I love a good curry...
In my old rugby days it was a macho thing to order the hottest dish on the menu. With my tongue on fire, I washed it down with stupid amounts of beer.
It seemed a good idea at the time, but I'd spend the next day weeping on the toilet. I may be a big bloke, but when my rear end is on fire, I can cry like a little girl.
These days my tastes are more sophisticated. Firstly, because I've grown up! I've realised that Indian food is a rich and varied landscape of complex flavours and textures - and NOT some kind of 'It's A Knockout' challenge for idiots.
And secondly, because of my Good Life Letter research, I am now a champion of Indian food as a health food...
One reason is that a principle ingredient in Indian food has been shown to help protect you from arthritis, cancer, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Read on and I'll reveal all...
Why the yellow colour of rice, chutney and curry is so important
One of the principle spices in Indian and Asian food is called turmeric. It gives the dish a vibrant yellow colour, and is used in curries, dhal, pilaf and chutney.
The key component of turmeric is called 'curcumin'. This is a powerful little substance which boasts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-amyloid properties.
- Antioxidants, as we know, help the body fight the free radicals that cause cancer...
- Anti-inflammatories, as we know, stop the pain in joints and muscles.
- Anti-amyloids, as you may or may not know, stop the production of beta-amyloid, a protein in your brain that many believe is linked to Alzheimer's disease...
The exploration of curcumin began back in the 1990s when scientists discovered that the rates of colon, breast, prostate and lung cancer were 15 times LOWER in India than in the United States. Meanwhile, Americans were four times more likely than Indians to develop Alzheimer's.
They had a hunch that the high levels of curcumin in the Indian diet could hold the key...
No surprise then that in recent years over 800 studies have been carried out into curcumin and its potential benefits - especially for arthritis, cancer and dementia.
I'm going to reveal some of the latest news about this research. Really, this is exciting stuff...
NEW results about curcumin's link to Alzheimer's
Many scientists believe that one of the main causes of Alzheimer's could be a fault in the way beta-amyloid is produced and how your body gets rid of it.
These days, scientists are developing artificial drugs that could block or control the production of this protein.
But as usual, it's nature's own medicine chest that could hold the answer...
In July this year, I read an amazing new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. It revealed how scientists had discovered that a chemical found in curcumin helped stimulate the immune system to rid the brain of amyloid beta.
Along with a form of vitamin D, called 'vitamin D3', this could offer significant protection against dementia.
But this isn't just something that could help us all in the future. Some experts believe simply adding curcumin to your diet now is a step in the right direction.
This year, Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University, North Carolina, claimed that eating a spicy Indian curry once or twice a week 'could help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease and dementia'.
More good news from July 2009! How curcumin could help fight breast cancer...
One of the amazing things curcumin does is to tell damaged cells to self-destruct so they won't keep multiplying.
This process is known as 'apoptosis'. It doesn't work on all forms of cancer, but the effect of Curcumin has been successful tested on the following:
- Human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC): curcumin slowed the growth of tumour cells
- Mouth cancer: When applied three times per week to mouth, curcumin stopped the growth of oral cancers.
- Hepatic cancer: in animal subject, curcumin decreased the growth of tumours
- Mantle cell lymphoma: These tumour cells showed a significant inhibition of cell proliferation when treated with active curcumin
- Colon cancer and polyps: In rodents the curcumin stopped polyps forming, and helped kill cancer cells
And there was good news for women this year...
In July, researchers at the University of Missouri found that curcumin could reduce the risk of breast cancer risk in women who have Hormone Replacement Therapy.
The problem with HRT is that the hormone progestin can increase the levels of something called 'vascular endothelial growth factor' or 'VEGF'. This can speed up the production of certain types of tumour.
However, curcumin prevents the production of VEGF. This could slow or even stop those breast cancer cells multiplying.
And, amazingly, that wasn't the only bit of publicity regarding curcumin...
Time Magazine on curcumin as an anti-inflammatory
Time magazine ran an article by Dr. Scott Haig. He explained that the normal anti-inflammatory medications hadn't worked on one of his patients, who was recovering from hip replacement surgery.
So instead, he gave him turmeric capsules.
He reported: 'Soon enough, there was no pain at all. And his lower back and hands, which ached before, were also now pain-free.'
Now, the conventional medicinal route for inflammatory problems like arthritis is to offer you COX-2 inhibitors.
Two of the most popular, called valdecoxib (Bextra) and rofecoxib (Vioxx) were taken off the UK market because of their side effects - including stomach, vascular and heart problems. However you can still get celecoxib (Celebrex) and etoricoxib (Arcoxia).
However, curcumin has also been shown to inhibit the COX-2 enzyme without any of the horrible side-effects. It also inhibits something called the 'nuclear factor kappa beta,' another substance involved in inflammation.
One trial in humans with rheumatoid arthritis found that curcumin offered a significant improvement in morning stiffness, walking time, and joint swelling
How much curcumin do you need to reap the benefits?
Estimates say that the daily intake of turmeric in the Indian diet is about 2-2.5g. This is equal to about 60-100mg of curcumin each day.
Most studies quoted in today's Good Life Letter used 1200mg of 95% standardized Curcumin as a very strong medicinal dose. But many capsules I've seen on sale as a health supplement hold 500mg in each.
But the best advice of all is simply to eat a good, home-made curry once every week with plenty of curcumin in it! I can't think of a better, healthier, tastier way to reinforce your body's natural defences against serious disease.
However, beware that curcumin increases your body's production of bile. This isn't a problem, but it makes it one to avoid for pregnant women and anyone with gallstones.
(Please talk to a medical professional if you are worried about ANY underlying medical condition.)
So there you go... curry as a health food.
See? It's not all bad news these days!
Yours, as always
P.S. Please visit my shop for the very best in natural curcumin extract with added black pepper for improved results.