Recently, turmeric has been receiving a lot of praise due to the health potentials of its bio-active compound, curcumin. Turmeric has been used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb but lately, it’s gotten more traction in Western culture as research is able to provide evidence behind the medicinal properties.
Curcumin, has been shown to have significant anti-inflammatory properties that are said to match those of ibuprofen. Curcumin also serves as a powerful antioxidant. The antioxidant advantages of turmeric protect cells in the the body (particularly those in colon) from cancer promoting agents and aid in destroying mutated cancer cells before they get the chance to spread to other areas. Antioxidants protect our bodies from free radicals, which can ultimately end up damaging important organic substances in our bodies and in the foods we consume, such as fatty acids, proteins, and DNA. Due to its chemical structure, curcumin can neutralize these harmful free radicals.
Free radicals come from many sources. For instance, a crowd favorite at summer BBQs is the hamburger. According to a recent food composition and analysis study in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, depending on the fat content, hamburger meat patties are susceptible to lipid oxidation during cooking. Lipid oxidation leads to lipid free radicals which can be further oxidized to become lipid peroxide which damages cell membranes and tissues. Lipid peroxidation has been implicated in disease states such as atherosclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, and more. In addition, digestion in the stomach can further exacerbate lipid oxidation and the production of secondary products, such as aldehydes, can produce free radicals.
The study found that a spice mixture of turmeric and black pepper exhibited the strongest ability to quench lipid peroxidation in the hamburger patties. Since curcumin is fat-soluble and is poorly absorbed in our bodies when used alone, the addition of black pepper enhances absorption by about 2,000% due to a compound called piperine. Results after eating a burger showed a reduction in oxidative damage, inflammatory processes and vasoconstriction, which could have beneficial implications for reducing age-related chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis. The next time you fire up the grill for some hamburgers, try adding a teaspoon of turmeric powder to the hamburger meat and don’t forget the black pepper!
By Tess H., Bastyr student intern
1. Gunnaars, K. “10 Proven Health Benefits of Tumeric and Curcumin. Authority Nutrition. June 9, 2017. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric#section1
2. Purdy, Mary. “Health Benefits of Tumeric: Hype or Totally Terrific.” marypurdy.co, March 21, 2018, https://marypurdy.co/turmeric-benefits-episode-40/.
3. Zhang, Y., Henning, S. M., Lee, R. P., Huang, J., Zerlin, A., Li, Z., & Heber, D. (2015). Turmeric and black pepper spices decrease lipid peroxidation in meat patties during cooking. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 66(3), 260–265. https://doi.org/10.3109/09637486.2014.1000837