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Many researchers have examined the effects of turmeric and curcumin on various biological molecules, including cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy substance by the liver and ingested from certain animal foods. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol may help protect the heart. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol can build up in the arteries, causing them to narrow. High levels of LDL and triglycerides, another harmful type of fat, can increase a person’s risk of heart-related conditions, such as coronary artery disease, stroke, and heart attack.
A 2017 meta-analysis evaluated the effects of turmeric on blood lipid levels. It indicated that turmeric and curcumin significantly reduced serum LDL and triglycerides compared to the control group.
The researchers also noted the following:
- By reducing serum LDL levels, turmeric and curcumin may help protect people at risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- People may tolerate curcumin better than conventional drugs.
- There is a need for more research to understand curcumin’s most effective dosage, form, and strength.
A 2018 study of 70 participants investigated whether taking curcumin alongside dietary phytosterols helped lower cholesterol. Dietary phytosterols include nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes. The results suggested that taking curcumin alongside dietary phytosterols may improve the cholesterol-lowering effect.
The researchers noted that curcumin may be a useful complementary therapy.
A 2021 review looked at studies into the effects of curcumin on cholesterol. It found that curcumin significantly reduced one type of lipid in more than two-thirds of the studies. Studies that used a bioavailable formulation of curcumin reported a better impact on lowering cholesterol.
Overall, turmeric’s effect on cholesterol is promising, but more research is needed to confirm its benefits.
How to take turmeric
Turmeric is commercially available in different forms, such as teas, extracts, powders, and capsules.
People can take turmeric by:
- adding it as a spice to soups, sauces, and other dishes
- adding it to hot water mixed with lemon
- chewing a piece of turmeric root
- adding it to tea
- sprinkling it into a smoothie
- adding it to salad dressings
- taking it in capsule form
- adding it to skin care and hair products
Other health benefits of turmeric
A 2020 review suggests that turmeric may have additional health benefits besides helping to lower cholesterol. These include:
- Antioxidation: Researchers have attributed the antioxidative property of turmeric to its double-bond chemical structure. Turmeric exerts its antioxidative effect by binding to and scavenging free radicals.
- Anti-inflammation: Research from 2021indicates that curcumin, the primary anti-inflammatory agent in turmeric, acts by regulating inflammatory pathways and blocking the activity of inflammatory enzymes.
- Pain relief: Turmeric may offer relief from chronic pain. A 2021 study found that people with knee osteoarthritis who took turmeric experienced less pain and improved knee function.
- Neuroprotection: Curcumin may help prevent neurodegenerative diseases and neural inflammation. It blocks inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins that cause neurological disorders such as:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- multiple sclerosis
- Huntington’s disease
- Antidiabetics: A 2021 systematic review studies evaluated the effects of curcumin on diabetes mellitus. It found that curcumin significantly reduced fasting blood glucose, blood sugar, and body mass index (BMI).
- Anticancer: A 2019 review notes that curcumin has shown considerable anticancer effects against several different types of cancer, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, head and neck cancer, both in humans and in laboratory models.
- Skin care: Research from 2016 and 2021 indicates that when people use turmeric topically or orally, it can effectively treat chronic skin conditions, including psoriasis, vitiligo, and atopic dermatitis.
Possible side effects
Turmeric and curcumin are usually very safe and do not cause adverse effects, even at high doses of up to 8 grams (g) per day.
However, some people may experience adverse side effects, including:
- digestive disorders
- dermatitis and skin allergies
People who are pregnant and breastfeeding can take turmeric in small doses, such as in cooking, but experts do not recommend higher doses, such as supplements.
People allergic to plants from the Zingiberaceae family, such as ginger and cardamom, should avoid consuming turmeric.
Curcumin may cause gallbladder contractions and gallstone development, so people with gallstones or bile duct obstruction should avoid using it. (MedicalNewsToday)