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Turmeric for Longevity
Thousands of studies on turmeric have demonstrated safe and profound benefits for health and longevity.
Dan Buettner, the author of the Blue Zones, told me in my podcast interview with him that turmeric was a staple among groups of centenarians, and particularly among the long-lived Okinawans. According to Buettner, turmeric is one of the keys to longevity.
7 Ways Turmeric Can Lead to Longevity
There are many ways that research has linked turmeric to longevity. Here are six of the best benefits that turmeric offers as we age.
1. Turmeric Lengthens Telomeres
One of the main markers for aging is the length of telomeres, which are the chromosomal caps on our DNA. Under stress and aging, telomere caps shorten. Curcumin has been shown in numerous studies to lengthen telomeres by increasing the activity of an enzyme called telomerase. In tumor cells, where you don’t want growth, research suggests that curcumin inhibits telomerase activity, supporting the body’s natural anti-tumor response for longevity.
2. Turmeric Inhibits mTOR–the Aging Protein
In one study, both curcumin and turmeric as a whole inhibited the protein mTOR. When early humans were struggling to feed themselves, mTOR helped them avoid starvation by delivering the energy cells need to replicate. Today, with the ingestion of excess food, mTOR has been linked to overfeeding the cells, causing metabolic issues like diabetes, cancer, and accelerated aging.
3. Turmeric is an AMPK Activator
AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is an enzyme found in every cell of every mammal. It assists in making energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). AMPK provides the energy we need to eat, think, talk, move, and mate. When ATP levels decline, the body activates more AMPK in an attempt to deliver more cellular energy. Research shows that curcumin activates AMPK and triggers the process of natural cellular repair and recycling, called autophagy.
4. Turmeric Protects Brain Aging
During normal brain aging, tubulin, a protein that protects the brain from aging, degenerates. In an animal study, turmeric was shown to protect the brain from tubulin decline and brain aging.
5. Turmeric Detoxes Air Pollution
With the growing number of fires worldwide and 70 million tons of environmental pollutants being dumped in America’s atmosphere each year, the impact of pollution on aging and mortality has never been more pronounced.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4.2 million people die prematurely every year from outdoor (ambient) air pollution, while 3.8 million die from indoor air pollution.
In one study, researchers found that low doses of curcuminoids, similar to the dosages found in whole turmeric root, supported the natural drainage of dangerous toxic aggregates from the brain.
6. Turmeric Supports Balanced Blood Sugar
There are numerous studies on the effects of curcumin on supporting healthy blood sugar levels.
In a 2015 study, two 500mg capsules of turmeric were given twice a day to a group of diabetics who were on metformin, the best-selling drug for type 2 diabetes. Another group took only metformin. At the end of the study, the turmeric and metformin group had significantly lower LDLs, or bad cholesterols, greater production of antioxidants, and more natural anti-inflammation markers, while supporting better cholesterol balance than the control group.
7. Turmeric Increases Liver Antioxidants
In a 2013 animal study, curcumin, one of the most potent constituents of turmeric, was shown to increase lifespan by an average of 26 percent. This was due to an increase in the production of the potent liver antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD). In another study, turmeric extract was found to also increase the production of SOD in the liver.
The Pros and Cons of Curcumin
While the safety and effectiveness of the whole turmeric root has been time-tested and well-researched, the science on curcumin itself (again, one of turmeric’s 300 constituents) at higher doses is still emerging.
Emerging science has identified curcumin as a hermetic, or a potentially harmful substance, but one that can provide health benefits at the right dose.
In essence, using turmeric at a high dose can come at a cost, but using the whole herbs can be beneficial—the herb can act in synergy with the body’s digestive intelligence and rarely has side effects.
For example, studies have shown that curcumin at a low dose will activate beneficial stem cells, while at a higher dose it will block stem cell activation. And curcumin at low doses has antioxidant properties, while curcumin at a higher dose is associated with free radical damage. Curcumin can also block iron absorption and is linked to anemia.
See also The Dark Side of Curcumin
How Ayurveda Thinks of Curcumin
I use curcumin on its own when I need to a more medicinal effect, but 90 percent of the time, I use the whole herb, combined with black pepper for better absorption (at a ratio of 16:1).
To be safe, stick to the whole herb when you can. Nature delivers an effective dose of curcumin when you consume whole turmeric root.
Many studies have been done on curcumin-free turmeric, in which the curcumin has been intentionally removed, and have found the root to still have potent anti-inflammatory properties.
According to Ayurveda, taking the whole turmeric root is the best activator of curcumin, the constituent that gives turmeric its yellow color. Ayurveda suggests that any benefits gained from curcumin alone can be gained from whole turmeric root, too, as long as it is mixed with a carrier agent like ghee or black pepper to help boost absorption.
For an effective dose of turmeric and curcumin, consider LifeSpa Turmeric Plus, formulated with black pepper for optimal absorption.