Most people probably think of the yellow Indian spice when
turmeric is mentioned.  It gives rice and
meat a brilliant yellow color.  Turmeric
is a major component of the curry spice mix but it is not exclusive to Asian
cuisine, it is also used in Mediterranean cooking.  What gives turmeric its exquisite yellow
color is the curcumin compound [1].  But curcumin is more than just a natural food
dye, this common spice possess amazing powers scientists are only starting to
discover.

 
Researchers are regularly uncovering more and more
preventive and health boosting abilities of curcumin.  Right now it has been identified as a potent
antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antiviral [2].  Curcumin also protects against blood clots
and clogged arteries [2].  Even more interesting is the current research
on curcumin and its potential for preventing and treating cancer.  Curcumin is currently being studied as a
possible cure for lymphocytic leukemia since the spice initiates programmed
cell  death in the cancer cells [3].  Additionally, in a pilot study 100% of colon
cancer patients treated with curcumin and quercetin experienced a reduction in
the number and size of polyps after 6 months of treatment [4].  When it comes to breast cancer, turmeric is
being studies as a cancer preventive agent [5].  Researchers found that curcumin reduced
breast stem cell self renewal [5]
and another study also reported that curcumin inhibited breast cancer cells
from metastasizing to other tissues [1, 4, 6].  Finally, curcumin found in turmeric may have
positive outcomes when it comes to multiple other cancers such as skin, lung,
stomach, pancreas, intestine, bladder, prostate and cervix [4].

All of this information is promising and scientists have
recently started conducting studies on humans. 
Once more human studies have been completed the true effect of curcumin
on the body will be more evident and the recommended amount for people to
consume can be set.

 References:

1.            Boonrao, M., et al., The inhibitory effect of turmeric
curcuminoids on matrix metalloproteinase-3 secretion in human invasive breast
carcinoma cells.
Archives of Pharmacal Research, 2010. 33(7): p. 989-998.

2.            Huang,
W.-Y., Y.-Z. Cai, and Y. Zhang, Natural
Phenolic Compounds From Medicinal Herbs and Dietary Plants: Potential Use for
Cancer Prevention.
Nutrition and Cancer, 2010. 62(1): p. 1-20.

3.            Angelo,
L.S. and R. Kurzrock, Turmeric and Green
Tea: A Recipe for the Treatment of B-Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.
Clinical
Cancer Research, 2009. 15(4): p.
1123-1125.

4.            Amin,
A.R.M.R., et al., Perspectives for Cancer
Prevention With Natural Compounds.
Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2009. 27(16): p. 2712-2725.

5.            Kakarala,
M., et al., Targeting breast stem cells
with the cancer preventive compounds curcumin and piperine.
Breast Cancer
Research and Treatment, 2010. 122(3):
p. 777-785.

6.            Aggarwal,
B.B. and S. Shishodia, Molecular targets
of dietary agents for prevention and therapy of cancer.
Biochemical
Pharmacology, 2006. 71(10): p.
1397-1421.

 

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