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For many people, all there is to turmeric; a local spice which resembles ginger with its near-yellow colour is its flavour in foods. But experts have found its inclusion in diet highly beneficial for good health.

Turmeric root is a local spice commonly used for culinary and called atale pupa in Yoruba; gangamau in Hausa; nwandumo in Ebonyi; and ohu boboch in Enugu (Nkanu East).

The science has continued to grow, too, with new studies supporting its usefulness for maintaining good health.

Relieves depression symptoms:

Writing in the 2016 Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers from Australia said studies had collaborate the antidepressant effects of curcumin (from the spice turmeric) and saffron for people with severe depression.

The researchers from Murdoch University, Perth, undertook a study, using curcumin extract in 123 participants with major depressive disorder. They were allocated to one of four treatment conditions, comprising placebo, low-dose curcumin extract (250mg), high-dose curcumin extract (500mg), or combined low-dose curcumin extract plus saffron (15mg) for 12 weeks.

Those on all three drug treatments saw considerable improvements in depressive symptoms compared to the placebo group. However, no differences were found between the differing doses of curcumin or the curcumin/saffron combination.

Protective of heart disease:

Experts also found curcumin to be a potential candidate for decreasing cholesterol and triglyceride levels, in people with coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common types of heart disease.

Eight weeks of supplementation with the curcumin ingredient was also associated with reductions in the bad cholesterol level (LDL) level in the blood. This involved 33 subjects with coronary artery disease at the Tehran Heart Centre Hospital.

But statistically significant effects were not observed in HDL cholesterol levels or C-reactive protein levels (a marker of inflammation), according to results published in the PubMed-listed Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research.

Diabetes:

Moreover, a daily dose of two grammes of cinnamon for 12 weeks may improve blood pressure measures and blood sugar levels in people with type-2 diabetes.

Scientists has linked the popular Asian spice curcumin to reduce risk in the development of Type 2 Diabetes mellitus and improved function of the cells of the pancreas.

In a Thai study, published in Diabetes Care, curcumin extract “significantly lowered” the number of individuals who eventually developed Type 2 Diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and “appeared to improve the overall function of beta-cells”.

Given findings of the controlled trial conducted over a nine-month period in 240 Thai subjects, they propose that curcumin extract may be used for an intervention therapy for the pre-diabetes population.

Previously, results of a study with 66 type-2 Chinese people with type-2 diabetes in the 2012 journal Nutrition Research indicated that low and high doses of a water-extract from cinnamon were associated with improvements in blood sugar levels, while the low-dose was also linked to significant reductions in triglyceride levels.

Work –related stress:

A study, which was conducted in India and published in the 2016 Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, found that a curcumin/fenugreek combination boosted the quality of life index in a study population suffering from work-related stress.

In 60 subjects experiencing significant occupational stress, mediated anxiety and fatigue, repeated administration of curcumin/fenugreek resulted in reductions in their perceived stress, anxiety, and fatigue.

Weight loss potential:

Researchers from Nestlé and University of Tokyo said cinnamon may be a more tolerable weight loss ingredient than chilli pepper’s capsaicin.

According to the study published in Nature’s journal Scientific Reports, the active compound cinnamaldehyde in turmeric increased energy expenditure by nearly four calories over a 90 minute period compared to placebo.

The researchers say cinnamaldehyde may offer a more tolerable thermogenic alternative to compounds like capsaicin found in chilli peppers.

Good for athletes:

Curcumin reduces inflammation and muscle damage following excessive exercise. In a study, a daily 400 mg dose of curcumin supplement, for two days before exercise and for four days afterwards significantly reduced observed for muscle soreness.

Researchers from the University of North Texas in BBA Clinical had recruited 28 people with an average age of 20 to participate in their small, short-term study.

From their findings, they suggested that the observed improvements in biological inflammation may translate to faster recovery and improved functional capacity during subsequent exercise sessions.

Boost cognition and mood:

Curcumin supplements boost working memory and mood in healthy older adults. Results of a four-week study from Australia published in the 2014 Journal of Psychopharmacology found that a daily dose of 80 miligrammes  per day of curcumin was associated with a reduction in fatigue following a mental challenge.

In addition, it was associated with significantly improved measures of sustained attention, thus establish new opportunities for improvement in individuals’ short term memory, attention, fatigue and alertness.

Cancer:

Research done by the Life Extension Foundation found that curcuminoids target many factors involved in cancer development, including disrupting the cancer cell cycle and turning on natural apoptotic (cell suicide) switches in cancer cells.

Vegetarian diets best for health, environment:

A new position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics highlights the health benefits of vegetarian diets, claiming they can reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer, compared with non-vegetarian diets.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics say vegetarian diets pose a wealth of health benefits.

Updating their 2009 position on plant-based diets, the Academy say an “appropriately planned” vegetarian or vegan diet is suitable for “all stages of the life cycle,” and adopting such diets in childhood can reduce the risk of chronic disease later in life.

Additionally, the paper says plant-based diets are more environmentally friendly and sustainable than diets rich in animal products, noting that they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50 per cent.

“Becoming vegetarian can be beneficial to personal health and the environment,” says Vandana Sheth, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The new paper was recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

According to a 2016 poll from The Vegetarian Resource Group, around 3.3 per cent of adults in the United States are vegetarian or vegan.

While a vegetarian diet is widely perceived as a diet that simply excludes meat, poultry, and fish, there are many variations. These include a lacto-vegetarian diet (devoid of meat, poultry, and fish, but includes dairy products) and a pescatarian diet (excludes meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs, but allows fish). A vegan diet excludes meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, and animal-derived products. It may also exclude honey.

A number of studies have hailed the health benefits of a plant-based diet, which include a lower risk of obesity and diabetes. However, some studies have suggested that vegetarian diets may do more harm than good.

One study published in 2014, for example, linked a vegetarian diet to increased risk of allergies, cancer, and mental health disorders. Such health issues have been put down to lack of essential nutrients from animal products.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, however, say a “well-planned” plant-based diet – high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains – can offer a wealth of health benefits.

For the new paper – written by nutritionist Susan Levin of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C., and co-authors – the Academy reviewed a variety of studies looking at the effects of plant-based diets on health and the environment.

From the evidence to date, the authors say adopting a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 35 per cent, while overall cancer risk can be reduced by 18 per cent with a plant-based diet.

In terms of heart health, the Academy say a plant-based diet can lower the risk of heart attack by 32 per cent and the risk of heart disease by 10 to 29 per cent.

Furthermore, the authors say the risk of type 2 diabetes may be reduced by 62 per cent with a plant-based diet.

“People who adopt vegetarian diets have lower body mass indexes [BMIs], better control of blood pressure and blood glucose, less inflammation and lower cholesterol levels compared with non-vegetarians,” notes Sheth. “Registered dietitian nutritionists can help people who want to follow a vegetarian eating plan in any life stage to make well-informed choices to achieve these benefits.”

The paper notes that a plant-based diet in childhood and adolescence may have significant benefits for current and later-life health.

The authors point to studies that have shown children and adolescents with a vegetarian diet are less likely to be overweight or obese than their meat-eating counterparts.

“Children and adolescents with BMI values in the normal range are more likely to also be within the normal range as adults, resulting in significant disease risk reduction,” they add.

“Other benefits of a vegetarian diet in childhood and adolescence include greater consumption of fruits and vegetables, fewer sweets and salty snacks, and lower intakes of total and saturated fat. Consuming balanced vegetarian diets early in life can establish healthful lifelong habits.”

The authors also point to the environmental benefits of a plant-based diet, noting that a vegetarian diet and a vegan diet can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 29 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively.

 

Source: The Punch Newspaper

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