ScienceDaily (Feb. 22, 2008) — Eating curcumin, a natural ingredient in the spice turmeric, may dramatically reduce the chance of developing heart failure, researchers at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre of the Toronto General Hospital have discovered.
In a study entitled, “Curcumin prevents and reverses murine cardiac hypertrophy,” published in the February edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers found when the herb is given orally to a variety of mouse models with enlarged hearts (hypertrophy), it can prevent and reverse hypertrophy, restore heart function and reduce scar formation.
The healing properties of turmeric have been well known in eastern cultures for some time. The herb has been used in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine to reduce scar formation. For example, when there is a cut or a bruise, the home remedy is to reach for turmeric powder because it can help to heal without leaving a bad scar.
Unlike most natural compounds whose effects are minimal, curcumin works directly in the cell nucleus by preventing abnormal unraveling of the chromosome under stress, and preventing excessive abnormal protein production.
“Curcumin’s ability to shut off one of the major switches right at the chromosome source where the enlargement and scarring genes are being turned on is impressive,” says Dr. Peter Liu, cardiologist in the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and Scientific Director at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health. However Dr. Liu cautions that moderation is important, “the beneficial effects of curcumin are not strengthened by eating more of it.”
Dr. Liu, who holds the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Polo Chair Professor in Medicine and Physiology at the University of Toronto, says that since curcumin is a naturally occurring compound that is readily available at a low cost, it might be a safe and effective means of preventing heart failure in the future.
"Beneficial effects of curcumin on hyperlipidemia and insulin resistance in high-fat-fed hamsters,"
Jang EM, Choi MS, et al, Metabolism, 2008; 57(11): 1576-83. (Address: Department of Nutrition Education, Graduate School of Education, Sunchon National University, Jeonnam 540-742, South Korea).
In a study involving hamsters fed a high-fat diet (10% coconut oil, 0.2% cholesterol, wt/wt), curcumin ((0.05-g/100-g diet) was found to significantly lower the levels of free fatty acids, total cholesterol, triglycerides, leptin, and HOMA-IR, while it was found to increase levels of HDL cholesterol and (apo) A-I and paraoxonase activity in plasma. Furthermore, it was found to reduce hepatic cholesterol and triglycerides, and reduce fatty acid synthase, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase, acyl coenzyme A:cholesterol acyltransferase activities, while increasing fatty acid beta-oxidation activity. Lipid peroxide levels in erythrocytes and the liver were significantly lower among hamsters treated with curcumin.
The authors conclude, "These results indicate that curcumin exhibits an obvious hypolipidemic effect…." While hamsters are a rodent species whose lipid metabolism closely resembles that of humans, studies in humans are needed to determine the effects on curcumin on hyperlipidemia in humans.