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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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CLA – a promising new supplement for Crohn’s?

A recent pilot study, soon to be published in Clinical Nutrition, has tested the effects of the supplement Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) on patients with Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease is digestive condition marked by inflammation and irritation in the intestines. Symptoms include pain, bloating and diarrhoea, and the condition may lead to narrowing of the digestive tract as result of scar tissue build up. Diseased areas of the gut tend not to absorb nutrients efficiently, leading to malnutrition. The exact cause of Crohn’s is unknown, although hereditary and immune factors appear to play a role.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is a promising new supplement in the support of Crohn's Disease

The study, conducted by researchers at Virginia Tech, found that Crohn’s patients who took supplementary CLA showed significant improvement. 50% of the participants who tried the supplement showed marked improvement in both quality of life and in disease activity.

In conventional medicine, Crohn’s is treated with anti-inflammatory medications as well as drugs that suppress the immune system, such as steroids.

It is thought that CLA has anti-inflammatory effects, which explains its benefits in Crohn’s patients. Furthermore, CLA supplements appear to be free from the side effects associated with anti-inflammatory drugs. In this particular study CLA was well tolerated by all of the participants.

Dietary sources of CLA include dairy products and certain types of meat such as beef and lamb. Unfortunately some sufferers find that foods such as dairy exacerbate Crohn’s symptoms. A good way to include a dietary source of CLA would be to eat kefir, a cultured milk drink popular in countries such as Russia and Romania. This would be easy and inexpensive to make at home using organic milk of grass-fed cows or a milk alternative such as rice milk. It provides a great source of both CLA and probiotics to support digestive health. CLA is also widely available in supplement form.

The recent study was ‘open label’ meaning that no placebo group was used, and participants knew what supplement they were taking. While lead researcher Professor Kim L. Isaacs says the results are promising, he concedes that they will need to be verified in a randomised controlled trial. It is too early to say whether CLA could be considered a treatment for Crohn’s. Hopefully these promising results will encourage more research in this area.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

Reference

Bassaganya-Riera, J., R. Hontecillas, W.T. Horne, M. Sandridge, H. Herfarth, R. Bloomfeld, and K. Isaacs (2012) Conjugated linoleic modulates immune responses in patients with Mild to Moderately active Crohn’s disease. Clinical Nutrition (in press)

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