Transcript: Turmeric Curcumin vs. Exercise for Artery Function
The average American spends most of their waking life sitting down, which is associated with an increased risk of death even among people who go to the gym after work and exercise regularly.
“Sedentary” comes from the Latin word meaning "to sit", but just because you’re sitting doesn’t mean you’re sedentary. They aren’t sedentary, she isn’t sedentary; we’re talking about not just sitting, but sitting without doing much of anything. And doing lots of that may double our risk of diabetes and heart disease and significantly shorten our lifespan, even at the highest levels of physical activity. Sitting six or more hours a day may increase mortality rates even among those running or swimming an hour a day every day–seven days a week. Why though?
One factor may be endothelial dysfunction, the inability of the inner lining of our blood vessels to relax our arteries normally in response to blood flow. Just like our muscles atrophy if we don’t use them, when it comes to arterial function it may be use it or lose it as well. Increased blood flow promotes a healthy endothelium. The cells lining our arteries can actually sense the sheer force of blood flowing past. That flow is what maintains the stability and integrity of the inner lining of our arteries. Without that constant tugging flow, we may set ourselves up for heart disease.
What if sitting all day is part of our job, though? Well I’ve talked about using a standing or walking treadmill desk. We actually have some data now, suggesting that treadmill desks may improve the health of office workers without affecting work performance, and walking may be preferable to standing, in terms of clearing fat from our bloodstream, which may also play a role in arterial dysfunction.
What if our office can’t accommodate a standing or walking desk? Within an hour of sitting, blood starts pooling and blood flow starts to stagnate, so the more we can take breaks, where we take a stand for our health, join the wellness uprising, the better. Preliminary evidence from observational studies and interventional studies suggest that regular interruptions in sitting time can be beneficial. And it doesn’t have to be long. Breaks could be as short as one minute, and not necessarily entail "exercise," just like taking out the trash during commercials or something may be beneficial.
What if we have a job where we’re sitting down and can’t take frequent breaks, like truck driving? Is there any way to improve our endothelial function sitting on our butts? Well, first we need to get rid of our butts. Smoking a single cigarette can significantly impair endothelial function. Lifestyle modification is a desirable way to prevent or treat endothelial dysfunction without the need for drugs.
I’ve talked about the effects of different kinds of foods on endothelial function, and certain foods in particular–nuts and green tea. Well, recently, researchers tried out curcumin, the yellow pigment in the spice turmeric.
They showed that regular ingestion of curcumin, or up to an hour a day of aerobic exercise training, significantly improved endothelial function. And the magnitude of improvement in endothelial function was the same. So does that mean we can just be a couch potato as long as we eat curried potatoes? No, the combination of curcumin and exercise both may work even better than either alone.
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 Katie Schloer.
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