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Turmeric Cancer Treatment? How about a Turmeric Golden Milk Latte?
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is a root crop which has has been cultivated in the tropical regions of Asia for more than 5,000 years . It has been used in the Chinese and Indian pharmacopoeia for over four thousand years and is recognised for it's powerful anti-inflammatory properties, a preventer and a treatment for cancer. Is turmeric the panacea it's been billed to be, is there a magic high dose pill we can take medicinally and is the research as clear cut as the hype may suggest?
Can it really be as easy as drinking Turmeric Golden Milk Latte?
The Promising Research
Researchers are investigating the countless benefits of turmeric and it has shown incredible promise in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Curcumin (turmeric's active ingredient) is thought to have antioxidant properties. This may mean it could decrease swelling and inflammation. This properties are why turmeric is being explored as a cancer treatment, in part, because inflammation appears to play a role in cancer.
Investigators in a 2011 study conducted by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center concluded “Curcumin exerts it's biological influence through epigenetic modulation, a process that continues downstream staying one step ahead of adverse genetic influences.”
The laboratory and animal research suggests that curcumin may prevent cancer, slow the spread of cancer, enable chemotherapy to be more effective and protect healthy cells from damage by radiation therapy. The research finding has lead to studies of curcumin in people but they are still in the early stages. Clinical trials are underway to investigate curcumin as a way to prevent cancer in people with precancerous conditions, as a cancer treatment, and as a remedy for signs and symptoms caused by cancer treatments.
Studies have shown that curcumin helps prevent several forms of cancer including breast, lung, stomach, liver, and colon because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Results had found that curcumin may assist with:
Inhibiting COX-2, an enzyme that causes negative inflammation, which can lead to cancer.
Impeding vascular epithelial growth to starve cancer cells of their oxygen and fuel source.
Inducing a tumor suppressor gene.
Stopping metastasis of cancer cells.
Killing large cell B-cell lymphoma cells
Preventing regrowth of cancer stem cells.
But the research is not without question.
The Doubting Of The Research
In 2012 A prominent University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center researcher was reported to be under investigation for alleged fabrication and falsification in a host of published studies about the cancer-fighting properties of plants, curcumin being one of them. http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/M-D-Anderson-professor-under-fraud-probe-3360037.php
A recent review in 2017 suggested that scientific literature on curcumin has limited, if any, actual health benefits. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jmedchem.6b00975 The review suggested that curcumin is not easily absorbed by the body. Although there are thousands of research papers published on turmeric, the reviewers were unable to find any placebo-controlled clinical trials to support all of the health claims.
But with that being said research has also shown that there are low rates of certain types of cancer in countries where people eat curcumin at levels of about 100 to 200 mg a day over long periods of time. (cancerresearchuk.org)
Curcumin, Inflammation And Supplements
The research is gaining pace in terms of curcumin's ability to treat autoimmune disorders and issues with inflammation.
Extensive clinical trials over the past quarter century have addressed the pharmacokinetics, safety, and efficacy of this nutraceutical against numerous diseases in humans. Some promising effects have been observed in patients with various pro-inflammatory diseases including, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel disease, tropical pancreatitis, peptic ulcer, gastric ulcer, gastric inflammation, vitiligo, psoriasis, acute coronary syndrome, diabetes, diabetic nephropathy, diabetic microangiopathy, lupus nephritis, and renal conditions. This is not an exhaustive list.
Curcumin is thought to inhibit these autoimmune diseases by regulating inflammatory cytokines. The beneficial effects are traditionally achieved through dietary consumption at low levels for long periods of time. The research into the use of purified active curcumin at higher doses for therapeutic purposes is not conclusive suggests that there needs to be extreme caution as high quantities have been linked to acid reflux, low blood sugar and other unwanted side effects.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has issued a warning about the turmeric based food supplement Fortodol because it has been found to contain the strong anti inflammatory drug nimesulide. Nimesulide can cause damage to the liver. The Food Standards Agency in the USA states that taking products that contain unknown amounts of nimesulide could be very harmful.
The Low Absorption Rate Of Curcumin
Various animal and clinical studies reveal that the concentrations of curcumin in blood plasma, urine, and peripheral tissues are extremely low regardless of dosage size. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/biof.1042/abstract This is known as bioavailability. To increase bioavailability it is thought that 3 key strategies need to be in place 1) heat the tumeric 2) add black pepper to it and 3) mix turmeric with a healthy fat.
In other words, adding turmeric to a healthy balanced diet could be beneficial in terms of increasing absorption levels.
The Future Of The Research
There does seem to still be a buzz about the benefits of curcumin but it's no longer thought to be the panacea that it used to be. The future of research looks to take on a more holistic approach - looking at turmeric as a whole spice, or a component of entire meals - to account for all of it's potential beneficial compounds.
The thinking is still that it's beneficial for inflammation and there maybe some beneficial use in the prevention and treatment of cancers and inflammatory conditions but nothing is yet conclusive, clinical trials are in their infancy in the grand scheme of things and conclusive evidence is yet to be compiled.
Poor bioavailability and limited adverse effects reported by some investigators are a major limitation to the therapeutic utility of curcumin. More studies are required to evaluate the many claims and, the lesser talked about, unknown long-term toxicity associated with curcumin before it can be approved medicinally for human use.
There doesn't seem to be any clear cut evidence that high doses of turmeric can be beneficial in terms of inflammatory disorders and/or cancer treatments but the National Library of Medicine’s bibliographic database shows over 600 potential health benefits of turmeric, and/or curcumin.
We may not know if there's a magic medicinal supplementary pill but the bright yellow spice is continuing to cause a stir in the research field. Historically ground turmeric root has been used in Indian and Chinese cooking and in traditional medicine for centuries. The evidence suggests that where turmeric is consumed often in the diet there are lower cases of some types of cancers.
The health claims surrounding Turmeric are astounding and even though it may not be the panacea as once thought I like to think that there's 'no smoke without fire'. I will continue to look into turmeric for health and I will continue to dabble in absorption boosting Golden Milk Latte.
4000 years of history behind the culinary use of turmeric isn't to be ignored so, if like me, you would like to dabble too here is the recipe I use for Golden Milk Latte complete with ticking the box for bioavailability. Enjoy!
Golden Milk Latte Recipe
The Golden Paste:
1/2 cup organic turmeric powder
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 Tablespoons virgin coconut oil
Cook together the water, turmeric and black pepper until it forms a thick paste, stir and cook for 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add virgin coconut oil, using a whisk to fully mix in the coconut oil. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator.
The Golden Milk Latte:
1 tsp. Golden Paste
2 cups Almond Milk or Coconut Milk
1/8 teaspoon Vanilla (Optional)
Molasses to taste.
Pinch cinnamon (Optional)
Gently heat, but do not boil the milk with 1 teaspoon of the paste. Use a whisk.
Add the molasses, vanilla and cinnamon to taste.