Imagine a world filled with natural foods that help treat, possibly even cure, some of the worst diseases known to man (and woman, for that matter). Foods that are so easy to obtain from a local grocery store that they reduce dependency on prescription drugs and supplements. Over time, a diet packed with natural foods can work wonders for a person’s health. This week’s spotlight is on an herb that has made headlines for its presumed health benefits: turmeric.
Turmeric is closely related to ginger and is a perennial plant that grows up to 6 feet tall and is found in the tropical regions of Southern Asia and in India. It has a bitter taste and is a main ingredient in Indian curry dishes. It is also an ingredient in yellow mustard. Traditionally, turmeric has been used in both Ayurvedic (Indian) and Chinese medicine to treat conditions such as infections, digestive problems, cancers, and as an anti-inflammatory.
Much of turmeric’s nutritional goodness is attributed to curcumin, an active compound contained within turmeric that is a strong antioxidant. Antioxidants such as curcumin can help neutralize free radicals that are known to damage the body’s cells. Researchers also believe its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory superpowers can help improve cognitive (mental) function in people with Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects roughly 5 million people in the United States. It is marked by progressive mental deterioration over time, normally worse in elderly people. Scientific research done on Alzheimer's disease blames several factors for its cause, including inflammatory reactions, oxidative stress, and free radical damage to the brain.
In Alzheimer’s disease, a protein-like substance called amyloid beta accumulates in the brain and forms plaque deposits. Curcumin is believed to somehow inhibit this process, thus lessening the inflammatory effects of the disease. Animal studies have shown that curcumin can decrease inflammation, oxidative damage, and amyloid plaque build-up in the brain.
It must be emphasized that many turmeric studies have involved lab test tubes and animals. At this point it is not entirely certain how effective it can be in humans. Large studies involving humans are currently pending and must be done to measure its effectiveness in treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Turmeric is considered safe by the FDA. Until the results of additional research are revealed, go ahead and add some turmeric to your diet. Mustard can spice up anything, such as Subway sandwiches.
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