Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a powerful antioxidant often used by Indians in their daily food, and therefore cancer does not really occur in India. And the Masala (Indian curry) is the reason why there are hardly any cases of Alzheimer in India.
Hoax or Fact:
Turmeric is a spice derived from a plant called Curcuma longa and is commonly used in India. Turmeric contains a variety of bioactive substances known as curcuminoids, the most active component being curcumin, an orange-yellow volatile oil which includes three curcuminoids œturmerone, atlantone, and zingiberene. Curcumin is an effective antioxidant that can protect our body’s cells from the damage caused by activated oxygen molecules, better called as free radicals. Curcumin has also been shown to have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Curcumin is thought to decrease swelling and inflammation, which acts as an important role in a cancer treatment. Laboratory studies have shown that curcumin interferes with many other important molecular pathways that are involved in the cancer development, growth, and spread.
Laboratory tests and research done on animals suggests that curcumin may prevent cancer, slow down the spread of cancer, make chemotherapy more effective and also protect healthy cells from damage by the radiation therapy. Animal tests combining both chemotherapy and curcumin were found to be "100 times" more effective than either on their own, while treating bowel cancer. Curcumin blocked colon cancer in rats, and the studies suggest that it may also suppresses the development of colon cancer cells in humans. Turmeric is proved to reduce the severity of pancreatitis-associated lung injury in mice. It is believed that it may even prevent skin cancer, and further studies are being conducted for the possibility of its use in other types of cancer. When combined with cauliflower, turmeric has been shown to prevent prostate cancer, breast cancer and melanoma from spreading. This combination also can help stop new cancers from growing.
Research shows that turmeric along with its curcuminoids and other phytochemical contents has a number of health benefits like:
- Good antioxidant activity similar to vitamin C, vitamin E, and superoxide dismutase.
- Anti-inflammatory activity which is comparable to steroidal and nonsteroidal drugs.
- Anticancer properties influencing all stages of cancer formation: initiation, promotion, and progression.
- Protects cardiovascular system by lowering serum cholesterol and inhibiting platelet aggregation.
- Protects liver by many mechanisms.
- In vitro and in vivo studies show curcuminoids can help with HIV in a number of ways, also includes acting as biological response modifiers that results in significant increase in CD-4 and CD-8 counts, which are a measure of immunity levels in a HIV infected person.
It is a fact that colon (large bowel) cancer is much less common in India and also in UK, where intake of curcumin is high. Research on curcumin in humans is still in the early stages. Clinical trials are under way to investigate if curcumin can be a definite remedy for cancer prevention and treatment. So, it is important to check with an experienced doctor before using this herb for cancer treatment.
Coming to the Alzheimer's disease, a type of dementia, studies show that eating curry containing turmeric once or twice a week can prevent Alzheimer's disease and may also be useful in treating the people who are already suffering from it. Research done on mice shows that the curry pigment curcumin slowed down the formation and also destroyed accumulated plaque deposits in their brains. These plaques that build up in the brain affect the electrical signals between brain cells and lead to the symptoms of Alzheimer's dementia. Researchers also believe that the curry's powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make it a very attractive for possible treatment of diseases like Alzheimer's, cancer, and even heart disease.
And yes, it is also a fact that the rate of Alzheimer's disease in India is one of the lowest in the world, but this alone can not be attributed to the use of Indian spice curry as a dietary staple. According to the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India, in the year 2010, the total number of Alzheimer cases were around 50-75% of the total 3.7 million dementia cases, and these numbers are also expected to double in 2030. Also, it is important to note that the turmeric powder used in household is made by boiling the original Turmeric root, and then drying and making it into powder, which reduces its nutrient intensity; while turmeric in its original root form has been long used in Chinese, Indian traditional and regular medicine for treating wide variety of conditions.
There are approximately 30 recognized varieties in the type of Curcuma in which turmeric belongs - Amalapuram, Armour, Dindigam, Erode, Krishna, Kodur, Vontimitra, P317, GL Purm I and II, RH2 and RH10 being some popular Indian varieties among them. In India most of the household turmeric used is of dried cured variety, however, the 'Erode' variety is the best and more popular among them. In India and Malaysia, it is a common custom of applying turmeric paste directly onto the skin, a practice which is now under study for possible prevention of skin cancer. When applied to wounds, the root of fresh turmeric can speed up the healing process because it acts like a natural antiseptic and antibacterial. The Chinese have used turmeric as an antidepressant. Other medicinal uses of turmeric include as a natural treatment in liver detox, arthritis and psoriasis.
The conclusion is that the two diseases Alzheimers and Cancer are having some sort of interaction with turmeric, especially with the medically approved turmeric of fresh variety, because it contains maximum curcuminoids. But it would be a hoax to say that using turmeric alone in Indian curry can prevent or cure the diseases and it is the reason behind less cancer and Alzheimer cases in India. It is also important to note that when you use the fresh variety of turmeric as medicinal spice in food, the correct dosage is not determined exactly and it can not be used daily, as excess dosage of it can create problems. Also, the common turmeric is to be used with caution, because it can lead to few complications in some people. Read the information about possible interaction of turmeric here. The best advise while using turmeric as herb is to consult a registered doctor and seek proper prescription.
Turmeric - Preliminary medical research
Turmeric and Cancer
Cancer less common in India
Turmeric - Anti-inflammatory
Research on Curcumin for Alzheimer's disease
Turmeric and Alzheimer's Disease
Dementia report - Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India
Turmeric - Supra health