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Turmeric

Can Fermentation Unlock Turmeric’s Health Potential?

Fermentation: The Key to Unlocking Turmeric’s Health Potential?

Turmeric seems to be the current king, and though it’s pronunciation may be up for debate (is it tur-merick, or too-merick?!), it’s potential health benefits certainly aren’t. Though it may be the star of the health and wellbeing movement, currently featuring in everything from turmeric lattes to skincare products, it has been around for a long time and has a history of traditional use as a spice and medicinal herb.

Turmeric is a product of curcuma longa, belonging to the ginger family (1). It has been used for thousands of years across Asia, featuring strongly in traditional medicine, with various cultures globally prising it for its support of inflammatory disorders (1). It is considered to be a potent anti-inflammatory, and with many modern-day diseases linked to chronic inflammation like cardiovascular disease (2), its benefits cannot be understated. Turmeric also has antioxidant properties (1), helping and supporting the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals and supporting the body’s own production of anti-oxidant enzymes.

Turmeric is made up of many components, though many supplements are focusing on extracting one of the parts which shows benefits, this is curcumin. The problem with this approach is that by isolating compounds within foods we tend to lose out on the synergistic health effects of the whole plant. More than 100 components in total have been isolated from turmeric, and curcumin is just one part of a greater whole, including the other curcuminoids and volatile oils which have been found to have supporting health benefits(1).

Curcumin is not particularly well-absorbed due to rapid metabolism by the body, and low aqueous solubility (3;4). One solution to this is to use a fermented form of turmeric. Fermentation, like turmeric, has been around for thousands of years, and used traditionally by many cultures to aid nutrition. Fermented foods rich in enzymes, beneficial microorganisms and other nutrients would have been a staple of many cultures traditional diets. However, fermentation has made a big comeback, and it’s becoming easier to buy good quality fermented foods like kefir or sauerkraut. Fermenting herbs and foods is a good way to help to increase their bioavailability and enhance the nutrients and functional properties due to transformation of substrates and formation of highly bioavailable end-products (5). Nothing is extracted or taken away, and you are supporting the nutrients contained within the plants and naturally activating them.

Living Nutrition’s Turmeric Alive uses a kefir-kombucha style fermentation, using 35 microorganisms to deeply ferment the turmeric and create a living matrix rich in enzymes, nutrients and beneficial microorganism. It has a whole profile of curcuminoids, along with other active compounds and phytonutrients that turmeric is naturally rich in. Fermented turmeric is highly bioavailable as it has increased water solubility, and contains a higher level of antioxidants and potent active components like tetrahydro-curcumin which in can be more efficient than its curcumin analogue (3;6;7). The fermented turmeric is combined with non-fermented turmeric which also is considered to support immune systems, alongside ginger as they have a wide range of active nutrients. It is organically certified by the soil association, Vegan friendly, and contains no fillers, binders or excipients.

References
1. Prasad, S. and Aggarwal, BB. 2011. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd Ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/
2. Wang, Z. and Nakayama, T. 2010. Inflammation, a link between obesity and cardiovascular disease. Mediators of Inflammation, Volume 2010: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2010/535918/
3. Epstein, J., Sanderson, IR., MacDonald, TT. 2010. ‘Curcumin as a therapeutic agent: the evidence from in vitro, animal and human studies.’ British Journal of Nutrition, 103 (11), 1545-1557. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/curcumin-as-a-therapeutic-agent-the-evidence-from-in-vitro-animal-and-human-studies/225164D1A70D11C765C147A5CD022200/core-reader
4. Shoba, G. Joy, D. and Joseph, T. et al. 1998. ‘Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers.’ Planta Medica, 64(4), 353-356. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9619120
5. Marco, ML., Heeney, D., Binda, S. et al. 2016. ‘Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond.’ Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 44, 94-102. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095816691630266X
6. Portes, E., Gardrat, C. and Castellan, A. 2007. ‘A comparative study on the antioxidant properties of tetrahydrocurcuminoids and curcuminoids. Tetrahedron, 63, 9092-9099: http://castellan-publicatio.monsite-orange.fr/file/e74b48a4ec9894d6718b424e7583c857.pdf
7. Pianpumepong, P., Kumar Anal, A., Doungchawee, G. et al. 2012. ‘Study on enhanced absorption of lactobacillus-fermented turmeric (Curcuma longa Linn.) beverages in rats.’ International Journal of Food Science and Technology, 47(11), 2380-2387: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2621.2012.03113.x/abstract

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Curcumin may lower diabetes risk

A new randomised, controlled study suggests that taking curcumin supplements may help delay or prevent the development of type 2 diabetes in people at high risk (1).

Curcumin is a natural substance found in the Indian spice turmeric. It has been widely studied for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Curcumin Spices
Spices such as curcumin (from turmeric) could help lower diabetes risk. (5)

Around 7 million people in the UK have ‘ pre-diabetes’ (3). People with pre-diabetes  also known as Impaired Glucose Regulation (IGR), have raised levels of blood sugar, and their cells have started to become resistant to insulin. Without proper care, pre-diabetes can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Some long-term damage may already be happening in the pre-diabetic state, including damage to the circulatory system, the heart and the eyes. For this reason it’s important to take action as soon as possible. Fortunately, the pre-diabetic condition can be reversed naturally with sensible dietary and lifestyle changes.

The randomized, double-blinded, placebo – controlled trial included 240 men and women who had been diagnosed pre-diabetic  All subjects were randomly assigned to receive either curcumin or placebo capsules for 9 months. Those given the curcumin capsules received 6 capsules of 250mg curcumin daily. The researchers recorded changes in insulin resistance and anti-inflammatory cytokines. The function of beta cells, cells in the pancreas that store and release insulin, were also monitored. These measurements were taken at the beginning of the study, and then again and 3, 6 and 9 months.

After nine months, 19 of the 116 participants in the placebo group had developed type 2 diabetes. None of those who took the curcumin capsules developed the disease.

When compared with the placebo group, those who took the curcumin capsules also had better beta cell function, lower levels of insulin resistance, and high levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines.

So how exactly do we explain these results? In recent years, research has helped us to better understand the link between inflammation and diabetes. It seems that inflammation in the body can actually suppress insulin-signalling pathways, making the body less responsive to insulin. A natural anti-inflammatory substance such as curcumin may help to repair this damage and restore these pathways so that they can function normally again.

While the results of this study look promising, more research in this area is certainly needed to confirm these findings. In the meantime, the best strategy to avoid Type 2 diabetes is to follow a healthy diet with regular exercise.

As turmeric powder contains just 3% curcumin (4), the best way to obtain a therapeutic level of curcumin may be through a good quality supplement. Curcumin supplements should not be taken by those on anti-coagulant medications. There is certainly no harm in adding a little colour and spice to your cooking with a daily sprinkle of turmeric. As well as adding spice and colour to curries, turmeric also mixes well with scrambled eggs, lentil soup, tuna salad, and rice dishes. Try also adding a little black pepper, as the piperine in black pepper is believed to enhance absorption of curcumin.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

 References

1.  Chuengsamarn et al (2012) Curcumin Extract for Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes. Published online before print. 6 July 2012.

2. Aggarwal BB, Sundaram C, Malani N, Ichikawa H (2007) Curcumin: the Indian solid gold. Adv Exp Med Biol. 595:1-75.

3. ‘Prediabetes – preventing the Type 2 diabetes epidemic’ Diabetes UK 2009

4. Tayyem et al. (2006) Curcumin content of turmeric and curry powders. Nutr Cancer. 55(2):126-31.

5.Image courtesy of nksz 

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