Can Turmeric Help You Live Longer and Healthier?
Healthy Cells, Healthy Signals
Turmeric contains over 300 different compounds. Many of these are nutrients (such as magnesium, niacin, and vitamin C) and beneficial polyphenols (including curcumin and antioxidant flavonoids such as quercetin). Studies suggest that many of these turmeric compounds help promote longer, healthier lives. (iii.66-69)
How do they do it? According to research in models for human aging, compounds that promote healthy cell functions while blocking harmful activity increase lifespan. The anti-aging effects of these compounds are usually achieved by reducing the risks of chronic diseases. (iii.67-68)
What Causes Aging?
Imbalance and Unhealthy Paths to Aging
Besides time and heredity, researchers have identified some of the primary genes and proteins involved with aging. Cell genes and the proteins they produce form signal (or signaling) pathways that coordinate how these cells function and work together. Under normal conditions, these pathways help maintain homeostasis (balance) in the body's systems (such as metabolism, cell energy, body temperature, thinking, blood flow, etc.). (iii.67-70)
Aging Signals and Chronic Diseases
When these genes and proteins are poorly regulated and out of balance, cells malfunction and instead form unhealthy aging signal pathways. Dysfunctional cells increase the risk for various chronic conditions that cause and speed up the aging process. In fact, most people die from an age-related chronic disease. (iii.67-70)
Chronic conditions and diseases associated with aging include:
- Cancer (e.g., breast, prostate, and lung cancers) (iii.67, 69)
- Diabetes (iii.67, 69)
- Heart disease (e.g., high blood pressure and heart attacks) (iii.67)
- Neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases) (iii.69)
- Osteoarthritis and osteoporosis (iii.67, 70)
- Vision loss (e.g., from glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration) (iii.67, 71)
Can You Slow Down Aging?
The proverbial fountain of youth has yet to be found. However, scientists understand more every day how cells in the body and brain become dysfunctional. Their research in signaling pathways has led to exciting prospects for promoting life-long good health.(iii.42, 48, 66-73)
But do these prospects for healthy aging translate into a longer lifespan for humans? Some of the best possibilities so far are:
- Combat chronic disease. Aging signaling pathways contribute to the chronic diseases that most people eventually die of. Leading experts in anti-aging research suggest that preventing and treating chronic age-related diseases are, arguably, anti-aging strategies. Evidence suggests natural compounds such as those in turmeric could help counteract unhealthy aging signals as well as prevent or treat chronic diseases. (iii.66, 69, 71-73)
- Drastically reduce how much and/or what you eat and drink. Animal and population studies suggest one of the most promising avenues to increase lifespan is calorie restriction. In research involving rhesus monkeys, cutting calories by 30% significantly delayed or prevented chronic disease. As a result, the monkeys also lived longer, healthier lives. Furthermore, the monkeys were already adults before the calorie restriction began — suggesting it's never too late to make healthy changes. (iii.67, 69, 73)
- Calorie restriction mimetics (CRMs). Since calorie restriction involves 30-40% reduction in calories, it's difficult to achieve for many people. Calorie restriction may also be harmful to people who are already elderly and to children. However, there may be an alternative to extreme low-calorie dieting. Scientists have found some natural and pharmaceutical compounds that mimic the effects of calorie restriction without the drastic calorie cuts. Does turmeric have compounds that behave like CRMs? Studies suggest that it does. (iii.42, 48, 66-73)
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