Transcript: Spicing Up DNA Protection
This landmark study comparing the ability of different spices to suppress inflammation also compared their ability to protect DNA. Cloves, ginger, rosemary, and turmeric were able to significantly stifle the inflammatory response.
If you take a tissue sample from some random person about 7% of their cells may show evidence of DNA damage, actual breaks in the strands of their DNA. And if you blast those cells with free radicals you can bring that number up to 10%. But, if the person has been eating ginger for a week, that drops to just 8 percent. This is from a tissue sample taken from someone who hadn't been eating any herbs or spices. As a result, their cells were vulnerable to DNA damage from oxidative stress. But just including ginger in our diet may cut that damage 25%, and same with rosemary. But check out turmeric. DNA damage cut in half. And again this is not just mixing turmeric with cells in some petri dish. This is comparing what happens when you expose the cells of spice eaters versus the cells of non-spice eaters to free radicals and just sit back and count DNA fracture rates.
And not only did the turmeric work significantly better, but at a significantly smaller dose. This is comparing about one and a third teaspoons a day of ginger or rosemary to practically just a pinch of turmeric—about an eighth of a teaspoon a day. That's how powerful the stuff is. So I encourage everyone to cook with this wonderful spice. Tastes great, and may protect every cell in our body with or with out the added stress. If you just count DNA breaks in people's cells before and after a week of spices without the free radical blast, no significant intrinsic protection in the ginger or rosemary groups, but the turmeric group still appeared to reduce DNA damage by half.
This may be because curcumin is not just itself an antioxidant, but boosts the activity of our own antioxidant enzymes. Catalase is one of the most active enzymes in the body. Each one can detoxify millions of free radicals—per second. And if you consume the equivalent of about three quarters of teaspoon of turmeric a day, the activity of this enzyme in your bloodstream gets boosted 75%!
Now why do I suggest cooking with it rather than just like throwing it in a smoothie? Well this effect was found specifically for heat-treated turmeric. Because in practice, many herbs and spices are only consumed after cooking, they tested both turmeric and oregano in both raw and quote unquote cooked forms, and in terms of DNA damage, the results from raw turmeric did not reach statistical significance, though the opposite was found for the anti-inflammatory effects. So maybe we should eat it both ways.
Practical recommendations for obtaining curcumin in the diet might be to add turmeric to sweet dishes containing cinnamon and ginger, I add it to my pumpkin pie smoothies, which is otherwise just a can of pumpkin, frozen cranberries, pitted dates, pumpkin pie spice and some nondairy milk. And cook with curry powder, or turmeric itself. They also suggest something called turmeric milk, which is evidently a traditional Indian elixir made with milk, turmeric powder, and sugar. I'd suggest substituting a healthier sweetener and a healthier milk. Soy milk, for example, might have a double benefit. If you're taking the turmeric to combat inflammation, compared to dairy protein, osteoarthritis sufferers randomized to soy protein ended up with significantly improved joint range of motion.
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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