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Turmeric Adds Spice to Your Health

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By Lana Maciel, MD Anderson Staff Writer

turmericOne of the keys to tumor suppression could possibly lie in the Indian spice turmeric. Often used in curry dishes, it is commonly known as "Indian solid gold" for its proven health benefits.

Various scientific studies have shown that the yellow compound in turmeric, curcumin, contains potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These can inhibit tumor cell growth and suppress enzymes that activate carcinogens.

In fact, a small Phase II study at MD Anderson in 2008 indicated that in patients with pancreatic cancer, daily dosage of curcumin without chemotherapy helped slow tumor growth in some patients and reduced the size of a tumor in one patient.

Bharat Aggarwal, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics, continues to conduct and analyze a number of studies that focus on the effects of curcumin on cancer. He says he believes it is effective on all forms of the disease due to its suppression of angiogenesis (blood vessel growth) of tumor cells.

"No cancer has been found, to my knowledge, which is not affected by curcumin," Aggarwal says. "The reason curcumin is so effective against cancer is that it hits not just a single target or cell signaling pathway but dozens of targets implicated in cancer."

In addition to these scientific findings, the cancer rate in South Asia makes an even stronger case for the cancer-fighting benefits of turmeric. It is used regularly in culinary dishes of this region.

"The incidence of the top four cancers in the United States-- colon, breast, prostate and lung -- is 10 times lower in India," Aggarwal says.

Incorporate turmeric into your daily diet
Used as a primary ingredient in many Indian, Persian, Thai and Malay dishes, turmeric pairs well with garlic, citrus, coriander and cumin. You, too, can reap the benefits of this spice by using it in your daily cooking.

For starters, try the following recipe, courtesy of Aggarwal, as a great side dish for a healthy curried chicken dish.

Vegetables With Turmeric

Ingredients:
•    3 tablespoons olive oil
•    1 teaspoon turmeric
•    ¼ teaspoon red chili powder
•    ½ teaspoon salt
•    ½ teaspoon cumin
•    ½ teaspoon coriander powder
•    ½ teaspoon pomegranate seeds
•    ½ teaspoon mango powder
•    Sliced vegetables such as potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, etc.
•    Sliced onions, ginger and tomatoes

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, mix together salt, turmeric, red chili, cumin and coriander powders.

2. On a stovetop, heat the olive oil in a pan. First roast onions and ginger and then add vegetables and spice mix together in the pan and stir until vegetables are coated in spices.

3. Allow vegetables to simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

4. Turn off the heat, sprinkle with sliced tomatoes, pomegranate seeds and mango powder and enjoy.



5 Comments

The percentage of the active compound curcumin in tumeric is quite low. Curcumin has extremely limited bioavailability-- given the low amount of the active compound curcumin in tumeric, why would eating it be healthful?

No scientist who actually understands statistics would confuse correlation with causality per statement "In addition to these scientific findings, the cancer rate in South Asia makes an even stronger case for the cancer-fighting benefits of turmeric. It is used regularly in culinary dishes of this region.

"The incidence of the top four cancers in the United States-- colon, breast, prostate and lung -- is 10 times lower in India," Aggarwal says."

For interesting reading on curcumin for cancer, please see: htt[://scienceblogs.com/terrasig/2006/10/curcumin_for_cancer.php

I've been taking curcumin capsules for more than 3 years, hoping to make a difference in the growth of my non-small cell lung cancer with bone metastases. The fact that I'm alive 4 years after diagnosis should suggest that something is helping; in addition I am walking 4 to 5 km (2 1/2 to 3 miles) a day, in less than an hour.

Turmeric itself seems to contain an anti-fatigue factor, which was a totally unexpected benefit in the early days when I started swallowing a teaspoonful twice a day. Suddenly I had plenty of energy and could do things again. I've had the same reports from people with systemic mastocytosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other diseases. For some people it makes no difference, but no harm trying it!

I have read conflicting articles regarding tumeric and gerd. One says not to take tumeric with gerd and another says it is good for heartburn. Where do I go to find out what's the real scoop?

It's good for cancer and taste good too. Excellent!

My husband was diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma in March 2004. The first surgery removed a large tumor in the exact middle of his skull. He was given radiation (which killed his skull and was replaced by titanium in 2005). He underwent several rounds of chemo and experimental drugs over the next year or so. He achieved remission which lasted 5 years. The melanoma returned in approximately 6 months after the 5 year anniversary. He had several inches of his small bowel removed at that time, along with his left adrenal gland. At that time I learned about curcumin and began giving him 4000 mg daily. I knew if I started him on it while in remission it would not be confused with any cancer drugs he might be given in the future. The cancer recurred in 2011, again in his small bowel. It was removed and he has maintained his remission until now. He's continuing on the curcumim and will remain on it as long as I am his caregiver. I believe it works! All his cancer treatment has been at MDA and this information is verifiable through his patient records! It is VERY good stuff, Mr. Prior!

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