Is turmeric really as good as they say?

Most people think of turmeric as just a spice used in Indian cooking which makes food very yellow and has a fairly mild flavour.  It has recently hit the headlines because the latest research confirms yet again how beneficial it is to health.  There are over 6000 articles published over the last two decades on the benefits of curcumin which is the active compound of turmeric and renown for it’s ability to reduce inflammation and anti-cancer properties.


Recently a test was run and reported on “Trust Me I’m a Doctor” to see what the effect of turmeric would be on our genes.  It is well established that food can turn genes off and likewise turn them off influencing our health and predisposition to disease.  In this latest test approximately 100 volunteers who did not include turmeric in their normal diet were divided into three groups.  One group would be given a turmeric capsule containing the equivalent of a teaspoon of turmeric, another group a placebo capsule and the third group would incorporate  a teaspoon of turmeric in their diet daily.  

Results of turmeric study

The results indicated that those who incorporated turmeric into their diets had significantly altered genes associated with inflammation indicating that they would be less prone to inflammatory conditions such as cancer, depression, allergies, arthritis etc.  The participants who took the turmeric capsule and those who received the placebo experienced no changes in inflammatory markers.

Why did the supplement have no effect?   It could be that the turmeric selected for this test did not contain the active compound curcumin.  Also curcumin is notoriously hard to absorb and requires fat to increase bioavailability so if it had been taken with a typical breakfast consisting of low fat milk and cereal it would not have been absorbed.   It is clearly established that high quality supplements, that ensure good absorption and bio-availability, containing curcumin are effective and that this effectiveness is infinitely greater when curcumin is combined with piperine (black pepper).

Note that if you did want to incorporate turmeric supplements into your daily routine or start using large quantities of turmeric in cooking beware if you have gallstones, an obstructed bile duct or are taking blood-thinning medication.  Check first with your nutritional therapist.