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10 Things That Happen When You Eat More Turmeric

We all know turmeric is an anti-inflammatory powerhouse, but do you know which parts of the body it can benefit the most?

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Turmeric may boost weight loss

There’s evidence turmeric may give your weight loss efforts a boost: A study conducted by researchers at Tufts University in 2009 found that curcumin, the predominant polyphenol in turmeric, suppressed the growth of fat tissue in mice and cell models and ultimately reduced weight gain. Two groups of mice were fed high-fat diets—one supplemented with 500 mg of curcumin per kilogram of weight. The curcumin group did not gain as much weight as the high-fat-only group. According to Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, and Los Angeles-based nutritionist and healthy cooking expert: “While increasing your intake of turmeric alone isn’t a great strategy for weight loss, it may help you mitigate the inflammation associated with obesity and give you a slight boost in fat burning.” But Bannan stresses it’s best to get it from foods—eat more curry, for example. If you do supplement, check with your doctor first. These substances can interfere with prescription medications.

Discover 50 more ways to lose weight without a lick of exercise.

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If you have arthritis, turmeric may be able to offer you some relief

The game-changing curcumin is what makes turmeric such a healthy spice. This polyphenol—it’s a type of antioxidant—is what contributes to turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties. Several studies have shown curcumin’s ability to reduce pain, stiffness and swelling in joints afflicted by arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation even suggests that those with arthritis who wish to seek relief take capsules of turmeric powder, between 400 mg to 600 mg, three times a day.

Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and spokesperson for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says that over 500 mg of curcumin may inhibit iron absorption, an element that’s crucial for the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Valdez also warns that if you do supplement, you should take curcumin with black pepper—otherwise your body has a tough time absorbing the substance.

Check out more natural arthritis remedies.

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Turmeric can help boost your mood

As we already know, curcumin works to fight against inflammation in the body—and inflammation may play a role in depression. A 2014 study involving 56 people with major depressive disorder revealed that 500 mg of curcumin taken twice a day for eight weeks could ease mood-related symptoms. Bannan says that the most available research shows curcumin most effectively reduces symptoms of depression in those who are already using an antidepressant.

Here are 12 ways you can help someone with depression, according to psychologists.

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Blood sugar too high? Turmeric can help

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 3 million Canadians are living with diagnosed diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, which occurs as a result of poor diet and obesity, accounts for 90 to 95 per cent of all diabetes cases. The research on curcumin suggests it can work as a hypoglycemic agent—lowering and helping control blood glucose (blood sugar) levels in people with type 2 diabetes. This can ultimately prevent those with the disease from developing other serious health complications associated with diabetes, such as neuropathy (damage to the nervous system) and nephropathy (kidney disease).

Bannan says that researchers have found that curcumin may also help prevent diabetes, but that idea is still in the works and needs further research. “More clinical trials with humans are needed for a better understanding of curcumin and turmeric’s effects,” says Bannan. Here’s more expert advice on how to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

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Turmeric may prevent Alzheimer’s

People who live in India have much lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease compared to Europe and North America. While the reasons for the disparity are complex, one important difference is that Indians eat a lot more turmeric. The spice plays a crucial element in Ayurveda, a holistic healing system that originated in India thousands of years ago and is still popular today. And then there’s the prominence of turmeric in Indian cuisine—is it possible that turmeric can help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s? One theory is that curcumin helps inhibit plaque that research has linked to neuron damage in the brain and a sign of the disease.

Turmeric may also help your memory: Valdez says that consuming just one gram of turmeric every day can be helpful with memory or cognitive function, especially in individuals who have prediabetes. (Learn to spot the silent signs you might have diabetes.)

Check out more Alzheimer’s research breakthroughs that give hope for the future.

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Turmeric may help prevent cancer

Once again, inflammation rears its ugly head: Research on animals suggest that curcumin’s inflammation-calming action may slow cancer growth, prevent cancer from taking hold, and even make chemotherapy more effective. “Curcumin is thought to have antioxidant properties, which means it may decrease swelling and inflammation,” says Bannan. An interesting study conducted in 2014 revealed that curcumin was able to obstruct tumour growth and metastasis in several animals’ organs including the stomach, colon and liver. Research is ongoing for curcumin and its direct impact on cancer.

Find out more foods that may help prevent cancer.

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Turmeric can help ease the effects of IBS and colitis

Those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome continually battle stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea and numerous other unpleasant intestinal issues. Turmeric has the potential to alleviate some of this abdominal discomfort.  A pilot study conducted in the UK revealed that those with IBS who took two capsules of turmeric every day over the course of eight weeks experienced less abdominal pain and had more consistent bowel movements. A more recent study from the American Gastroenterological Association suggests that curcumin may help ease ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease that causes ulcers in the digestive tract.

Find out the sneaky things that trigger IBS symptoms.

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Turmeric may lower cholesterol levels

Bannan says the effects of turmeric on cholesterol levels are a bit inconsistent. However: “Turmeric seems to lower levels of blood fats called triglycerides,” she says. Triglycerides are a type of a fat that forms in your blood when you eat more calories than you burn. Over time, they can build up and work in tandem with the bad cholesterol called LDL. Together the duo can harden your artery walls, increasing the chance of stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular disease. Several studies involving animals indicate that turmeric can lower their lipid (fat) profile. One such study involved rabbits. The furry creatures were fed a high-fat diet along with turmeric and not only did their triglyceride levels go down, but so did their LDL cholesterol levels.

Find out more heart-healthy foods that can lower your cholesterol.

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Turmeric lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease is the top killer worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. While many factors contribute to heart disease, one of the most prominent issues is—you guessed it—inflammation. One study on 121 people—all of whom were undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery—found that the group taking 4 grams of curcumin for a few days before and after the surgery were much less likely to experience a heart attack. Other studies have revealed that the anti-inflammatory action of turmeric helps prevent artery disease. Valdez points out that recent studies suggest curcumin can protect the heart from ischemia—an inadequate blood supply to an organ or part of the body, particularly the muscles within the heart. If inflammation is a concern, avoid these foods that are known to make inflammation worse.

Discover 30 more ways to boost your heart health.

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Turmeric blocks dangerous molecules

Curcumin can tame the unstable oxygen molecules known as free radicals—they’re missing an electron, which leads them to damage other molecules in an attempt to replace their electrons. Over time, the damage can encourage artery damage, tumour growth, and is the prime cause of aging. Antioxidants—such as curcumin—protect us from free radicals by offering up an electron and neutralizing the dangerous molecule (without becoming a free radical themselves). Curcumin not only corrals free radicals, but it also supports the body’s antioxidant enzymes that fight against the damage caused by free radicals.

Next, find out the heart health tips cardiologists wish you knew.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest