Curcumin is a compound found in the spice turmeric which gives it a natural pigment. It has been linked to a range of health benefits, and now researchers have found it helps mitigate metabolic and oxidative alterations caused by hormone deprivation in events such as menopause.
Intake of curcumin at ‘physiologically attainable’ doses have recently been reported to slow the development of many disease including cancer. It even outperforms pharmaceuticals without side effects.
Previous research in the European Journal of Nutrition suggests that curcumin may be useful for the treatment and prevention of obesity-related chronic diseases, as the interactions of curcumin with several signal transduction pathways — the process by which biological functions are recognized — also reverse insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, and other inflammatory symptoms associated with obesity and metabolic disorders.
Researchers from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul published a report in the Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity journal that outlines how curcumin may reverse aging symptoms, such as bone loss and weight gain, associated with post-menopausal animals and humans.
The fat-vanquishing nature of curcumin has even generated significant interest within the mainstream medical establishment.
“Several evidences have described menopause as a prooxidant and inflammatory state, which directly impact the development of several ageing and oxidative stress-associated diseases,” the study says, citing research published in the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics. Beyond menopause, the researchers were also aware of curcumin’s benefits in other periods of oxidative stress progression such as obesity, osteoporosis, and arteriosclerosis.
A selection of female Wistar rats from the university’s breeding colony. Eight of the rats were sham-operated on, while 37 rats underwent ovariectomy (OVX) surgery to simulate menopause-associated oxidative stress and lipid profile dysfunctions in humans.
Sixteen of the OVX rats were given either 50 mg/Kg/day or 100 mg/Kg/day doses of curcumin, while the rest of the rats (a mix of sham-operated and OVX rats) were given refined olive oil.
More curcumin, less weight gain
“OVX vehicle-treated animals presented a higher deposition of intestinal adipose tissue,” the report said. In other words, rats that simulate hormone imbalances in menopausal humans accumulated more body fat. However, when the researchers compared OVX rats given curcumin with OVX rats not given curcumin, the former group experienced a decrease of fat accumulated in the intestines at the same rate as sham-surgery, or non-menopausal, rats.
“We observed that oral curcumin was able to prevent a number of biological impairments associated with hormone deprivation,” the researchers wrote in the report. “Alterations in the levels of some lipid markers, IAT deposition, and, mainly, improvements in the antioxidant potential in blood and liver were observed after a 30-day supplementation, which is a noteworthy result given the well-recognized clinical safety of curcumin.”
How Curcumin Changes the Balance of Fat Storage and Fat Burning
If you have ever looked at photos of people from India or Pakistan, where curcumin-rich curries are a staple of the diet, you probably noticed that most of the people in those pictures are thin. That is not because they eat less.
Many people in South Asia actually consume more calories than their counterparts in the United States and Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. They even consume a lot more carbs, but on the whole, there is less obesity and less diabetes in India than in the diet-obsessed United States. (To be accurate, India does have a 7. 2% rate of adult diabetes–but this is comparable to the rate in another curry-eating nation, the UK, and considerably less than then 11. 9% rate in the USA. )
When people in South Asia do gain weight, they tend to gain just a little belly fat, rather than slabs of fat all over. How can this be? Part of the answer lies in the curry, the everyday food that supplies so much curcumin.
Scientists at the Jean Mayer-USDA Human Nutrition Center at Tufts University in Boston, at the Pennington Research Center at Louisiana State University, and at the University Research Network in Toronto all report that that curcumin modifies a condition called insulin resistance. Curcumin helps make fat cells more responsive to insulin.
The researchers aim to see whether curcumin can become an alternative for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which has for some time been the chosen standard to alleviate menopause-associated symptoms, but has declined in popularity because of possible negative effects such as thromboembolic accidents, stroke, and breast cancer.
“Diets based on antioxidants may help to protect menopausal and postmenopausal women against the high levels of oxygen stress implied in the acceleration of the arteriosclerotic process and skin aging, among others, that take place during middle age,” the researchers wrote. “However, taking into account that many menopausal and postmenopausal women actually do not consume the recommended five daily rations of such a healthy diet, they might obtain some benefit from dietary supplements.”
Curcumin Helps You Control Your Appetite
Even if you can control all the ways your metabolism conspires to keep you fat, you still have to control your appetite. It turns out that curcumin can also help you control your desires for food.
One of the ways that curcumin can help you control your appetite is by increasing the production of a hormone called adiponectin. The more adiponectin you have in your bloodstream, the less you want to eat. This is because adiponectin interferes with a process called differentiation, in which baby fat cells mature into hungry fat cells. If your fat isn’t constantly telling you “Feed me, feed me,” you will want to eat less.
Another way curcumin helps you control your appetite is by regulating the production of a hormone called leptin. This hormone switches off a pain factor that can literally make you ache to eat. When the pain of not eating is minimal, you don’t want to eat all the time.
Curcumin doesn’t increase the production of leptin, but rather prevents a phenomenon known as leptin resistance (which is similar to insulin resistance). Curcumin helps your brain respond to the amount of leptin your body already produces.