By Dr. Mercola
Curcumin – a derivative of turmeric, and the pigment that gives the curry spice turmeric its yellow-orange color -- is a natural compound that has been extensively researched, and has been found to have numerous health applications. As a result, turmeric is becoming increasingly popular as a supplement. Each 100 grams of turmeric contains an estimated three to five grams of curcumin.
The ancient Chinese and Indian systems of medicine have recognized curcumin's beneficial properties for thousands of years. Most notably, curcumin is known for its potent antia-inflammatory properties, and as you may know, chronic inflammation is an underlying factor in many, if not most, chronic diseases. The compound has been shown to influence more than 700 genes, which may in part explain its numerous health benefits.
To learn more about these, please review my special report on this healing spice.
Here, I will review one of curcumin's most exciting properties, as researchers are increasingly recognizing its potential as an anti-cancer agent. At the end of this article, you'll also find a list of my other common-sense cancer-prevention strategies.
Curcumin Effective against Fatal Type of Brain Tumor
In an exciting discovery announced in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry in July, researchers say curcumin could be the answer to stopping a fatal brain cancer known as glioblastoma (GBMs). This study strengthens previous findings. In this study, scientists showed that it decreased brain tumors in nine of 11 study animals (81 percent), with no evidence of toxicity.
Furthermore, curcumin did not affect healthy cells, suggesting curcumin selectively targets cancer cells. They also found that it worked synergistically with two different chemotherapy drugs, enhancing the elimination of cancer cells.
The authors state:
"In summary, data presented here suggest curcumin as a potential agent for therapy of GBMs."
One of the BEST Supplements for Many Cancers
Several years ago, I learned about the anti-cancer potential of curcumin from Dr. William LaValley, one of the top natural medicine cancer physicians I know. He pointed out that curcumin has the most evidence-based literature backing its use as a cancer support among all nutrients. Not only does it affect more than 700 genes, curcumin also affects more than 100 different pathways once it gets into the cell. Best of all, it appears to be safe in the treatment of all cancers.
Here's a sampling of some of the most recent studies:
- A 2008 study in Cancer Prevention Research, found that curcumin inhibits breast cancer cell motility and invasion by directly inhibiting the function of alpha6beta4 integrin, which suggests it may serve as an effective therapeutic agent in tumors that overexpress alpha6beta4. (Alpha6beta4 is associated with cancer progression by contributing to apoptosis resistance and metastasis)
- In 2009, a study in Molecular Pharmacology found that curcumin inhibits pancreatic cancer cell growth and acts as a chemosensitizing agent
- Other research from 2009 found that curcumin induces programmed cell death in lung cancer cells
- A 2010 study concluded that curcumin has the potential to target cancer stem cells
How Does Curcumin Fight Cancer?
In India, where turmeric is widely used in the diet, the prevalence of four common U.S. cancers -- colon, breast, prostate and lung -- is 10 times lower. In fact, prostate cancer, which is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in U.S. men, is rare in India and this is attributed, in part, to the curcumin in turmeric. It appears that curcumin combats cancer in a number of different ways.
For instance, curcumin has been found to:
✓ Inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells
✓ Help your body destroy mutated cancer cells so they cannot spread throughout your body
✓ Inhibit the synthesis of a protein thought to be instrumental in tumor formation
✓ Inhibit the transformation of cells from normal to tumor
✓ Decrease inflammation
✓ Prevent the development of additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth
Which Type of Turmeric is Best?
To get the full benefits that curcumin has to offer, look for a 100 percent certified organic turmeric extract with at least 95 percent curcuminoids. The formula should be free of fillers, additives and excipients (a substance added to the supplement as a processing or stability aid), and the manufacturer should use safe production practices at all stages: planting, cultivation, selective harvesting, and then producing and packaging the final product.
For use in cooking, choose a pure turmeric powder rather than a curry powder. Preferably organic. At least one study has found that curry powders tend to contain very little curcumin, compared to turmeric powder.
Guidelines for Using Curcumin
Right now, there are no formulations commercially available for use against cancer, and you should know that not only are relatively high doses required, curcumin is also not absorbed very well... A typical anti-cancer dose can be as high as three grams of good bioavailable curcumin extract, three to four times daily.
One work-around is to make a microemulsion from curcumin powder. To do that, mix one tablespoon of the powder into 1-2 egg yolks, along with a teaspoon or two of melted coconut oil. Then, use a high-speed hand blender to emulsify the mixture.
Another strategy that can help increase absorption is to add one tablespoon of curcumin powder to a quart of boiling water. (It must be boiling when you add the powder as it will not work as well if you put it in tepid water.) After boiling it for 10 minutes you will have created a 12 percent solution, which you can drink once cooled. It has a slightly woody taste. Keep in mind though that the curcumin will gradually fall out of solution. In about six hours it will be a six percent solution, so it is best to drink the water within four hours of boiling.
One drawback of doing this at home is that curcumin is a very potent yellow pigment and can permanently discolor surfaces if you're not careful.
Preventing Cancer: 11 Tips to Live By
In the last 30 years the global cancer burden has doubled, and is estimated to nearly triple by 2030. Clearly, we must begin to take cancer prevention seriously.
While curcumin offers great potential in the fight against cancer, I believe a healthy lifestyle—as opposed to swallowing any number of supplements—is the BEST way to avoid becoming a cancer statistic. I believe you can virtually eliminate your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, and radically improve your chances of recovering from cancer if you currently have it, by following the following risk reduction strategies.
1. Radically reduce your sugar consumption. Normalizing your insulin levels is one of the most powerful physical actions you can take to lower your risk of cancer, and in order to do so, cutting sugars and grains out of your diet is a must. Eliminating fructose is one of the most important sugars to initially concentrate on. If you have cancer, you'll want to reduce that to below 10 grams per day from all sources.
2. Optimize your vitamin D levels. There's overwhelming evidence pointing to the fact that vitamin D deficiency plays a crucial role in cancer development. Researchers within this field have estimated that about 30 percent of cancer deaths might be prevented each year simply by optimizing the vitamin D levels in the general population. On a personal level, you can decrease your risk of cancer by MORE THAN HALF simply by getting optimal sun exposure year-round. Alternatively, you could use a safe tanning bed, or, as a last resort, an oral vitamin D3 supplement. Remember the BEST way to raise your vitamin D level is by sun exposure.
If you are being treated for cancer it is likely that higher blood levels—probably around 80-90 ng/ml—would be beneficial. To learn the details on how to use vitamin D therapeutically, please review my previous article, Test Values and Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency.
3. Exercise regularly. There's compelling evidence indicating that exercise can slash your risk of cancer, primarily by reducing elevated insulin levels and normalizing estrogen. For example, women who exercise regularly can reduce their breast cancer risk by 20 to 30 percent compared to those who are inactive. I prefer to view exercise like a drug that needs to be carefully prescribed to achieve its maximum benefit.
It's important to include a large variety of techniques in your exercise routine. Additionally it is likely that integrating exercise with intermittent fasting will greatly catalyze the potential of exercise to reduce your risk of cancer and stimulate widespread healing and rejuvenation.
4. Get appropriate amounts of animal-based omega-3 fats.
5. Eat as many vegetables as you are comfortable with. Ideally, they should be fresh and organic. Cruciferous vegetables in particular have been identified as having potent anti-cancer properties.
6. Have a tool to permanently erase the neurological short-circuiting that can activate cancer genes. Even the CDC states that 85 percent of disease is caused by emotions. There are a number of different energy psychology tools available that are particularly well-suited for this purpose; the Emotional Freedom Technique is one example.
8. Get enough high-quality sleep.
10. Reduce your use of cell phones and other wireless technologies, and implement as many safety strategies as possible if/when you cannot avoid their use.
11. Boil, poach or steam your foods, rather than frying or charbroiling them.