Turmeric: the trend that is here to stay
Though turmeric looks similar to the ginger root in its organic form, most will have encountered it as a spectacularly coloured powder, broadly used within Indian cuisine and responsible for the orange hue of many curry dishes.
The popularity of this spice actually took off a year ago, thanks to many TV programmes such as Channel 4’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor, recent studies and the rise in use in cuisine. A number of health benefits skyrocketed its super spice status, and we all ran to the nearest health food shop to invest in its promise of extensive health benefits and anti-inflammatory properties.
So why is turmeric experiencing a comeback?
The thing is, it isn’t. Turmeric may have had a makeover; turmeric flavoured latte anyone? But in terms of coming back, it never left in the first place. The difference this time around is that we know far more about how to get the most out of this spice, and, specifically, we know more about how our bodies’ best absorb its nutrients.
Does it actually work?
The benefits of turmeric are extensive, it helps to maintain the health of joints and bones, and is a powerful antioxidant.
You may have heard a discussion on turmeric between Dr. Michael Moseley and Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio Two. According to Dr. Moseley, decent evidence shows that turmeric controls blood sugar levels, as well as that that it has a positive effect on the inflammation gene and therefore on inflammatory diseases. The latter was discovered during a trial which analysed the effects of certain foods on switching genes either on or off.
There was only one problem highlighted during this interview; the absorption of turmeric into our bodies.
So how can we make the most out of turmeric?
Turmeric is somewhat caustic in taste and, not only that, an awful lot has to be eaten in order to maximise its potential. According to Dr. Michael Moseley, though, turmeric is better absorbed when eaten with fats or with black pepper.
Dr Sarah Brewer, GP and Medical Director at Healthspan says, ‘When normal powdered turmeric is consumed, as little as 1% of the active component, curcumin, is absorbed whole into the circulation, whether it’s taken in supplement or food form.’
But, when another study compared the absorption of turmeric when taken in three different forms, one of these forms, known as liquid micelles, revealed an effective method of boosting curcumin absorption [i]. This form absorbed turmeric 185 fold greater than the method which used turmeric in its powdered form, that would have been used by Dr Michael Moseley in his study of Turmeric. According to Dr. Sarah, liquid micelles are the key component for a winning supplement, ‘Supplements that provide turmeric in the form of liquid nano –micelles are far better absorbed than turmeric in powdered form. These are the ones I choose to take.’ Supplements containing black pepper help to aid absorption, too.
Many supplements rely on a specific delivery in order for their nutrients to be thoroughly absorbed. Fat soluble and water-soluble vitamins, for example, require utterly different methods of consumption, with fat soluble supplements, like vitamin A, providing improved benefits when ingested with food. If you’ve ever ignored that packet that says ‘don’t take on an empty stomach’, it’s time to re-think. Your body will surely thank you later.
But why is this important?
A year ago, it might have been correct to say that turmeric had to be eaten with fats or black pepper in order for the individual to reap its health benefits. This is no longer the case. For those of us not overly keen on the idea of turmeric flavoured coffee, the right supplement will provide you with the extensive benefits that turmeric provides, and the right supplement is a viable alternative to eating turmeric with fats or black pepper.