Curry offers hope to fight obesity, diabetes



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June 22, 2008  
Filed under Uncategorized



curryCM NEWS – Turmeric, an Asian spice found in many curries, has a long history of use in reducing inflammation, healing wounds and relieving pain. And now, it might be able to prevent diabetes, or even obesity.

CM News previously reports that turmeric, a compound derived from curcumins (a substance makes curry yellow), may protects the brain of diabetics against potential vascular complications.

Since inflammation plays a big role in many diseases and is believed to be involved in onset of both obesity and Type 2 diabetes, Drew Tortoriello, M.D., an endocrinologist and research scientist at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Centre at Columbia University Medical Centre, and his colleagues were curious what effect the herb might have on diabetic mice.

Dr. Tortoriello, working with pediatric resident Stuart Weisberg, M.D., Ph.D., and Rudolph Leibel, M.D., fellow endocrinologist and the co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Centre, discovered that turmeric-treated mice were less susceptible to developing Type 2 diabetes, based on their blood glucose levels, and glucose and insulin tolerance tests.

What is turmeric? Curcumin is extracted from the roots of Curcuma longa, commonly called turmeric root. Curcumin is a spice commonly used in curries and other south Asian cooking. It’s also known as the yellow ginger.

Curcumin is known for its antitumour, antioxidant, antiarthritic, anti-amyloid and anti-inflammatory properties.

In a study by researchers from the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, curcumin blocked a key biological pathway needed for development of melanoma and other cancers. Curcumin stopped laboratory strains of melanoma from proliferating and pushes the cancer cells to commit suicide.

Curcumin also acts as a free radical scavenger and antioxidant, inhibiting lipid peroxidation and oxidative DNA damage.

They also discovered that turmeric-fed obese mice showed significantly reduced inflammation in fat tissue and liver compared to controls. They speculate that curcumin, the anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant ingredient in turmeric, lessens insulin resistance and prevents Type 2 diabetes in these mouse models by dampening the inflammatory response provoked by obesity.

Their findings are the subject of a soon-to-be published paper in Endocrinology and were presented at ENDO 2008, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has no known dose-limiting toxicities in doses of up to at least 12 grams daily in humans. The researchers tested high-doses of a dietary curcumin in two distinct mouse models of obesity and Type 2 diabetes: high-fat-diet-fed male mice and leptin-deficient obese female mice, with lean wild-type mice that were fed low-fat diets used as controls.

The inflammation associated with obesity was shown several years ago by researchers in the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Centre to be due in part to the presence of immune cells called macrophages in fat tissues throughout the body. These cells produce “cytokine” molecules that can cause inflammation in organs such as the heart, and islets of the pancreas, while also increasing insulin resistance in muscle and liver. Researchers hypothesized that by suppressing the number and activity of these cells, with turmeric or a drug with similar actions, it may be possible to reduce some of the adverse consequences of obesity.

Curcumin administration was also associated with a small but significant decline in body weight and fat content, despite level or higher calorie consumption, suggesting that curcumin beneficially influences body composition.

“It’s too early to tell whether increasing dietary curcumin [through turmeric] intake in obese people with diabetes will show a similar benefit,” Dr. Tortoriello said. “Although the daily intake of curcumin one might have to consume as a primary diabetes treatment is likely impractical, it is entirely possible that lower dosages of curcumin could nicely complement our traditional therapies as a natural and safe treatment.”

For now, the conclusion that Dr. Tortoriello and his colleagues have reached is that turmeric – and its active anti-oxidant ingredient, curcumin – reverses many of the inflammatory and metabolic problems associated with obesity and improves blood-sugar control in mouse models of Type 2 diabetes.

In addition to exploring novel methods of curcumin administration to increase its absorption, they are also interested in identifying novel anti-inflammatory processes invoked by curcumin and in adapting those processes in the development of more potent curcumin analogues.

More reading:
Curry substance prevents diabetic complications