies have praised turmeric’s potential to prevent cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and many more life-threatening conditions. Turmeric’s weight loss benefits have now stepped into the spotlight, as this ancient yellow spice has emerged as an effective diet and fitness aid.
How Turmeric Aids Weight Loss
As Dr. Brendan Zachar of Backonpoint Acupuncture and Wellness points out, the curcumin in turmeric serves as both a weight suppressant and a sugar control component. Turmeric has shown help break down fats in the body and reduce the organ inflammation that is associated with obesity.
The cells that produce this inflammation in the heart, pancreas, and other organs increase insulin resistance in the liver and muscles. Turmeric has the power to suppress these cells. In addition, it can also help increase the flow of bile, which is an essential component in breaking down dietary fat.
These are a few of the ways that turmeric aids weight loss:
- Regulates formation of fat cells
- Lowers production of leptin in fat cells
- Activates fat-burning gene signals that create new metabolically-fit fat cells
- Improves organ functioning
- Helps regulate hormones
- Corrects inflammatory signals in the body
- Boosts metabolic functioning
Science Behind the Claims
In 2009, nutritionist Mohsen Meydani from the USDA Human Nutrition Research center on Aging at Tufts University led an Agricultural Research Service study about turmeric that was published in The Journal of Nutrition. The study used eighteen mice as test subjects to verify if curcumin could stall the spread of fat-tissue by facilitating new blood vessel growth. As USDA spokeswoman Rosalie Marion Bliss observed, “The study found that supplementing the animals’ high-fat diet with curcumin reduced body-weight gain and total body fat, even though food-intake was not affected, when compared to the non-supplemented high-fat-diet group.”
Dr. Drew Tortoriello of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University discovered similar results when he conducted a study on mice and published the results in Science Daily. “The anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant ingredient in turmeric, lessens insulin resistance and prevents type 2 diabetes in these mouse models by dampening the inflammatory response provoked by obesity,” he wrote.
According to the results of the McCormick Science Institute’s 2010 study about the health benefits of turmeric, “Supplementing a high-fat diet of mice with curcumin (500-mg/kg diet) for 12 weeks reduced body weight gain, adiposity, and microvessel density in adipose tissue, changes that coincided with decreased serum cholesterol, increased fatty acid oxidation, and decreased fatty acid esterification, compared with controls.”
Korean researchers recently re-reviewed turmeric research from the past decade in a study titled, New mechanisms and the anti-inflammatory role of curcumin in obesity and obesity-related metabolic diseases. The researchers concluded that “the relatively low cost, safety and proven efficacy of curcumin make it advisable to include curcumin as part of healthy diet.”
Turmeric and a Vegetarian Diet
Fortunately for vegetarians, turmeric fits incredibly well into a plant-based diet plan. It’s important to realize that turmeric can be added to much more than just Indian curry. Here are some healthy and delicious foods that taste great with turmeric:
- Dips and spreads
- Egg white omelets
- Tofu scramble
- Lentil stew
- Cauliflower, potato and onion stir fry
- Fruit Pie and cheesecake
Turmeric and Small-Scale Weight Loss
Much of the research on turmeric and curcumin revolves around the obesity epidemic. But what if you’re not obese and just looking to shed a few pounds?
This spice holds even greater potential for success for people who have less pounds to lose. Research has shown that curcumin helps maintain the metabolic processes of the body and contributes to weight supervision. The swelling associated with extra weight is due to resistant cells found in the body, and curcumin can help counteract that resistance, regardless of how much extra pounds you’re carrying.
Risks of Taking Turmeric
Generally, turmeric is very safe and free of serious side effects. Some people have reported increased nausea and diarrhea after taking turmeric after long-term use in high doses. If you have a suffer from any of the following conditions or if you are pregnant, you should consult a medical professional before incorporating more turmeric into your diet.
- Immune disorders
- Kidney disease
- Bleeding disorders
Although it is very rare to experience a turmeric interaction, you should also consult a professional if you take prescription medications for these conditions or even common aspirin and painkillers.
Suggestions for Use
The easiest way to incorporate more of turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, into your diet is by eating more deliciously spicy dishes. However, there are several other effective ways to consume this health-enhancing spice:
- Simply start with a teaspoon of turmeric powder with every meal
- Standardized curcumin powder – take 400 to 600 mg three times per day
- Tincture (1:2) – take 15 to 20 drops three or four times per day
- Liquid curcumin extract – take between 30 and 90 drops per day
Although more research is needed to verify the promising health benefits of turmeric in the human body, it holds more potential than pretty much any other spice on the market. Americans spend tens of billions of dollars on health care related to obesity and metabolic syndrome. Turmeric offers hope that there is a weight loss remedy that is safer, more affordable, and more natural.
Since there are already many manufacturers producing turmeric supplements, choosing one can be a little confusing. Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, is normally found in concentrations of 5%, meaning that supplements only containing turmeric powder will only have 5% curcumin. Look for supplements that have 90-95% curcumin, since this heightened dosage will help your body reap the full health benefits of this powerful spice.