What can turmeric really do for your health? | ET REALITY


Turmeric has been used as a spice and medicine for thousands of years. And in recent decades, it has become popular as a dietary supplement, often sold as curcumin (a chemical compound found in dried turmeric) and claimed to be able to relieve joint pain, reduce inflammation and improve mobility.

In Thailand, turmeric is also often consumed in spice or supplement form to soothe gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating and indigestion, said Dr. Krit Pongpirul, associate professor of preventive and social medicine at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. But only a few small studios have evaluated these benefits.

In a trial published Monday in the journal BMJ Evidence-Based MedicineDr. Pongpirul and his colleagues tested whether curcumin supplements could help patients with functional dyspepsia, a common gastrointestinal condition that causes stomach pain and feelings of fullness, nausea and bloating after meals.

For the eight-week trial, researchers divided 206 people with functional dyspepsia into three randomly assigned groups: one that took 20 milligrams of omeprazole (a drug that reduces stomach acid) once a day; another who took two 250-milligram curcumin capsules four times a day; and a third who took omeprazole and curcumin at the above doses every day.

There were 151 patients who completed the study, and at four and eight weeks, all three groups reported similar reductions in symptoms such as pain, belching, heartburn, and bloating.

According to Dr. Pongpirul, curcumin appeared to be as effective in reducing functional dyspepsia symptoms as omeprazole. Few side effects were reported, although the authors noted that longer-term studies were needed to evaluate the risks and benefits of the supplement.

Dr. Brian Lacy, a gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, said via email that despite these promising results, he would hesitate to recommend curcumin supplements to his patients based on this study alone.

The results would have been more convincing if the study had included a placebo group, he said. Without one, it is impossible to know whether participants’ responses came from the treatment, from a Placebo effect or the passage of time.

That said, functional dyspepsia causes serious discomfort, Dr. Lacy said, and in the United States there are no approved medications to treat this condition. Omeprazole, which is commonly used off-label, appears to help only approximately one in 10 patients.

Without better treatments, Dr. Lacy said, those who prefer natural or herbal products “could confidently use this data to say, ‘Let’s try curcumin first.'”

But Dr. Mahtab Jafari, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of California, Irvine, cautioned that patients with painful gastrointestinal symptoms should not use curcumin without proper medical evaluation first. And because dietary supplements are poorly regulated, there are some important caveats to keep in mind.

Turmeric and curcumin are among the most studied dietary supplements, said Dr. Janet Funk, a professor of medicine at the University of Arizona.

in a extensive review Published in March, Dr. Funk and her colleagues evaluated 389 clinical trials on how curcumin supplements may influence various health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, digestive conditions, cancer and dementia.

Many were small studies and were not well designed, he said, but the evidence did suggest that the supplements were probably helpful for osteoarthritis and potentially helpful for people with insulin resistance or diabetes.

The composition of the products used in those studies varied widely, Dr. Funk noted, as do supplements currently on the market. That makes it difficult to get promising results for a supplement in a trial and find a matching one in a store.

Curcumin supplements have also been found to contain some potentially harmful contaminants. In one study published in 2018Dr. Funk and her colleagues analyzed 35 curcumin supplements and found lead in all but one.

They also found residues of toxic industrial solvents, such as toluene, a chemical found in paint, nail polish and gasoline, in 25 of the products tested, although solvent levels were below limits generally considered safe. And many of the curcumin supplements included piperine, an extract of black pepper, which increases the absorption of curcumin but can also interfere with some medications.

Dr. Jafari, who studies curcumin in her own lab, said she is confident it has real anti-inflammatory effects, but given the lack of large, well-designed trials and industry regulation, she does not recommend curcumin supplements.

Before using any dietary supplement, check that it has been verified by trusted third-party organizations such as the US Pharmacopeia, NSF, or ConsumerLab.com, Dr. Jafari said.

You should also check with your healthcare provider for possible drug interactions or interference with any tests you may need; and continue to monitor yourself for any side effects of taking the supplement, she said.

But given concerns about the purity and safety of turmeric supplements, the best use for the plant might be the oldest: “Buy the beautiful turmeric roots, grind them, put them in your food and enjoy them,” Dr. Jafari said. .

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