Obesity is an increasing social and medical problem all over the world and refers to having too much body fat. However, it is not like being overweight which refers to weighing too much. A person maybe overweight because of extra muscle or bone or water retention in the body. Both result in a person having more than the recommended healthy body weight. This could cause a host of medical problems like osteoarthritis, gallstones, liver problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, diabetes, sleep apnea etc.
Apart from eating too much, obesity can be caused by excess alcohol consumption, menopause, hypothyroidism, not exercising etc. The first step to fighting obesity or being overweight is to start a weight loss program. This includes following a strict diet, exercise and in some cases even surgery.
Turmeric and Weight Loss
Fat burning is critical to weight loss. The liver is the organ that is essential for fat burning. Studies have found that when the liver gets damaged, detoxification process reduces. Turmeric can help detoxify the liver and protect cell damage caused due to environmental pollutants, attack from free radicals etc.
High cholesterol causes plaque build up in arterial walls leading to coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, weight gain etc. Research has found that turmeric extracts can lower blood cholesterol levels – especially LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol. It has lipid lowering properties. This can reduce cholesterol levels and benefit weight loss by reducing adipose tissue weight gain.
Thermogenesis is a process that takes place when fat is burned by the central nervous system in order to maintain body temperature. Curcumin in turmeric can fasten to capsaicin receptors and increase thermogenesis rates. This leads to greater fat burning and helps with weight loss.
In vitro and in vivo experiments or weight loss through angiogenesis – new blood vessel growth – and reducing fat content in fat cells have been conducted. Just like how tumors grow, adipose tissues which store fat cells require angiogenesis to provide the required nutrients and oxygen to adipocytes (fat cells), curcumin is said to have anti-angiogenic properties that could reduce fat mass and inhibit fat tissue growth therefore leading to weight loss in obese people.
The following research demonstrates the angiogenesis properties of turmeric that could stop fat tissue spread. Angiogenesis is required by the body to create fat tissue. 18 mice divided into 3 groups were fed special diets for 12 weeks. The control group was given a diet containing 4% fat, the ‘high fat’ group was given 22% fat and the last group was given the same ‘high fat’ diet combined with curcumin – around 1.5 – 1.75mg daily. At the end of the study period, the fat distribution and total weight gain were registered.
The group fed the high fat plus curcumin diet had reduced total body fat and weight gain compared to the group fed the high fat diet with no curcumin. The curcumin group also had lower triglycerides, fatty acid, blood glucose, liver fat and blood cholesterol levels. This demonstrates that turmeric may benefit weight loss programs. Research is required on the quantity of dietary turmeric that can help with weight loss.
The various health problems that can be caused due to obesity have been enumerated. Curcumin is known to help reduce inflammation, therefore helping in reducing the risk of developing arthritis and heart problems. Turmeric could regulate lipid metabolism that is the main cause of obesity and attendant health issues. Studies are underway to find evidence about the role curcumin plays in down-regulating obesity and therefore lessening the impact of associated health problems.
Turmeric also improves digestion, helps protect the liver etc. Hence obese people looking to lose weight may gain from including turmeric in their diet. However, turmeric must not be the only weight loss strategy for obese and overweight people, but part of a more comprehensive program.
Turmeric is available as powder-filled capsules, fluids or tincture. The dosage depends on the medical condition. The daily dosage of standardized curcumin powder is 400-600mg thrice daily. Studies on humans have found that 200mg curcumin a day can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. For osteoarthritis, the dosage is 500mg two times a day of Meriva, Indena – a specific turmeric extract.
Turmeric is safe to consume as a food. We have to exercise caution when combining it with medications or supplements taken to slow down blood clotting. Turmeric supplements must be stopped two weeks prior to a surgery. It must not be consumed by diabetic patients, those with gallbladder problems and pregnant and breastfeeding women. Always consult your doctor about the right dosage to consume for a specific medical condition. Taken in excess, turmeric supplements could cause nausea, diarrhea, indigestion or dizziness.
One of the most important fact to be considered is that while turmeric as a spice is very safe but the same is not true when you take supplements. It is best to but good quality turmeric powder (organic if possible) and then use it rather than going for supplements. Also in case of any confusion consult your doctor.