In this article series I look at current health trends and how they hold up against recent research. There is so much hearsay information on the internet, which is very hard to qualify. Let’s analyse the facts and look at credible studies to make sure we’re following the right path for our health.
This golden spice has been the talk-of-the-town in recent years. Adopted by trendy cafes in ‘Golden Lattes’ (often with a substantial price tag) or used in supplements promising a myriad health benefits, it’s hard to avoid turmeric these days.
So, what’s the hype all about? Is turmeric going to move beyond the instagrammable trendy phase or will it be replaced by something else? Is it really that beneficial for your health, in particular for arthritis?
Some recent research suggests it will be hard to use turmeric in order to manufacture new arthritis drugs (which has Time Magazine wrongly doubting its efficacy overall). However, a meta-analysis (a review and summary of all credible studies to date), shows promising results.
The review was done by American and South Korean researchers and examines clinical trials relating to the effect of turmeric extracts and curcumin (a component of turmeric) on symptoms of arthritis such as pain, swelling and joint stiffness. The authors do state the overall criteria of the examined trials were weak. This means sample sizes were small and sometimes the methodological quality wasn’t sufficient for their strict criteria. However, the researchers suggest that, although they can’t draw definite conclusions and more rigorous research is needed, there is some evidence turmeric helps with arthritis symptoms.
The study concludes “This systematic review and meta-analysis provided scientific evidence that 8–12 weeks of standardized turmeric extracts (typically 1000 mg/day of curcumin) treatment can reduce arthritis symptoms (mainly pain and inflammation-related symptoms) and result in similar improvements of the symptoms as ibuprofen and diclofenac sodium. Therefore, turmeric extracts and curcumin can be cautiously recommended for alleviating the symptoms of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis.”
My conclusion: While more research is needed, I think it’s safe to say that this meta-analysis delivers a credible picture of current trial results and shows the positive effect of turmeric on arthritis. Personally, I will keep taking turmeric as a supplement and use it in cooking as well to manage my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Some studies mention the lack of bioavailability (absorption into your system) of turmeric supplements. This might be why experts suggest pairing it with a small amount of black pepper. Some supplements already include this, so check the label before buying.
Save money on supplements and use turmeric in cooking (together with black pepper). While it’s harder to control the amount and get a therapeutic dose, it will be easier to get regular doses once you integrate it in your meals frequently. Turmeric tastes great in soups, stews, egg dishes, curries and – yes – in Golden Lattes (here’s a recipe example).
Next up I’ll be looking at cannabis and if it can really help arthritis sufferers. Stay tuned!