Photo by Sanjay Acharya
Curcumin, a widely studied compound from turmeric, has been proven to possess anti-aging qualities
Apart from a multitude of potential benefits, extensively covered in modern research, a recent review by Chinese researchers summarizes the current evidence on the potential of curcumin (one of the bioactive compounds in the spice turmeric) to prolong life. So far, curcumin has been used on three primary model organisms that scientists use to study aging – roundworm, fruit fly, and mouse – and showed promising results in all of them.
Curcumin is an antioxidant and acts on the genetic level
The effects of curcumin are partially related to its own antioxidant activity (it is a well-known theory that oxidative stress is linked to aging). However, as it is being increasingly established for many plant compounds – not just curcumin – plain “antioxidant” does not even come close to describing the full powers of plants. It turns out that many substances found in herbs have a much more profound effect on our bodies: as reported by a group of Taiwanese researchers, 1,170 of the 3,294 Chinese medicinal herbs studied were found to interact with histones – special proteins that participate in unravelling the DNA, essentially enabling genes to be turned on or off. This is as close as it can get to direct influence on our genetics, without getting into mutations (which, typically, are not a good thing).
Multiple genes are affected by curcumin
In the case of curcumin and aging, according to the review, curcumin upregulated a host of aging-related genes, such as dInR, ATTD, Def, CecB, DptB, FOXO, and Sir2, in addition to enhancing the expression of the gene coding superoxide dismutase – a critical enzyme in the cell’s own antioxidant defense system. And – here comes the real confirmation! – mice fed curcumin as part of their daily diet lived significantly longer, compared to their counterparts who were not receiving curcumin.
Curcumin prevents fat oxidation
Curcumin administration to the fruit fly also resulted in reduced levels of molecules that indicate fat oxidation.
Multiple potential benefits of turmeric and curcumin to human health
Although this still does not prove that the same results can be achieved in humans, it provides sufficient evidence to at least consider adding turmeric – the main natural source of curcumin, which is perceived by most scientists to be incredibly safe – to the list of items you consume daily. Apart from the potential anti-aging effects, either turmeric or its bioactive constituent curcumin have been shown to possess a host of other potential and proven benefits – from reducing blood lipid levels and possessing antidepressant activity to fighting cancer, memory decline (1, 2, 3) and diabetes.
If you don’t include turmeric into your diet, perhaps it is time to start now!