Turmeric is a beautiful bright orange spice that can be found in an Indian marketplace or kitchen where delicious curries and other vegetable dishes are prepared. In fact, turmeric is an essential part of spices that you see labeled Curry Powder. Turmeric comes from the root of a plant, and it is ground into a powder. For centuries, Asian communities have used turmeric for cooking and for healing wounds. The great news for weight-watchers is that this spice can help you lose weight. Here is what researchers have learned so far.
Curcumin is a plant-based polyphenol that is found in turmeric, and it is the reason why researchers want to study turmeric further. They want to find out all they can about its link to weight control. This ingredient in turmeric is said to help break down fats in the body. In doing so, turmeric may help to regulate the body's metabolism and it may contribute to successful weight management. Studies using mice have drawn interest and have led to more discussions about how turmeric may curb weight gain in humans.
Researchers at Tufts University in Boston fed a selected group of mice with curcumin added to the animals' food. What they found is that curcumin appeared to curb the amount of weight gained in mice; the surprising twist is that the animal feed had a high fat content, and yet these mice did not gain a lot of weight. Their weight gain was less than in another group of mice in the study that never had curcumin added to their high-fat feeds.
The inflammation that is associated with obesity is because of the presence of immune cells, called macrophages, in the body's fat tissues. These cells produce "cytokine" molecules that can cause inflammation in organs. Scientists looking for ways to understand obesity have suggested that if they can suppress the number and activity of these cells with turmeric, it may be possible to reduce some of the adverse consequences of obesity.
In a Columbia University study of turmeric, researchers discovered that mice that were fed quantities of turmeric had a reduced incidence of diabetes and were not susceptible to weight gain. They also had fewer liver problems than the control group. Turmeric administration was also associated with a decline in body weight and fat content.
The Bottom Line
With a lot of cautious optimism, research interest is high regarding spices that have been shown to exhibit activity against obesity through antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mechanisms. Those spices include turmeric.
Studies have been focused on mice and it may be too soon to tell if turmeric can have the same effect on humans. The signs are promising and there will be more studies to watch for regarding the links between turmeric, weight loss and anti-obesity. More evidence is needed on human rather than animal subjects.
The turmeric plant was initially cultivated in India, China and the Middle East but is now grown in other tropical areas, too. If you look around, you will most likely find interesting recipes that call for turmeric, yet do not have a curry base. In years or even months to come, with all this interesting research, turmeric is bound to be a more familiar word in your diet vocabulary.