Cardiovascular Benefits of Turmeric Found To Be As Powerful As Exercise
Cardiovascular Benefits of Turmeric Found To Be As Powerful As Exercise by Sayer Ji
Nothing can replace exercise, but turmeric extract does a pretty good job of producing some of the same cardiovascular health benefits, most notably in women undergoing age-associated adverse changes in arterial health.
Despite the general lack of interest by conventional medical practitioners in turmeric’s role in preventing heart disease, there is a robust body of published research on its remarkable cardioprotective properties, with three dozen study abstracts on the topic available to view on our database alone: turmeric’s cardioprective properties.
We reported on a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology that found turmeric extract reduces post-bypass heart attack risk by 56%. Now, we would like to bring attention to a remarkable study published in the journal Nutrition Research in 2012 that revealed that curcumin, the primary polyphenol in turmeric and which gives the spice its golden hue, is as effective in improving vascular function in postmenopausal women as a moderate aerobic exercise training regimen. 
The 8-week long study involved 32 postmenopausal women who were assigned into 3 groups: a non-treatment control, exercise, and curcumin. Researchers ascertained the health of the inner lining of their blood vessels (known as the endothelium) by using ultrasound to measure flow-mediated arterial dilation, a well-known indicator of arterial elasticity and therefore endothelial function. A disturbance of the endothelial function is considered a key cause of the development of atherosclerosis. Anything, therefore, that can prevent, reduce or reverse endothelial dysfunction therefore may reduce morbidity and mortality associated with cardiovascular disease.
Subjects in the curcumin group received 150 mg turmeric extract per day, for 8 weeks, supplying 25 mg of collodially dispersed nanoparticle curcumin. Their diet and exercise habits were unchanged during the study period.
Subjects in the exercise group underwent aerobic exercise training more than 3 days per week (2-3 supervised sessions and additional home-based training). Over the course of the 8 week exercise program involving cycling and walking, they engaged in between 30-60 minute long sessions, ranging in intensity from 60% of their individually determined maximal heart rate in the initial phase of the trial, to 70-75% maximal heart rate in the latter half.
After eight weeks of intervention, flow-mediated dilation increased significantly in both curcumin and exercise groups, compared to the control. The researchers concluded:
The present study showed that regular ingestion of curcumin or regular aerobic exercise training significantly improved endothelial function. The magnitude of improvement in endothelial function to the same extent, suggesting that curcumin may prevent the age-associated decline in endothelial function in postmenopausal women.”
While this study is encouraging for those who already use turmeric in their diet, or perhaps take a curcumin supplement to ward off a wide range of potential ailments (we have indexed over 600 conditions that may benefit from turmeric/curcumin ingestion), it should be clearly noted that exercise shouldn’t, and can’t be replaced with a supplement. Nor can exercise necessarily supplant the critical role that turmeric can play in human health and disease. Of course, if one incorporates plenty of regular exercise with regular culinary doses of turmeric, the synergy of health benefits produced would most likely far exceed exercise or turmeric taken alone. The study didn’t look at what would happen if both exercise and supplements were used, but if we feel the necessity to sit around waiting for another clinical trial before employing this obviously optimal strategy, we probably need a healthy dose of commonsense more than a supplement or exercise program.