Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Health Benefits of TURMERIC EXTRACT (Curcumin)

Now, for the good news about TURMERIC EXTRACT:

Researchers have long been aware of the health benefits of the curry spice turmeric, which is the source of curcumin (or turmeric extract). In fact, in India where turmeric is used daily Alzheimer's disease is nearly absent in a country (per the population size). Curcurmin is the same thing as turmeric extract. It is a powerful antioxidant and it has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is one of the most destructive processes that damage our cells and organs, leading to disease and aging.

Researchers have long studied the turmeric extract's application in fighting cancer, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and reversing the process underlying Alzheimer's disease.

One of the most important activities in the human body is turmeric extract's ability to inhibit chronic inflammation (by inhibiting activation of transcription factor, nuclear factor-kappa B, NF-kB). What's the big deal? Well, NF-kB activation has been implicated in ALL stages of the development and propagation of cancer; and switching off the NF-kB genes, which turmeric extract seems to do has been a huge subject of intense research.

The National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C. has funded numerous studies on turmeric extract (curcumin) because of the diverse benefits of this antioxidant spice. It affects virtually every organ of the body. The applications include the treatment of cystic fibrosis (the most common genetic disorder in Caucasians), autoimmune diseases, such as sceleroderma, the prevention and treatment of cancer, the prevention and treatment of heart disease, reverse the damage associated with high blood sugar (diabetes), the prevention and treatment of both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, and multiple sclerosis. It may help prevent cataracts; it shows promise as a treatment for skin disorders such as psoriasis; and it helps in the treatment of wounds.

Among other benefits, turmeric extract has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activities. This is not said lightly, and should not be overlooked as a minor benefit, particularly in wound healing.

Of all the benefits of curcumin or turmeric extract, it is the prevention and treatment of cancer that has most scientists in awe. One investigator wrote, "Curcumin ...has emerged as one of the most powerful chemopreventative and anticancer agents. It's biological effects range from antioxidant and anti-inflammatory to inhibition of angiogenesis, and is shown to possess specific antitumoral activity." Cancer Res 2007 Mar 1:67(5):1988

Although anticancer drugs weaken the immune system, turmeric extract strengthens the immune system as it fights cancer at every step of cancer development and propagation.

For cancer to develop, it has to initiate ...turmeric extract stops this. It has to propagate (progression and promotion), ...turmeric extract stops this. New blood vessels have to be formed to feed the new cancer cells so they can survive (angiogenesis), turmeric extract stops this, ... and turmeric extract induces apoptosis, the self-destruction of cancer cells. It does all this while protecting the rest of the body from other diseases and inflammation. Turmeric extract seems to be the perfect designer substance. It appears that man could not design or develop a more perfect substance ....but, that doesn't mean it wouldn't stop them from trying.

Interesting, but not surprising to me, pharmaceutical companies are racing to try and come up with patentable compounds that mimic the actions of turmeric extract so they can make huge profits; when interesting enough the compound and benefits obviously already exist! Ah, the greed of mankind never ceases to amaze me. (But, we saw this with the benefits of the safety and effectiveness of grape seed extract and the eventual development of Vioxx and Celebrex, a Cox 2 inhibitor. How did that work out for Big Pharma? More importantly, how did it work out for the benefit of the patients?)

What specific cancers has turmeric extract (curcumin) been shown to benefit?

In 2007, scientists at the Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham published at report in the journal Cancer Research showing how turmeric extract (curmumin) reduced prostate cancer cells' production of a protein MDM2, which is associated with the formation of malignant tumors. Simultaneously, curmumin prompted cells to produce another protein associated with apoptosis (programmed cell death). Cancer Res 2007 Mar 1:67(5):1988

It's interesting that India has has one of the lowest incidence of prostate cancer rates in the world. The annual prostate cancer incidence rate in India is ranges from 5.0 to 9.1 per 100,000/year. In contrast, among white males in the U.S., the incidence is 110.4 per 100,000/year! More than ten times higher. For black males in the U.S., it is even HIGHER! Could it be due to the consumption of turmeric? The average intake of turmeric spice in India is 2 - 2.5 grams per day. Thus, it is to our advantage to obtain turmeric extract that would surpass that in its equivalency by at least 3 to 6 fold.

Curcumin (turmeric extract) has been shown to enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy agent, gemcitabine, in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. This chemotherapy agent loses it effectiveness as the cancer progresses, curmcumin (turmeric extract) helps prevent the tumors resistance to the drug.

Curcumin (turmeric extract) interferes with the proliferation of various types of colon cancer, and it enhances the efficacy of existing an existing chemotherapeutic agent, oxaliplatin in the fight against colon cancer.

Curcumin's effect against breast cancer is nothing short of amazing; both against a common variety of breast cancer cells, as well as a mutant line of breast cancer cells that have developed resistance to chemotherapy drugs. Turmeric extract exerts its effects on cell proliferation, cycling and death. Turmeric extract (or curcumin) seems able to adapt its anticancer activity according to need, including in multi-drug resitant tumors of the breast, prostate, and leukemia cell lines.

Lastly, turmeric extract is particularly beneficial in preventing cognitive decline, in the prevention or treatment of major disabling age-related neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and stroke. Adv Ex Med Biol 2007;197

A few mechanism of action may account for such benefits. Turmeric extract appears to reduce lead toxicity by raising levels of the antioxidant glutathione, as well as bind to (chelate) heavy metals and remove them. Furthermore, turmeric extract is an antioxidant, protecting oxidative damage to neurons of the brain by promoting production of a protective enzyme hem oxygenase-1 (HO-1). This is a fundamental defense mechanism for neurons exposed to oxidation. (And, to think Pfizer wants us to use high-dose Lipitor to protect everyone from Alzheimer's disease.)

Memory loss begins by age 50, and by age 80, it predicted that half of us will advance to some form of dementia (Alzheimer's or not). Asian epidemiological studies found that those who consumed curry (with the turmeric spice) showed strong evidence of "better cognitive performance" and "less age-related dementia." Am J Epidemiol 2006 Nov 1;164(9):898

Okay, as always, "what about safety?"

Given that turmeric is a food that has been safely consumed for millennia (even by pregnant women), curcumin, or turmeric extract, would appear to be a perfect dietary supplement. Altern Med Rev. 2001 Sep'6 Suppl S62-6 In fact, one researcher wrote, "Curcumin has an outstanding safety profile and a number of multifunctional actions ..." Phase I clinical trials, using massive doses of curcumin, or turmeric extract (up to 8 grams/day for four months "did not result in discernable toxicities." Adv Exp Med Biol 2007;565:471

The myriad of benefits to be obtained from turmeric extract is emerging with a clear safety margin. Last week I wrote about the amazing benefits of obtaining at least 1,000 IU/day of vitamin D. (see posting below)

This week, I am going to suggest that you look to obtain at least 60 mg per day of turmeric extract, but may I suggest, that the benefits I am suggesting in this posting are going to be realized in the neighborhood of 600 to 1000 mg per day, if not even higher!

Personally, between the number of antioxidants per day I take, and the number of tablets of the "liver health maintenance product" (I take a few extra), and the product I take to help "maintain the health of my joints," I am obtaining approx. 800 mg of turmeric extract per day.

Add that amount of turmeric extract I take to the 1,200 IU/day of vitamin D I am obtaining, plus the full-range of antioxidants, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids I consume each and every day, and I think I doing okay.

Certainly, no nutritional supplement program is a guarantee against any disease, or even death. It's only about protecting our cells from oxidation and inflammation; helping them operate at their optimum, avoiding toxic substances as best we can, and then doing our best to live the best lifestyle we can.

Ladd McNamara,M.D.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


The purpose of this posting is to emphasize how critical it is to your health and longevity for you and your loved ones to supplement with a full range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants each day, and included in that, it is highly recommended that you supplement with 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day or more.

Now, that's well above the US RDA of 400 IU/day; the amount the government recommends, but quite frankly, the government recommendations are considerably out-of-date! At least, if you want to go by the powerful and undeniable medical research!

The bottom line: if you ignore this information your health could be in jeopardy.

At the bare minimum, recent research has shown a strong association between low blood levels of vitamin D (which most people have, often even among those who supplement with the government recommendation of 400 IU/day) and increased cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high triglycerides. Arch of Intern Med. 2007, Jun 11;167(11):1159

What is fascinating, and is critical for you to know is that there are well over 89 medical studies showing that high vitamin D blood levels (which can only be obtained by supplementing with more than 400 IU/day the order of 800 to 1,000 IU/day) reduce nearly all cancers, including cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, and prostate (some as much as 50%). Lancet 1989, Nov 18:2(8673):1176; Am J Clin Nutr 1991 Jul; 54(1 Suppl)193S; J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2007 Mar;103(3-5):708; J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2005 Oct;97(1-2)P179; Cancer Res 2005 JKun 15;65(12):5470; Am J Public Health 2006 Feb;96(2):252; Ann R Coll Surg Engl 1995 Mar;77(2):85.

In fact, the studies are so numerous and convincing that it is now medically undeniable that the greater one's vitamin D levels (by supplementing with at least 1,000 IU/day or more) the less the risk of acquiring cancer of the breast, prostate, colon, esophagus, pancreas, ovary, rectum, bladder, kidney, lung, and uterus, as well as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma! Anticancer Res 2006 Jul;26(4A):2573; Cancer Res 2006 Jul 15:66(14);7361; Carcinogenesis 2006 Mar;27(3):551; Arch intern Med 2007 May 28;167(10)1050; Cancer Causes and Control 2000 Oct;11(9):847; Lancet 2001 Aug 25;358(9282):641; Cancer 2003 Mar 1:97(5):1217; J Urol 2001 Jan:165(1)253 (and about 85 other medical studies that I do not intend to list in this email).

One study that I will cite in this posting is a recent ground-breaking double blind placebo-controlled study that was published this year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In this study involving 1,180 postmenopausal women, studying the effects of administering 1,000 IU of vitamin D (with calcium) or a placebo, the researchers found that after ONLY 4 years of taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D the risk of contracting ANY CANCER was reduced by 60% compared to the placebo group. This was astounding news, …., but it was about to get even better. Am J Clin Nutr 2007 Jun;85(6):1586

When the researchers excluded the cancers that were diagnosed during the first year of this study, ….which made sense because that excluded cancers that were present before the study began (since cancers take a while to grow and be diagnosed since they are slow growing), …so, a more thorough and detailed statistical examination of the data revealed that 1,000 IU of vitamin D (plus calcium) reduced the risk of ALL CANCERS by a whopping 77% compared to the placebo group!

What does this mean? If we as a society were to take 1,000 IU of vitamin D each day (with calcium, let alone take supplement with other full spectrum pharmaceutical grade antioxidants, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids), as many as three-quarters (or more) of all cancers could be prevented in just four years! The impact of this double blind, placebo-controlled study is so profound that it is clear that EVERYONE should be taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D (or more) every day! (And, that the government recommendations of 400 IU/day are now irrelevant, just as the RDA of vitamin C, that of 60 mg, is irrelevant, unless your goal is simply to prevent scurvy.)

Even children can benefit from greater levels of vitamin D. New Engl J Med 2007 Jul 19:357(3):266; Am J Clin Nutr 2007 Jul;86(1):150

Furthermore, vitamin D has been shown to suppress inflammation by reducing cytokines (inflammatory modulating molecules). Thus, taking at least 1,000 of vitamin D or more per day helps protect against inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic muscle pain (fibromyalgia), congestive heart failure, diabetes, stroke, and multiple sclerosis. South Med J 2005 Oct;98(10):1024; ClinTer 2005 May;156(3):115; Mayo Clinic Proc 2003 Dec;78(12):1463; Diabetes Care 2005 Dec;28(12):2926; Am J Clin Nutr 2006 Apr;83(4):754

Okay, …..What About The Safety of “that Much” Vitamin D? How much is Too Much? Or, what about those who have been told, "My Doctor Told Me NOT to take more than the RDA level of 400 IU/day of vitamin D."

Frankly, most doctors are not aware of this ground breaking research over the past decade, let alone the double blind, placebo-controlled study published this year that put all this to rest, or what levels of vitamin D are safe. I’m not knocking doctors, because I am one, but since we have not been “geared” towards “nutritional medicine,” most doctors are not aware about the numerous studies suggesting that 100 of thousands of lives that could be spared just in the U.S. alone if every American took just 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day. (And, we haven't even touched on how many lives could possibly be spared if a full spectrum of the other vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants were added to this regimen ...which would might push that number up even higher. My next news email will be about the benefits of turmeric extract, which is an amazing antioxidant/anti-inflammatory substance.)

So, let's alleviate the safety concern about taking higher levels of vitamin D. Is it possible to get take too much vitamin D? The answer is YES! But, how much is too much?

Vitamin D status can be assessed by a blood test. Be careful about the lab’s reference ranges, because sometimes they will compare you to the "normal population," which is DEFICIENT ... you don't want to be “normal” (or deficient in vitamin D). Optimal levels of vitamin D3 (25-hdroxyvitamin D) should be in the range of 30 - 50 ng/ml (or 75 - 125 nmol/L).

A study was performed to see how much oral vitamin D was required to increase one's vitamin D levels. Taking 1,000 IU of vitamin D orally only increases your blood level of vitamin D by 11.5 ng/ml (understand ….that is, it increases it by that much, it does not establish vitamin D at that level). The bottom line is this: A daily oral intake between 1,000 to 4,000 IU of vitamin D (depending upon your baseline vitamin D blood levels) is ideal.

Vitamin D toxicity does not occur until blood levels reach 150 ng/ml or more; which would generally take an oral dose of 50,000 IU per day! Therefore, doses up to 10,000 IU of vitamin D per day would appear to be safe, and certainly half that much (5,000 IU per day) would absolutely be safe! N Eng J Med 2007 Jul 19;357(3)266

To drive this concept home: In order to achieve an optimal serum blood level of vitamin D of approximately 60 ng/ml, a 154 pound (70 kg) person with a baseline vitamin D level of 20 ng/ml would have to take 5,000 of vitamin D to increase their blood level to the desired levels of 60 ng/ml. So, no one should be concerned with the safety of taking 1,000 IU to 1,200 IU of vitamin D! Instead, they should be concerned if they are not supplementing with that much vitamin D every day.

The authors of a review study in the July 19, 2007 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine calculate the rates of various diseases affected by vitamin D status and have come up with the following numbers: N Eng J Med 2007 Jul 19;357(3)266

78% Reduction in Type I diabetes in children taking 2,000 IU/day of vitamin D in their FIRST YEAR of life.

200% Increase in Type I diabetes in Vitamin D-deficient children

33% reduction in Type II diabetes in those taking 800 IU/day plus calcium

72% reduction in number of falls in elderly people taking high-dose vitamin D (that's well over 1,000 IU/day)

30-50% more cancers in vitamin D-deficient people (which can happen if you are taking 400 IU/day or less)

So, my friends, according to the medical research it is now clear that you should take high quality, broad spectrum supplements, and be adding up the amount of vitamin D in your antioxidants, fish oil capsules, and calcium-magnesium tablets, and be shooting for 1,000 IU of vitamin D or more per day.

Ladd McNamara,M.D.