In recent years, more than five thousand articles have been published in the medical literature about curcumin, the pigment in the Indian spice turmeric that gives curry powder its characteristic golden colour.
Curcumin was first isolated more than a century ago, yet out of the thousands of experiments, only a few in the twentieth century were clinical studies involving actual human participants. Since the turn of the century, however, more than 50 clinical trials have tested curcumin against various diseases, and dozens more studies are on the way.
For many years, the National Cancer Institute has tested more than a thousand different compounds for chemopreventive or cancer-preventing activity. Only a few dozen have made it to clinical trials, and curcumin, turmeric’s bright-yellow pigment, is among the most promising.
Curcumin is one of the most powerful antioxidants ever discovered.
Chemopreventive agents can be classified into different subgroups based on which stage of cancer development they help to fight:
- Carcinogen blockers and,
- Antioxidants help prevent the initial triggering of DNA mutation; and
- Antiproliferatives work by keeping tumours from growing and spreading.
Curcumin is special because it appears to belong to all three groups, meaning it may help prevent and/or arrest cancer cell growth.
The anticancer effects of curcumin
The anticancer effects of curcumin extend beyond its ability to prevent DNA mutations potentially. It also appears to help regulate programmed cell death. Our cells are preprogrammed to die naturally to make way for new cells through a process known as apoptosis.
In a sense, our body is rebuilding every few months with the building materials we provide through our diet. Some cells, however, overstay their welcome—namely, cancer cells. By somehow disabling their own suicide mechanism, they don’t die when they’re supposed to. Because they continue to thrive and divide, cancer cells, as you know, can eventually form tumours and potentially spread throughout the body.
So how does curcumin affect this process? It appears to reprogram the self-destructing mechanism back into cancer cells. All cells contain so-called death receptors that trigger the self-destruction sequence, but cancer cells can disable their own death receptors.
Curcumin can kill cancer cells.
Curcumin, however, appears able to reactivate them. Curcumin can also kill cancer cells directly by activating “execution enzymes” called caspases inside cancer cells that destroy them from within by chopping up their proteins.
Unlike most chemotherapy drugs, against which cancer cells can develop resistance over time, curcumin simultaneously affects several mechanisms of cell death, making it potentially harder for cancer cells to avoid destruction.
For reasons not fully understood, curcumin seems to leave noncancerous cells alone.
Curcumin plays a role in preventing or treating other diseases.
Curcumin may play a role in preventing or treating lung disease, brain disease, and a variety of cancers, including multiple myeloma and cancers of the breast, brain, blood, colon, kidney, liver, pancreas, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and skin.
It may also help speed recovery after surgery and effectively treat rheumatoid arthritis better than the leading drug of choice. It also may effectively treat osteoarthritis and other inflammatory conditions, such as lupus and inflammatory bowel disease.
In a recent trial for ulcerative colitis, a multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study found that more than 50 per cent of patients achieved remission within just one month on curcumin compared to none of the patients who received the placebo.
This article was taken from NutritionFacts.org | The Latest Nutrition Related Topics – Dr Michael Greger