TUCSON, Ariz. – An ancient spice, long used in traditional Asian medicine, may hold promise for the prevention of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, according to a recently completed study at The University of Arizona College of Medicine.
Turmeric, the spice that flavors and gives its yellow color to many curries and other foods, has been used for centuries by practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine to treat inflammatory disorders. Turmeric extract containing the ingredient curcumin is marketed widely in the Western world as a dietary supplement for the treatment and prevention of a variety of disorders, including arthritis.
At the UA College of Medicine, Janet L. Funk, MD, working with Barbara N. Timmermann, PhD, then-director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Arizona Center for Phytomedicine Research at the UA, set out to determine whether (and how) turmeric works as an anti-arthritic. They began by preparing their own extracts from the rhizome, or root, of the plant, providing themselves with well-characterized materials to test and to compare with commercially available products. (Dr. Timmermann since has joined the faculty of the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kan.)
Sounds like extracts sold as curcumin have the active ingredients.
Dr. Funk and her colleagues then tested in animal models a whole extract of turmeric root, only the essential oils, and an oil-depleted extract containing the three major curcuminoids found in the rhizome. Of the three extracts, the one containing the major curcuminoids was most similar in chemical composition to commercially available turmeric dietary supplements. It also was the most effective, completely inhibiting the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.
Dr. Funk, an endocrinologist in the UA Department of Medicine, says this study provides several noteworthy "firsts." Completed with the researchers' own prepared, well-defined extracts, the study represents the first documentation of the chemical composition of a curcumin-containing extract tested in a living organism, in vivo, for anti-arthritic efficacy. It also provides the first evidence of anti-arthritic efficacy of a complex turmeric extract that is analogous in composition to turmeric dietary supplements.
Turmeric extract might also help prevent osteoporosis.
In addition to preventing joint inflammation, Dr. Funk's study shows that the curcuminoid extract blocked the pathway that affects bone resorption. Noting that bone loss associated with osteoporosis in women typically begins before the onset of menopause, she has begun work on another NIH-funded study to determine whether turmeric taken as a dietary supplement during perimenopause can prevent bone loss and osteoporosis. Both of the studies are supported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), both of the NIH.
Note that any compound that suppresses an inflammation response runs the risk of causing harmful side effects.
The current research, which was funded by the Office of Dietary Supplements and National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Healthis the first study to document the composition of a turmeric-containing compound that is similar to commercially available products and to document the mechanisms by which it reduces the effects of arthritis. The authors were able to find an effective dose in rats that would be equivalent in humans to 1.5 milligrams per day of a portion of the turmeric root that makes up 3% of dried turmeric powder. The inhibition of NF-KB and of key inflammatory genes directly or indirectly activated by NF-KB suggests that inhibition of this protein may be an important mechanism in turmeric's anti-arthritic effects. In fact, the authors state that "it would appear that turmeric dietary supplements share the same mechanism of action as antiarthritic pharmaceuticals currently under development that target NF-KB." It is also possible that turmeric blocks other inflammatory pathways, given its chemical complexity. Turmeric seems to block early inflammatory responses, as evidenced by the fact that it was effective when started 3 days but not 8 days after arthritis was induced, the authors note.
"In summary," the authors state, "just as the willow bark provided relief for arthritis patients before the advent of aspirin, it would appear that the underground stem (rhizome) of a tropical plant [turmeric] may also hold promise for the treatment of joint inflammation and destruction." They note that the anti-inflammatory effects of botanicals can only be utilized if their chemical content is analyzed. The authors conclude: "Finally, before turmeric supplements can be recommended for medicinal use, clinical trials are clearly needed to verify/determine whether treatment with adequate doses of well-characterized turmeric extracts can indeed prevent/suppress disease flares in RA [rheumatoid arthritis] patients, as well as to explore any potential benefits of turmeric dietary supplements in the prevention or treatment of more common forms of arthritis in the general population."
If only 3% of dried turmeric powder has the useful component and you need 1.5 mg of that component that suggests you need 33 times 1.5 mg of turmeric extract powder to get a useful dose. That's about 50 mg.
The turmeric extract curcumin might also help prevent Alzheimer's Disease. See my post: Curcumin Stimulates Immune Cells To Clear Alzheimers Plaque.
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