Less than a teaspoon a day of turmeric appears to significantly lower the DNA mutating ability of cancer-causing substances.
We are increasingly aware that plant-derived substances, often referred to as chemopreventive agents, substances that help prevent cancer, as opposed to chemotherapy, substances aimed at treating cancer. These substances are not only inexpensive, they are also easy available, and have no or limited toxicity.
Since 1987, the National Cancer Institute has tested more than a thousand different potential agents for chemopreventive activity, of which only a few dozen were moved to clinical trials. Curcumin, present in the Indian spice turmeric, which is used in curry powder, is one such agent that is currently under clinical investigation for cancer chemoprevention.
According to their mode of action, chemopreventive agents are classified into different subgroups: antiproliferatives, antioxidants, or carcinogen-blockers. Curcumin belongs to all three, given its multiple mechanisms of action.
Curcumin appears to play a role helping to block every stage of cancer transformation, proliferation, and invasion, but may even help before carcinogens even get to our cells. A study back in 1987 investigated the effects of curcumin on the mutagenicity, the DNA mutating ability of several toxins, and they found that curcumin was an effective antimutagen against several environmental and standard mutagenic and cancer-causing substances, but this was in vitro, from the Latin meaning "in glass" meaning in a test tube or petri dish. What about in people? Well it's not like you take a group of people and expose them to some nasty carcinogen just so you can give half of them turmeric and see what happens. Well you could wait until some toxic waste spill happens or nuclear accident, but otherwise you're not going to find people who would voluntarily expose themselves to carcinogens, unless… smokers! We can just test it on smokers. They've got carcinogens coursing through their veins every day.
If you take some smokers, and have them pee on some bacteria, this is the number of DNA mutations that arise. Remember, all life is encoded by DNA, whether bacteria, banana, or bunnyrabbit. It's easier though, when measuring urinary mutagens, to just pee on some bacteria.
The urine of nonsmokers caused far fewer DNA mutations. Makes sense, they have fewer chemicals running through their system. And if you have them eat some turmeric for a month, nothing really happens. But what if you do the same for smokers? Fifteen days later they're down to here, and 30 days down to here. And this was not some concentrated curcumin supplement, but just plain turmeric like you'd buy at the store, and less than a teaspoon a day, indicating that dietary turmeric is an effective anti-mutagen. You'll note though, on this graph, that there's an even more effective anti-mutagen, not smoking. Even eating turmeric for a month, the DNA-damaging power of smoker pee exceeded that of nonsmokers.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.
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This is second of a three-part video series on turmeric curcumin and its relationship to cancer. To find out more, check out the prequel Back to Our Roots: Curry and Cancer and the last video in the series Turmeric Curcumin Reprogramming Cancer Cell Death.
Smokers are common research subjects for carcinogen studies. For example, see what happens to carcinogen levels when those eating processed meat start eating vegetarian in my video Heterocyclic Amines in Eggs, Cheese, and Creatine?
Other foods that may protect DNA include kiwifruit (Kiwifruit and DNA Repair), cruciferous vegetables (DNA Protection from Broccoli), leafy vegetables (Eating Green to Prevent Cancer), garlic (Cancer, Interrupted: Garlic & Flavonoids), green tea (Cancer, Interrupted: Green Tea (but which is better? Antimutagenic Activity of Green Versus White Tea), and plants in general (Repairing DNA Damage).
More information on cancer prevention, treatment, and reversal can be found in my two latest annual presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day: Combating Common Diseases.
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