Researchers at the Toronto General Hospital have discovered that eating curcumin, a natural ingredient in the spice turmeric, may dramatically reduce the chance of developing heart failure. I've written about curcumin on the forum here in the past (use the search function in the upper left corner of the site).
In this study, entitled “Curcumin prevents and reverses murine cardiac hypertrophy,” published in the February edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Canadian researchers found when the herb is given orally to a variety of mouse models with enlarged hearts (hypertrophy), it can prevent and reverse the condition, while restoring heart function and reducing scar formation.
The herb has been used in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine to reduce scar formation, and the healing properties of turmeric have been well known in these cultures for some time. The authors state that when there is a cut or a bruise, the home remedy in these cultures is to reach for turmeric powder because it can help to heal without leaving a bad scar.
Unlike most natural compounds whose effects are minimal, curcumin works directly in the cell nucleus by preventing abnormal unraveling of the chromosome under stress, and preventing excessive abnormal protein production.
“Curcumin’s ability to shut off one of the major switches right at the chromosome source where the enlargement and scarring genes are being turned on is impressive,” says Dr. Peter Liu, cardiologist in the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and Scientific Director at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health. However Dr. Liu cautions that moderation is important, “the beneficial effects of curcumin are not strengthened by eating more of it.”
And he also cautions about taking this approach without the knowledge of your doctor."We don’t recommend that patients take curcumin routinely. You are better off to take action today by lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol, exercising and healthy eating,” says Dr. Liu. After reading about this new science, I wondered why the author would insert this puzzling "we don't recommend" statement into the equation. (I can only assume it is doctor-speak for "don't start taking our advice because we might get sued by someone." That's the only explanation I can put to such a wacky comment at the close of an article raving about curcumin).
I know that there are indeed some potential drug interactions with curcumin, so the advice to speak to a doctor first is probably valid for anyone on prescription medicines.
Dr. Liu, who holds the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Polo Chair Professor in Medicine and Physiology at the University of Toronto, does admit in the article that since curcumin is a naturally occurring compound that is readily available at a low cost, it could be considered a safe and effective future means of preventing heart failure.