According to a Tufts University, Boston, MA study funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture and released to the media on May 18, 2009, curcumin, the major polyphenol found in turmeric, appears to reduce weight gain in mice and suppress the growth of fat tissue in mice and cell models.
Researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (USDA HNRCA) studied mice fed high fat diets supplemented with curcumin and cell cultures incubated with curcumin. Asma Ejaz, a graduate student who worked on this project also received a scholarship grant from the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan. You can read the study, Ejaz A, Wu, D, Kwan P, and Meydani M. Journal of Nutrition. May 2009; 139 (5): 1042-1048. “Curcumin Inhibits Adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes and Angiogenesis and Obesity in C57/BL Mice. 919-925.”
Turmeric and an ingredient in it, curcumin has been studied in the past in relation to preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Now this new study focuses on preventing weight gain. According to a May 18th 2009 Tufts University press release, “Weight gain is the result of the growth and expansion of fat tissue, which cannot happen unless new blood vessels form, a process known as angiogenesis.” said senior author Mohsen Meydani, DVM, PhD, director of the Vascular Biology Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA. “Based on our data, curcumin appears to suppress angiogenic activity in the fat tissue of mice fed high fat diets.” Meydani continued, “It is important to note, we don’t know whether these results can be replicated in humans because, to our knowledge, no studies have been done.”
Turmeric is known for providing flavor to curry. One of its components is curcumin, a type of phytochemical known as a polyphenol. Research findings suggest that phytochemicals, which are the chemicals found in plants, appear to help prevent disease. As the bioactive component of turmeric, curcumin is readily absorbed for use by the body.
Meydani and colleagues studied mice fed high fat diets for 12 weeks. The high fat diet of one group was supplemented with 500 mg of curcumin/ kg diet; the other group consumed no curcumin. Both groups ate the same amount of food, indicating curcumin did not affect appetite, but mice fed the curcumin supplemented diet did not gain as much weight as mice that were not fed curcumin.
“Curcumin appeared to be responsible for total lower body fat in the group that received supplementation,” said Meydani, who is also a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. “In those mice, we observed a suppression of microvessel density in fat tissue, a sign of less blood vessel growth and thus less expansion of fat. We also found lower blood cholesterol levels and fat in the liver of those mice. In general, angiogenesis and an accumulation of lipids in fat cells contribute to fat tissue growth.”
Writing in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, the authors note similar results in cell cultures. Additionally, curcumin appeared to interfere with expression of two genes, which contributed to angiogenesis progression in both cell and rodent models.
“Again, based on this data, we have no way of telling whether curcumin could prevent fat tissue growth in humans.” Meydani said. “The mechanism or mechanisms by which curcumin appears to affect fat tissue must be investigated in a randomized, clinical trial involving humans.”
Ejaz A, Wu, D, Kwan P, and Meydani M. Journal of Nutrition. May 2009; 139 (5): 1042-1048. “Curcumin Inhibits Adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes and Angiogenesis and Obesity in C57/BL Mice. 919-925.”
Turmeric and Alzheimer’s Prevention Research
In the Rhode Island Hospital study, researchers have found possible environmental causes for Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Scientists are calling for a reduction of nitrate levels in fertilizer and water, and also detoxifying tap water and food from common environmental toxins, including reducing the nitrosamines in preserved foods.
The build-up of plaque from beta-amyloid deposits is associated with an increase in brain cell damage and death from oxidative stress. This is related to a loss of cognitive function and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, which currently affects over 13 million people worldwide.
Researchers have found a link between increased exposure to fertilizer, processed foods and increased deaths associated with insulin-resistant diseases. We have become a “nitrosamine generation” receiving increased exposure to dangerous compounds, which pose a threat at low levels of exposure. The prevalence rates of these diseases have increased exponentially over the past several decades and show no sign of plateau.
In the Rhode Island Hospital research, led by Suzanne de la Monte, MD, MPH, of Rhode Island Hospital, researchers studied the trends in mortality rates due to diseases that are associated with aging, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes and cerebrovascular disease, as well as HIV.
Other diseases including HIV-AIDS, cerebrovascular disease, and leukemia did not exhibit those trends. de la Monte and the authors propose that the increase in exposure plays a critical role in the cause, development and effects of the pandemic of these insulin-resistant diseases.
de la Monte, who is also a professor of pathology and lab medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, says, “We have become a ‘nitrosamine generation.’ In essence, we have moved to a diet that is rich in amines and nitrates, which lead to increased nitrosamine production. We receive increased exposure through the abundant use of nitrate-containing fertilizers for agriculture.” She continues, “Not only do we consume them in processed foods, but they get into our food supply by leeching from the soil and contaminating water supplies used for crop irrigation, food processing and drinking.”
Nitrites and nitrates belong to a class of chemical compounds that have been found to be harmful to humans and animals. More than 90 percent of these compounds that have been tested have been determined to be carcinogenic in various organs. They are found in many food products, including fried bacon, cured meats and cheese products as well as beer and water. Exposure also occurs through manufacturing and processing of rubber and latex products, as well as fertilizers, pesticides and cosmetics.
Nitrosamines are formed by a chemical reaction between nitrites or other proteins. Sodium nitrite is deliberately added to meat and fish to prevent toxin production; it is also used to preserve, color and flavor meats. Ground beef, cured meats and bacon in particular contain abundant amounts of amines due to their high protein content. Because of the significant levels of added nitrates and nitrites, nitrosamines are nearly always detectable in these foods. Nitrosamines are also easily generated under strong acid conditions, such as in the stomach, or at high temperatures associated with frying or flame broiling. Reducing sodium nitrite content reduces nitrosamine formation in foods.
Nitrosamines basically become highly reactive at the cellular level, which then alters gene expression and causes DNA damage. The researchers note that the role of nitrosamines has been well-studied, and their role as a carcinogen has been fully documented. The investigators propose that the cellular alterations that occur as a result of nitrosamine exposure are fundamentally similar to those that occur with aging, as well as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
de la Monte comments, “All of these diseases are associated with increased insulin resistance and DNA damage. Their prevalence rates have all increased radically over the past several decades and show no sign of plateau. Because there has been a relatively short time interval associated with the dramatic shift in disease incidence and prevalence rates, we believe this is due to exposure-related rather than genetic etiologies.”
The researchers recognize that an increase in death rates is anticipated in higher age groups. Yet when the researchers compared mortality from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease among 75 to 84 year olds from 1968 to 2005, the death rates increased much more dramatically than for cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease, which are also aging-associated.
For example, in Alzheimer’s patients, the death rate increased 150-fold, from 0 deaths to more than 150 deaths per 100,000. Parkinson’s disease death rates also increased across all age groups. However, mortality rates from cerebrovascular disease in the same age group declined, even though this is a disease associated with aging as well.
de la Monte notes, “Because of the similar trending in nearly all age groups within each disease category, this indicates that these overall trends are not due to an aging population. This relatively short time interval for such dramatic increases in death rates associated with these diseases is more consistent with exposure-related causes rather than genetic changes.” She also comments, “Moreover, the strikingly higher and climbing mortality rates in older age brackets suggest that aging and/or longer durations of exposure have greater impacts on progression and severity of these diseases.”
The researchers graphed and analyzed mortality rates, and compared them with increasing age for each disease. They then studied United States population growth, annual use and consumption of nitrite-containing fertilizers, annual sales at popular fast food chains, and sales for a major meat processing company, as well as consumption of grain and consumption of watermelon and cantaloupe (the melons were used as a control since they are not typically associated with nitrate or nitrite exposure).
The findings indicate that while nitrogen-containing fertilizer consumption increased by 230 percent between 1955 and 2005, its usage doubled between 1960 and 1980, which just precedes the insulin-resistant epidemics the researchers found. They also found that sales from the fast food chain and the meat processing company increased more than 8-fold from 1970 to 2005, and grain consumption increased 5-fold.
The authors state that the time course of the increased prevalence rates of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes cannot be explained on the basis of gene mutations. They instead mirror the classical trends of exposure-related disease. Because nitrosamines produce biochemical changes within cells and tissues, it is conceivable that chronic exposure to low levels of nitrites and nitrosamines through processed foods, water and fertilizers is responsible for the current epidemics of these diseases and the increasing mortality rates associated with them.
de la Monte states, “If this hypothesis is correct, potential solutions include eliminating the use of nitrites and nitrates in food processing, preservation and agriculture; taking steps to prevent the formation of nitrosamines and employing safe and effective measures to detoxify food and water before human consumption.”
Other researchers involved in the study with de la Monte include Alexander Neusner, Jennifer Chu and Margot Lawton, from the departments of pathology, neurology and medicine at Rhode Island Hospital and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
The National Institutes of Health funded the study from grants. Two subsequent papers have been accepted for publication in the near future that demonstrate experimentally that low levels of nitrosamine exposure cause neurodegeneration, NASH and diabetes.
The title of the study is: “Epidemilogical Trends Strongly Suggest Exposures as Etiologic Agents in the Pathogenesis of Sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis.” Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 17:3 (July 2009) pp 519-529. Researchers in the study are: de la Monte, Suzanne M., Alexander Neusner, Jennifer Chu and Margot Lawton.
What about turmeric or curcumin for preventing Alzheimer’s if you’re not able to fight the environmental pollution where you have to live? Curcumin is an ingredient naturally found in turmeric.
According to a different study, published in August 2009 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, and reported in a Lee Swanson Research Update titled, “Vitamin D-Curcumin Combo Offers Brain Health Potential,” A combination of vitamin D3 and curcumin, from turmeric, may boost the immune system and help it clear the protein plaques linked to Alzheimer’s, notes the August 2009 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease study.
The Lee Swanson Research Update reported that the data, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, may lead to new approaches in preventing Alzheimer’s by using vitamin D3 alone or in combination with natural or synthetic curcumin to boost the immune system in protecting the brain against beta-amyloid. Curcumin is found in and/or extracted from turmeric.
In the curcumin study, there’s hope for prevention of Alzheimer’s from turmeric and/or cucurmin, an extract from turmeric. “We hope that vitamin D3 and curcumin, both naturally occurring nutrients, may offer new preventive and treatment possibilities for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Milan Fiala from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).
Monocyte cells, which transform into macrophages and in turn boost the immune system, were isolated from blood samples taken from nine Alzheimer’s patients, one patient with mild cognitive impairment and three healthy control subjects.
The macrophages were then incubated with beta-amyloid, vitamin D3 and natural or synthetic curcumin. The naturally occurring curcumin was found to be poorly absorbed, making it less effective than the synthetic curcuminoids, said the researchers. “We think some of the novel synthetic compounds will get around the shortcomings of curcumin and improve the therapeutic efficacy,” said John Cashman of the Human BioMolecular Research Institute.
The curcuminoids were found to enhance binding of beta-amyloid to macrophages, and that vitamin D could strongly stimulate the uptake and absorption of beta-amyloid in macrophages in most of the patients.
Previous research by the same scientists found that there are two types of Alzheimer’s patients: Type I patients, who respond positively to curcuminoids, and Type II patients, who do not. This depends on the genes MGAT III and TLR-3 that are associated with the immune system’s ability to better ingest beta-amyloid, the researchers said.
“Since vitamin D and curcumin work differently with the immune system, we may find that a combination of the two or each used alone may be more effective-depending on the individual patient,” said Fiala.
The UCLA researchers stressed that the research is still in its early stages and that no doses of either compound can be recommended at this point. They noted that larger vitamin D and curcumin studies with more patients are planned. Read the study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 17(3):703-717
Is it true that research is beginning to show that an ingredient, a phytochemical, in turmeric called curcumin, actually reverses, slows, or even helps to prevent early stage Alzheimer’s disease? Is the reported low rate of Alzheimers and some other dementia types in India due to the daily of addition of a small amount of turmeric and curry spices in the average diet?
On the other hand, At the International Alzheimer’s Research Conference in Chicago, one topic that would have made a good debate might have been: could it be that the major drug companies that are actually doing Alzheimer’s research in India or anywhere else are in competition with the businesses that sell spices to consumers?
For example, could it possibly be that the major drug manufacturers in India will investigate and then come to the conclusion that turmeric couldn’t possibly be that good, that perhaps the element in turmeric, curcurmin isn’t stopping Alzheimers. Because if the drug companies in any country admit openly that curcurmin, an ingredient in turmeric is doing any good to prevent Alzheimer’s then maybe people won’t be grabbing up the drugs.
The drug companies may laugh at the ‘hype’ about turmeric. They want to sell commercial drugs to make money. You have to follow the money to get information, or at least their point of view. And then look in the opposite corner and compare the preventive medicine’s research with extracts and foods. Look at the results of investigations of both sides. Are the researchers from the major drug companies investigating turmeric or their own commercial drugs or both at the same time?
These are just a few questions to ponder as research continues in various countries. Do you believe the articles based on research in magazines such as Life Extension, or the marketing material from either side? Is the research validated? Double-blind? Who funded the research and why? Read the article, “Novel Turmeric Compound Delivers Much More Curcumin to the Blood,” by Dale Kiefer, Life Extension magazine, October 2007.
Scientific researchers around the world are investigating applications for curcumin that include fighting cancer, arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and reversing the pathological processes underlying Alzheimer’s disease, among other conditions. If turmeric is ‘hype,’ why are so many scientists researching its health benefits for so long?
Drug companies will say India or some other country has a lower reported incidence of Alzheimers. But the key word is ‘reported.’ Drug manufacturers have to make sure people buy their drugs in India or in any country where there’s a lower ‘reported’ rate of Alzheimer’s than in the USA or Europe.
Manufacturers of drugs and their scientists might say that doctors are resisting the decision to make a ‘formal’ diagnosis of Alzheimers just because in India it has a strong social stigma. That’s the explanation you might get if you ask the commercial drug researchers….that physicians are willing to report less incidence because of social stigma.
As a Westerner, you don’t know whether physicians in that country or any other nation will under report dementia because it’s a social stigma. You might not know the customs. Who can you believe? Drug companies? Or Western researchers where there’s no social stigma because of the higher rate of Alzheimer’s in the West? Maybe it’s the spice that helps and maybe not. Maybe it’s the meat that causes dementia or maybe not. The theories can drive you to confusion. So you follow your gut that says follow the money.
You’ll have to turn to Western scientists specializing in prevention, scientists that don’t work for major drug companies making drugs. What are those researchers studying? Regarding Alzheimer’s, ask whether they are testing curcurmin, extracted from turmeric to find out whether or not it reverses Alzheimers in its early stages or even prevents Alzheimers or other dementia.
You’re going to have to look at the incidence of Alzheimer’s in countries where it’s not a social stigma and where the people are largely vegetarians, even vegans taking supplements and using turmeric or any similar ingredient. On the other end of the investigation are physicians that are looking for evidence that Alzheimer’s is caused by eating meat. Here are some examples in a variety of books. What do you think or theorize? Is there a food cure?
Read the books, Dying for a Hamburger: Modern Meat Processing and the Epidemic of Alzheimer’s Disease by MD Murray Waldman and Marjorie Lamb (Hardcover – Jun 30, 2005) or Brain Trust: The Hidden Connection Between Mad Cow and Misdiagnosed Alzheimer’s Disease by Colm A. Kelleher (Hardcover – Oct 19, 2004). Also see: Food for Thought: The Debate over Eating Meat (Contemporary Issues (Prometheus)) by Steve F. Sapontzis (Paperback – May 2004).
Curcumin is extracted from turmeric. Ask what’s the reason why turmeric and curry powder containing turmeric are both anti-microbial and also a reverser of brain plaque? What does the research actually show now? Or is it all about marketing curcumin? What’s the latest news?
To start your research in order to validate claims of turmeric, begin with the article, Alzheimer’s Disease: Of Emerging Importance. Look at the article’s Alzheimer’s chart. Researchers started with looking at the reported low incidence of Alzheimer’s in India.
The World Health Organization sampled curried vegetarian dishes. Was it the curry, the turmeric, or the fact that not as many people in in India dine on red meat? In the villages, the World Health Organization study found under one percent incidient of Alzheimers in people over age 65. What actually is in the turmeric that is the main ingredient of curry powder? Is it curcurmin alone or the whole food, turmeric, or turmeric mixed with other spices that all work together?
It’s the phytochemical, curcumin. In the USA, curcumin is sold in capsules in health food stores and online and touted in Life Extension Magazine articles. But in India, where doctors report that the Alzheimer’s rate of 4.4 times less than the rate in the burger-chomping USA, people in those Indian villages ate a small amount of turmeric in their curried foods. They didn’t extract the curcumin. However, it’s the curcumin that’s being researched.
Your next step would be to go to the UCLA-Veteran’s Affairs study. That research reiterated that curcumin has low toxicity and shows promise in “for the prevention of Alzheimer’s.”
Don’t gulp all that turmeric yet. A teaspoon in a pot of stew is fine. But if you add a tablespoon to your food daily, soon your liver will start pouring out a lot more bile, maybe too much bile and stress for your liver. The whites of your eyes may start to turn yellow.
This would confuse your doctor who may think that maybe you have Wilson’s disease (a copper build-up problem) that turns the whites of eyes yellow. Your dentist will tell you the roof of your mouth, your palate is yellow, and advise you to see a doctor and have your liver tested. So stick with a small amount of turmeric in your diet unless you are supervised medically and your liver bile tested.
Should you take curcumin capsules? That’s up to you and your physician or naturopath based on how the curcumin is affecting your liver bile and any other aspect of your health. Sure, in India, turmeric, a main ingredient of which is curcumin, has been used for six thousand years.
It’s an anti-inflammatory. In India today, turmeric is used as a paste to put on the skin to clear up chicken pox sores and other rashes. Turmeric is anti-microbial. Even hospital floors in India and Sri Lanka often are washed with turmeric and water to sanitize them.
In Ayurvedic medicine of India, turmeric is given to cure inflammation in the body. So your next source of research might be to look at more news of the UCLA-Veteran’s Affairs study. Also see the article atNews-Medical Net.
So who’s going to start a clinical trial? And is the clinical trial, if started going to work with healthy volunteers again or target people over age 65 with a variety of issues?
Scientists really need to find out what safe doses of curcumin or turmeric are required. Turmeric is a spice people put in food and not a drug. So can a spice in food turn back or prevent Alzheimer’s and any other dementias? Which ones? Your next stepping stone of validation is to look at the research published in the Dec 7, 2004 online edition of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Specifically, curcumin, found in turmeric inhibits the formation of protein fragments better than most drugs being tested at that time as Alzheimer’s treatments. There’s something about the curcumin, its low molecular weight and polar structure. The cucurmin crashes through your blood-brain barrier and binds to the beta amyloids that form the plaque of Alzheimer’s. When the cucurmin binds to the beta amyloids, those amyloids aren’t able to move on and out to worsen Alzheimer’s.
Your next step might be to look at a 2001 study in the Journal of Neuroscience, 2001; 21:8370-8377. Then look at a similar study in Neurobiology of Aging, 2001; 22:993-1005. We know turmeric is an antioxidant and anti-inflammataory. And the inflamed brain of an Alzheimer’s patient results in oxidation.
Want more validation? Look at the UCLA Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) information on their clinical trials of curcumin.
What people want is a safe prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s and similar-type dementias using a spice or food rather than a drug with more serious side effects that only presently postpones rather than reverses. And in your own reading or research as a consumer, follow the money.
Who’s funding these studies? The Siegel Life Foundation, Veterans Affairs, Alzheimer’s Association, UCLA Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and private donors funded the that specific cucurmin research. Next, read the October, 2007 article by Life Extension Foundation’s magazine titled, Novel Turmeric Compound Delivers Much More Curcumin to the Blood.
Assuming you don’t have a biochemistry or medical background and want to read articles about health in plain language, the curcuminoids are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. They cool down inflamed tissues and organs and prevent oxygen in your body from wearing away (a bit like rusting) your cells.
In the body, turmeric is what you use to turn off bad switches and turn on good switches. It’s similar to how the study of epigenetics looks at what nutrients, hereditary genes, lifestyles, and environmental factors turn on the tags on good genes and switch off the tags on bad genes.
If you do have a medical or biochemistry background or are simply curious why and how, let me explain. To get specific, curcuminoids have the ability to inhibit activation of the transcription factor. That’s called your nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB). Now, your nulcear factor-kappa B is a potent inducer of chronic inflammation.