Is Turmeric Really That Good?
In a world where there are constantly new food products on the market and new trends in what seems like every few weeks it is difficult to keep up and know what is truly beneficial to your health. One such trend relates to Turmeric so we asked the question, should you be swapping your morning coffee for a turmeric latte?
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is yellow spice that is commonly used in Asian cooking, specifically Indian curries. It contains a compound called curcumin which has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Curcumin is not absorbed well in the small intestine and is eliminated quickly from the body. As a result, a relatively large amount of turmeric must be consumed for enough to be absorbed in the gut to have an effect in the body. Black pepper has been shown to increase the absorption of curcumin therefore when turmeric and black pepper are consumed together in a meal such as a curry, a larger amount of curcumin is able to be absorbed.
Why the overwhelming interest in turmeric?
A study conducted in 2006 found that elderly Asians who consumed curries occasionally, often, or very often had less cognitive decline compared to those who consumed curries never or rarely. Turmeric and curcumin in particular were identified when researchers tried to determine what specific component of the curry could be responsible for reducing the cognitive decline. As a result, there has been growing interest in the health benefits of turmeric ever since.
The publication of research highlighting the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin increased the public’s interest in the spice. This led to the development of numerous supplement forms of turmeric including pills and powders. More recently, turmeric lattes also known as golden lattes have appeared on café menus and has become the choice of beverage for many people due to its claimed antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
It is important to note that there is no credible scientific evidence that claims the health benefits of turmeric or curcumin specifically is seen when individuals consume turmeric lattes. Firstly, turmeric lattes contain a very small amount of curcumin, a dose which would have no significant health benefit in terms of anti-inflammatory or antioxidant effects. Secondly, food interactions occur which means that when foods are combined they seem to have different effects compared to when they are consumed by themselves. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of turmeric has only really been seen when it is consumed with other foods as part of a dish, not when consumed by itself as a supplement.
As a nutritionist where do I stand?
There is no need for healthy individuals who consume a varied and balanced diet to consume turmeric in supplement form. Fruit and vegetables are rich in antioxidants therefore those who consume the recommended 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables each day will have sufficient antioxidant intake. Turmeric could be incorporated into your diet as part of meals such as curries to add flavour.
The evidence surrounding turmeric’s health benefits and use in a medicinal manner to manage or treat conditions such as metabolic syndrome and other inflammatory conditions is very new and a lot more research should be done before it is recommended to take turmeric in supplement form. It is important to speak to your dietitian before you begin taking supplements, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition.
Written by Corlize Lombard, Nutritionist
Nutrition Force is a Western Australian based company of Nutritionists and Accredited Practising Dietitians that offer weight loss programs, private dietetic consultations, children’s nutrition & dietetics, school nutrition and Corporate Wellness programs. If you would like more information on our Perth Dietitians and the other services we offer call us today on (08) 9385 7755.