February 15, 2012
Curcumin's Promise: It Will Prevent Cancer and Other Diseases
Curcumin, the natural pigment that gives the spice turmeric its yellow colour, has increasingly come under the scientific spotlight in recent years, with studies investigating its potential health benefits. As a result, curcumin has been linked to a range of health benefits, including protection against prostate cancer, Alzheimer's, protection against heart failure, diabetes, and arthritis.
Turmeric is a common ingredient in Indian food and yellow mustard. Its active ingredient is curcumin, which gives turmeric its yellow color.
Curcumin is a diferuloylmethane derived from turmeric (popularly called "curry powder") that has been shown to interfere with multiple cell signaling pathways, including cell cycle, proliferation, survival, invasion, metastasis and inflammation.
Adding curcumin to human cells with the blood cancer multiple myeloma, Dr. Bharat B. Aggarwal of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and his colleagues found, stopped the cells from replicating. And the cells that were left died.
Researchers at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, found that a combination of turmeric and phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) was effective against prostate cancer. PEITC is abundant in a group of vegetables that includes cauliflower, cabbage, watercress, winter cress, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi and turnips.
Intake of curcumin at 'physiologically attainable' doses have recently been reported to slow the development of prostate cancers by jamming receptors linked to cancer tumour growth, say researchers.
A recent study published in Cancer Research, reports that the turmeric spice isoflavone could help to slow the growth of tumours in prostate cancers by blocking the receptors for certain molecular pathways that have been shown to play a role in the development of prostate cancers in addition to reducing the effectiveness of some cancer therapies.
Led by Dr Karen Knudsen of Thomas Jefferson University, the research team found that "physiologically attainable" doses curcumin suppresses two genetic receptors -- p300 and CPB (or CREB1-binding protein). They said the two receptors have been linked to the incidence of certain types of cancer, and also act as a predictor of tumour growth. The receptors are also known to work against cancer therapies such as androgen deprivation therapy (ADT).
By blocking the receptors, the team found that the spice extract was "a potent inhibitor of both cell cycle and survival in prostate cancer cells."
Knudsen said the findings may also have implications beyond prostate cancer, "since p300 and CBP are important in other malignancies, like breast cancer."
"In tumours where these play an important function, curcumin may prove to be a promising therapeutic agent," she said, noting that an important function of the current study was to show that curcumin has such effects at "physiologically attainable" doses -- as some previous studies reporting similar results proposed doses that were not realistic.
Another Powerful Antioxidant on the Chopping Block
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Health Canada and the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration are all introducing legislation to prevent supplements made from curcumin and other valuable antioxidants from entering the market due to their competition with pharmaceutical drugs.
Curcumin was recently among a host of herbs claiming joint health benefits to be delivered negative article 13.1 opinions by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in February 2010. Again, this is primarily due to the drug industry's influence on all levels of government.