It's the latest trend in superfoods with claims of treating arthritis, heart disease and even helping diabetes! People are hoarding bags of the yellow stuff, the internet is full of dogs with yellow faces as owners try alternative remedies and Nadia's latest turmeric latte recipe sounds delish! So is turmeric really everything it's touted to be?
It's actually curcumin that is the active ingredient in turmeric. Research indicates that curcumin may possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties and as such may be helpful for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and heart disease, amongst others.
One of the mechanisms behind this process is thought to be a molecule called NF-kB. This molecule traverses between cells activates inflammation-related genes. Curcumin disrupts it's process which is thought to be how it reduces inflammation.
But don't reach for that spice jar in the pantry just yet! Unfortunately turmeric powder not only contains a minimal amount of the active ingredient in it but also studies show our bodies have difficulty absorbing curcumin. Plus when curcumin is absorbed, it is so rapidly metabolised and eliminated by our bodies that it never has the time to reach sufficient levels to have that wonderful anti-inflammatory effect.
All this means that in order to take the advantage of turmeric's benefits you will need to take it in a supplement form, where the curcumin has been manufactured in a way that ensures the curcumin is well absorbed and able to reach the right level in your body to produce it's anti-inflammatory effect. Black pepper does not help with the absorption of curcumin but will help the levels stay higher once absorbed and is also included in some supplements.
Curcumin makes up only about 2 to 6 percent of turmeric so you will need to check for the standardized amount of curcumin on the label. The dosage you require will depend on what condition you are trying to treat. The arthritis foundation suggests 400 to 600mg three times daily for osteoarthritis. But these doses are also highly dependent on the bioavailability of the preparation and need to take into account other supplements that may be included.
Always check with your pharmacist as certain conditions and medications are not compatible with turmeric.
So whilst the tumeric latte might not provide you with instant relief, other turmeric preparations are worth considering. Having said that, tumeric lattes will always be delicious on a cold day!