By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
You’ve already heard about how curcumin, or turmeric, may help reduce your chances of getting Alzheimer’s, a disease that is virtually unheard of in India where this spice turns up in a lot of dishes.
Today’s news brings another reason to eat your turmeric-spiced curry: It may help reduce the size of your tummy. Researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University found that mice fed high fat diets that were supplemented with curcumin gained less weight than a control group that was fed a high fat diet without curcumin.
The scientists warn in a news release that they don’t know if the results can be replicated in humans. What they observed, however, was that the curcumin seemed to inhibit a process known as “angiogenesis” that helps grow fat, which would appear to be applicable to larger (get it?) life forms as well.
Curcumin is a polyphenolic or “multi-phenol” meaning it is derived from plants, in this case, a root plant that belongs to the ginger family. This news, and the recent studies showing turmeric guards against Alzheimer’s, appear to place it among a growing list of plants that boast protective antioxidant qualities, such as grapes and garlic, sweet potatoes. broccoli and tomatoes, to name a few.
Green activists often advocate a ‘greener’ diet, high in fruits and veggies, because it carries a lower carbon footprint; the livestock industry being more resource-intensive.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which helped fund the curcumin study, recommends a diet high in high-fiber grains, plants and vegetables, though Its food pyramid, revised in 2005, has been criticized for having dumbed down the issue by trying to show the right food proportions visually and moving away from recommending specific serving amounts of each food group. It is due for another update in 2010.
The Centers for Disease Control hosts a webpage touting the benefits of fruits and veggies, where people can type in their basic demographics to get a recommendation for how much plant food they should be getting in a given day.
Mohsen Meydani, DVM, PhD, director of the Vascular Biology Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA, was the lead author of the curcumin/mice study, published in the Journal of Nutrition.
Meydani and colleagues studied mice fed high fat diets for 12 weeks. One group was received 500 mg of curcumin per every kilogram of food and the other other group was fed no curcumin. The mice ate about the same amount of food, indicating that curcumin did not affect their appetite.
But mice on the curcumin-supplemented diet did not gain as much weight as the control group.
“Curcumin appeared to be responsible for total lower body fat in the group that received supplementation,” said Meydani, who is also a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts, in a press release.
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