One of the great breakthroughs in cancer research has been the evolution of epigenetics. This considerably new science has unlocked the secrets of how our genes behave. Bioactive compounds from our diet control the expression of our genes and are able to turn cancer genes on and off. One of these bioactive compounds is curcumin, the main bioactive compound found in one of nature’s top healing spices – turmeric.
In today’s article you are going to discover why turmeric has gained the title of the best anticancer spice and explore the latest research on curcumin and cancer. I will also present how curcumin can help people currently doing cancer therapies.
Turmeric Helps Keeping Cancer Rates Low
Cancer rates in India are much lower than in western countries, and daily turmeric consumption is believed to play a key role in the huge differences in cancer development. People in India have one eighth as many lung cancers, one ninth as many colon cancers, one fifth as many breast cancers and one tenth kidney cancers, when comparing people of the same age.
Breakthrough Research on Curcumin
Curcumin is the Golden Spice from Indian saffron, as characterized by Professor Bharat Aggarwal, head of the lab working on experimental cancer therapies at the M.D.Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Professor Aggarwal is a pioneer cancer researcher who strongly believes and extensively studies the anti-cancer effects of curcumin.
Curcumin has been studied extensively for its anticancer properties and we now have strong scientific data that show that curcumin kills cancer cells and slows tumor growth.
Curcumin acts on hundreds of cellular pathways and appears to be useful for just about every type of cancer. More specifically, curcumin has been found to:
- Inhibit the reproduction of cancerous cells
- Decrease inflammation (a driving force behind cancer initiation and development)
- Inhibit the transition of cells from normal to cancerous cells
- Inhibit the synthesis of NF-κB, which is a protein thought to play a key role in cancer formation, as it protects cancer cells from the immune system and allows their survival
- Help the body destroy cancerous cells so that they cannot spread throughout the body
- Prevent the development of the additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth (angiogenesis).
Curcumin works Synergistically with Chemotherapy
Another discovery that is extremely important is the ability of curcumin to sensitize many human cancers to chemotherapy and radiation. The use of a curcumin-based, anticancer therapeutic strategy will hopefully allow in the future the use of lower doses of chemotherapeutic drugs and radiation but still achieve much higher anti-cancer results.
In animal models curcumin was found to be very effective in protecting normal cells from the toxic effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This lower toxicity and enhanced protection was seen in a number of body systems as curcumin was effective in:
- Preventing nephrotoxicity (toxicity of the kidneys),
- Preventing oral mucositis (mouth ulcers) and
- Reducing intestinal damage (reducing gastrointestinal side-effects)
- Preventing brain damage leading to chemo brain (brain injury due to chemo that leads to slower cognitive processing, memory loss and concentration difficulties).
Curcumin also enhanced the repair of wounds in mice exposed to whole-body radiation.
Curcumin is a safe and highly effective compound that can be used both in the prevention and also along standard cancer therapies.
Two key curcumin researchers, A.Goel and B.Aggarwal, reported in the Journal “Nutrition and Cancer” in 2010: “Curcumin therapy may stop cancers before they become invasive and metastatic. These effects combined with its ability to prevent depression, fatigue, neuropathic pain, lack of sleep, and lack of appetite, all symptoms induced by cancer and cancer treatment, makes curcumin an ideal agent for cancer patients”.
Tips for Curcumin Absorption and Choosing a Supplement
Curcumin is unfortunately poorly absorbed in the human body. Increase curcumin absorption by combinig turmeric in meals with a good oil carrier such as coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil or linseed oil and by adding black pepper. Piperine, a key compound of black pepper increases curcumin absorption significantly.
In order to achieve the optimum therapeutic power of curcumin, cancer patients often need the help of curcumin supplements.
Supplements are nowadays formulated to improve curcumin absorption and bioavailability. Choose a supplement that contains liposomal curcumin (contains fat molecules that allow curcumin to be more available to the body) or piperine (a component of black pepper known to increase curcumin absorption).
- Foods to Fight Cancer, Professor Richard Belivau and Dr. Denis Gingras, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4053-1915-7
- J.Ferlay et al. WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), IARC Cancer Epidemiology Database.Globocan 2000. Cancer Incidence, mortality and prevalence worldwide (Lyon, France: IARC Press; 2000).
- Ajay Goel & Bharat B. Aggarwal (2010) Curcumin, the Golden Spice From Indian Saffron, Is a Chemosensitizer and Radiosensitizer for Tumors and Chemoprotector and Radioprotector for Normal Organs, Nutrition and Cancer, 62:7, 919-930
- The Benefits of Curcumin in Cancer Treatment, http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/03/02/curcumin-benefits.aspx, accessed at 21/1/2015
- Ravindran, Jayaraj, Sahdeo Prasad, and Bharat B. Aggarwal. “Curcumin and cancer cells: how many ways can curry kill tumor cells selectively?.” The AAPS journal 11.3 (2009): 495-510.
- Gao, Xiaohua, et al. “Curcumin differentially sensitizes malignant glioma cells to TRAIL/Apo2L-mediated apoptosis through activation of procaspases and release of cytochrome c from mitochondria.” Journal of experimental therapeutics & oncology5.1 (2004): 39-48.