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Researchers have determined that laboratory mice given a diet supplemented with curcumin experience a reduction in the formation of fat-tissue, and a lowered number of blood-vessels that feed fat. Curcumin is the active ingredient and major polyphenol in the bright yellow spice from India known as turmeric.
The growth and expansion of fat-tissues requires new blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis. In fat-tissue, this process is mediated by the secretion of adipokines, such as leptin, adiponectin, resistin, interleukin-6 and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The researchers first investigated the effect of curcumin in cultured human cells to which adipokines had been added to stimulate angiogenesis. They found that the ability of curcumin to inhibit angiogenesis was partly due to the reduced expression of VEGF. Subsequently, the mice were fed a high-fat diet supplemented with 500 milligrams curcumin per kilogram of food, for three months. Weight-gain was reduced in the mice who were given curcumin. The curcumin-supplemented mice had lower weight and reduced total-body fat. They also had lower liver-weights, and experienced a reduction in VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), indicating reduced risk for angiogenesis.
Also called “curcumin”, turmeric is a mustard-yellow spice from India. Indians use it more for its healing properties than for taste. Turmeric has an innocuous flavor, and adds colour to foods.
In India, turmeric has been revered for its healing properties, and thus is used as a daily dietary supplement. In the Ayurvedic system of health, turmeric has medicinal properties and is an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions, including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic. Because of its effects on enzymes related to inflammation, turmeric may have the same mode of action as anti-inflammatory drugs, without the side-effects. Curcumin is used for cuts and burns and is known as an antiseptic/antibacterial. It is also used to remedy stomach-ulcers.
The U.S. National Institues of Health has four clinical trials in progress, involving curcumin as a treatment for pancreatic cancer, multiple myeloma, Alzheimer’s, and colorectal cancer. According to a 2005 article in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Common Indian Spice Stirs Hope,” research activity into curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, is burgeoning. Two-hundred and fifty-six curcumin-study papers were published in 2005, according to a search of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
M-J de M., 2009