Health Benefits of Turmeric Lattes
Are turmeric lattes really healthy? On this episode of The Sitch, we’re exploring the research behind the health benefits of turmeric!
Today we’re talking about the health benefits of turmeric – you know, that bright yellow spice that all the Instagrammers are whisking into their milk and snapping pics of next to burning sage, crystals, and list of monthly manifestations.
Despite its rampant use by non-evidence–based practitioners, turmeric actually has a lot of research behind it.
But does the small amount you stir into your turmeric latte actually make a difference? That’s what we’re here to find out today!
BACKGROUND INFO ON TURMERIC
Turmeric is a root in the same family as ginger.
It can be eaten fresh, or dried and made into a bright yellow-orange powder and used in dishes like curry or beverages like “turmeric lattes,” aka golden milk, a traditional ayurvedic drink believed to contain anti-inflammatory properties.
The purported health benefits of turmeric are usually attributed to its major bioactive compound, curcumin, the phytochemical that gives turmeric its beautiful color.
This polyphenol makes up about 2-5% of turmeric.
In the past decade, thousands of studies have been done on curcumin, and research has shown that it may have benefits for conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, anxiety, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and post-exercise muscle soreness – to name a few.
This is mainly due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Curcumin has been shown to scavenge free radicals in the body and increase the activity of antioxidant enzymes.
It’s also been shown to downregulate a protein known as, NF-κB, which has been implicated as a driver of inflammation in many chronic conditions. But I can see your eyes glazing over, so I’ll try to keep the scientific jargon to a minimum :)
Before we talk about the science supporting these benefits, we need to talk about bioavailability.
BIOAVAILABILITY OF CURCUMIN
Bioavailability refers to the amount of a compound that is actually digested, absorbed into the bloodstream, and utilized.
If a nutrient has low bioavailability and can’t reach its target in the body, it doesn’t do you much good!
Curcumin has very low bioavailability due to poor absorption, quick metabolism, and rapid elimination. Luckily, this can easily be improved by combining curcumin with a bioavailability enhancer.
For instance, piperine, a compound found in black pepper, can increase curcumin’s bioavailability by 2000%.
Additionally, curcumin is lipophilic – meaning it combines easily with lipids and fats. So consuming it with dietary fat or in a lipid mixture will increase its absorption.
This is why turmeric lattes are typically prepared with a fat-containing liquid like coconut milk, and often have black pepper sprinkled on top.
Turmeric’s benefits, however, can’t be attributed solely to curcumin – the spice contains 235 other compounds, many that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer activities similar to curcumin.
In vitro studies of human cancer cells have shown that curcumin-free turmeric can suppress tumor activity.
Unfortunately, studies in actual humans haven’t been conducted on turmeric itself spice or its other compounds – just on supplements of curcumin.
So how much curcumin do you need to consume to reap health benefits? Let’s look at the research.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF TURMERIC
For arthritis, studies have shown that 1.5-2 grams of curcumin/day has similar pain reducing and inflammatory effects as taking daily ibuprofen, but without the gastrointestinal side effects often seen with non-steroidal medication.
For patients with metabolic syndrome, one randomized control trial showed that 1 gram of curcumin with 10 mg of piperine per day for 8 weeks significantly reduced levels of pro-inflammatory molecules and increased concentrations of HDL, so-called good cholesterol.
Studies have also shown that 2000 mg/day plus 20mg of piperine can help with muscle recovery in athletes.
In generally healthy adults, studies have shown that as little as 80mg/day of curcumin can help reduce cholesterol and inflammatory markers.
One teaspoon of turmeric powder has approximately 50 to 125 mg of curcumin – meaning you could easily reap these benefits with a daily cup of golden milk containing a teaspoon of turmeric powder.
For specific health conditions, however, you’d likely need a curcumin supplement to reach therapeutic doses. Clinical trials have shown that up to 8 grams/day of curcumin is safe.
SIDE EFFECTS OF CURCUMIN SUPPLEMENTATION
Now before you go painting the town yellow, it’s important that you make sure turmeric is safe for your body.
Therapeutic doses of turmeric may cause problems for people taking blood clotting medication and those with biliary disease or cancer.
This is because large doses of turmeric have been shown to have an inhibitory effect on platelet aggregation, stimulate gallbladder contractions, cause nausea and diarrhea, and interfere with some chemotherapy drugs.
Talk to your doctor before taking curcumin supplements, if you’re undergoing treatment for any disease.
High dose curcumin supplementation also hasn’t been shown to be safe in pregnant or lactating women or children, so for these groups, it’s best to avoid supplements.
The good news is that — in moderation — the whole spice turmeric should be safe for everyone, and a pretty yellow beverage or a hearty bowl of curry is a scrumptious way to get your daily dose!
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Weigh in: Have you heard about the health benefits of turmeric? Do you like turmeric lattes?