Sorry, But Turmeric Doesn't Have Superpowers

Brilliance | Dec. 16, 2017

We all fall victim to alluring health trends from time to time (looking at you, bulletproof coffee drinkers). One spice, described as a 'cure-all,' has circulated the internet in recent years: turmeric. While the world's "golden spice" is still pretty golden, it doesn't have the superpowers that even we once claimed. Whoops! So, put your golden milk latte down, and keep reading.

Curcumin Won't Solve The World's Problems

Let's start with the facts—turmeric has not been proven to cure or prevent Alzheimer's disease, treat cancer, or even fix hangovers. The demystifying 2017 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry hasn't debunked all of the health benefits associated with turmeric—just the ones accredited to it's 'miracle' chemical compound, curcumin. Michael Walters, co-author of the study and research associate professor at the University of Minnesota, tells TIME that the health benefits of turmeric described in Indian and Chinese folklore have often been misquoted or blown out of proportion by the media. He claims that "their actual results don't really measure up." It's a healthy spice, but not a medical miracle. Here's one major issue: our bodies aren't able to easily absorb the curcumin, which negates any benefits it may have. Yep, that's a problem.

In this review, the researchers were unable to substantiate the turmeric health claims that studies have been making for years. They were searching for double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, but there weren't any. This type of study involves a human clinical trial where neither the patient nor the researcher knows who was given the placebo or who was given the treatment, and it's considered a gold-standard of medical research.

Spice Up Your Life!

So, should you dump all of your turmeric right this very moment? Not so fast. Not only is the spice safe to eat, but it's also a rather delicious cooking additive. As dietitian Wendy Bazilian points out to TIME, you'd never eat turmeric alone. Spices are a great alternative to salt, sugar, or fats in making healthy foods taste better.

Also, pairing turmeric with pepper can help "boost turmeric's absorption from the digestive system into the bloodstream." While curcumin has proven not to be turmeric's superpower, researchers haven't given up on this golden spice. They hope to conduct further studies to discover potential healthful compounds. Until then, let's simply put turmeric in our tea instead of relying on the spice as a medical cure-all.

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