The Hidden Health Benefits of Turmeric that You Didn’t Know About
Most of us know turmeric as the Asian spice used in cooking to give curries their signature orange color, but did you know that researchers have hailed this miracle spice as a superfood that is linked to a number of health benefits such as fighting off diseases and infections as well as relieving pain? Researchers are now saying that turmeric may also improve your mood and prevent memory loss.
Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Curcumin
Turmeric has been used in Asia – especially in India – as herbal medicine and spice for thousands of years and now science is backing up the tradition by proving the numerous health benefits that come with consuming turmeric due to an essential compound in it called curcumin which is considered a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.
Our body uses inflammation as an essential process to fight diseases and infections, but any inflammation that isn’t acute (lasts for a short period of time) can cause damage to internal organs and tissues. Research has even shows that chronic inflammation is the leading cause of most serious diseases such as cancers, diabetes and strokes.
Doctors say that the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin are as strong as some of the most powerful prescription medicines. However, in order to reap the benefits of it, we need at least 1 gram of curcumin a day – which is impossible to get by consuming turmeric alone.
A Potent Antioxidant
Apart from being a great anti-inflammatory agent, turmeric is also one of the best antioxidants that prevents aging and diseases. Oxidation is a very harmful process in our body whereby several free radicals and electrons react with elements such as DNA, protein and fats to cause wear and tear of organs. Nutritionists often emphasize the importance of foods rich in antioxidants to prevent the buildup of free radicals in our bodies.
Curcumin, one of the most potent antioxidants known, works in two different ways: it neutralizes unpaired electrons and free radicals to prevent oxidation and it stimulates the internal antioxidant mechanism inside the body, giving twice the protection against aging and diseases.
Antidepressant and Memory Enhancer
Another good news for curry lovers is that turmeric can boost brain function and delay the onset of memory-related diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Years ago, scientists speculated that neurons cease to multiply and grow after childhood, and now there is enough proof from research to back the claim.
However, research shows that a certain part of our brain can still form new neural connections even in adulthood. This process is aided by a special growth hormone in our brain called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor which can also prevent the onset of certain brain-related diseases. Surprisingly, curcumin is beneficial for increasing the production of this hormone which leads to improved memory and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.
A recent research in University of California demonstrated the benefits of curcumin for improving memory and mood through 40 adult participants who all had mild memory issues and aged between 50 and 80. The participants were divided into two different groups; one was given a pill containing 90 mg of curcumin twice a day whereas the other group was given a placebo.
After 18 months, the researchers used brain scans to determine any change in the levels of beta-amyloid and tau, two abnormal proteins linked to brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Those who consumed curcumin every day showed signs of improved memory and mood compared to the placebo group. The levels of disease-causing abnormal proteins had declined by 30% in participants who took the curcumin pill proving that turmeric does indeed reduce the risk of memory loss in old age.
Curcumin can also act as any anti-depressant as shown through a study where 60 participants were divided into three groups: first took Prozac, second curcumin, and third a combination of both Prozac and curcumin. In the end, patients who took curcumin showed similar improvements to the Prozac group. Participants who took curcumin and Prozac showed more improvement in mood than the other two groups.
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