Image Credit: Decius & Josep Curto / 123rf. Image has been modified.

How Turmeric Can Help Combat the Effects of Sitting

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. Doing lots of sitting may double our risk of diabetes and heart disease while significantly shortening 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?  I examine this in Turmeric Cucumin vs. Exercise for Artery Function.

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’s “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 the blood flowing past. That flow is what maintains the stability and integrity of the inner lining of our arteries. Without that constant tugging flow, it may help set us up for heart disease.

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 can play a role in endothelial 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, the better. Preliminary evidence from observational and interventional studies suggests 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 something like taking out the trash during commercials may be beneficial.

I’ve talked about the effects of different diets on endothelial function (See Eggs and Arterial FunctionWalnuts and Arterial Function, Vinegar and Artery Function, and Dark Chocolate and Artery Function) and how certain foods in particular—nuts and green tea—are beneficial for endothelial health. 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 appears to work even better than either alone.

I’m on my third treadmill desk motor, after burning out two. The 2nd one lasted 7,000 miles, though. Could have walked back and forth across the country! I do about 17 miles a day. More on treadmill desks in Standing Up for Your Health.

Amazing how much beneficial just simple walking can be: Longer Life Within Walking Distance

More exercise versus diet comparisons in Is it the Diet, the Exercise, or Both? and How Much Exercise to Sustain Weight Loss.

For more on turmeric and exercise see Heart of Gold: Turmeric vs Exercise

Who Shouldn’t Consume Curcumin or Turmeric? See the video! :)

In health,

Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations—2013: Uprooting the Leading Causes of DeathMore Than an Apple a Day2014: From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food, 2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet, and my latest, 2016: How Not To Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers.

Discuss

Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


34 responses to “How Turmeric Can Help Combat the Effects of Sitting

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  1. Is cur curcumin taken instead of tumeric? I see tumeric at the grocery store in the bulk spice section, but not sure if i have ever seen curcumin. I had always thought cur cumin was a supplement that had to be extracted from tumeric, and therefore avoided this product. Anyone?

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      Curcumin is the main active ingredient in the spice turmeric. Curcumin is sold as a supplement whereas turmeric can be found as a whole spice at your grocery store, or put into capsules , similar to curcumin, at your local vitamin store. Turmeric’s benefits have mainly been studied using the curcumin component (which is much more potent when you take it on its own, vs. the whole turmeric spice which only has a small amount). For general health, adding turmeric to your diet is a great choice, however, if you are specifically looking for other health benefits, supplementing with a quality curcumin supplement is best.

      1. Thanks. I wonder about the chemical process that must occur to extract the curcumin from the tumeric. So far it doesn’t seem so natural to me, a man made product in some factory, this curcumin so many folks are likely taking.

          1. Thanks. From what I have been reading elsewhere, it seems a lot of people think that the tumeric needs to be “cooked” or exposed to heat in order for us to be able to break down and utilize the actual benefits of tumeric. I wonder if this is true.

              1. Dr. Belius, I often read that some supplements should be consumed with healthy fats. Does that mean shortly after having a healthy fat you should take the supplement etc? Does eating a few walnuts meet that requirement? Or perhaps some coconut oil in a drink? I add 1/2 tsp turmeric to a smoothie if I add some coconut oil or ground flax seeds to the smoothie,does that work?

            1. Some people suggest drinking turmeric milk, also called ‘golden milk’: 1 C almond milk, 1/2 t turmeric, 1 t cinnamon, 1/4 t ginger, 1 t honey, warm up gently on stove or in microwave. I use a sweetener (stevia, Swerve, or glycine) instead of honey, soy milk instead of almond (and probably only 5 or 6 oz).

              1. Interesting, i would have thought that the cooke- tumeric also have had anti-inflammatory effect, not just in raw form.

                i wonder if this is why so many tout raw foods instead of cooked, even raw vegan foods over cooked vegan.

                1. Probably because of our genetic links with the primates and their raw diet. I believe it was actually our unique ability to harness fire however, that allowed us to evolve and changed our jaws and mouths so much. Cooking concentrates calories and some nutrients, making the job of chewing and eating less of a chore. There are benefits to both raw and cooked food, each with unique nutrients to offer, so important to get a bit of both. The important thing is that you start with whole real food, and not processed.

        1. Yes, this is a good point. However, it depends the reason you are taking the spice. For a therapeutic result (similar to some prescriptions) curcumin is the supplement of choice. Always by the best quality you can afford when it comes to products that are extracted from their original state.

          1. Yes, as you mention it needs to be consumed with healthy fats for absorption, but does it also need to be cooked or heated with these fats for absorption, or could it simply be eaten with some raw walnuts or raw pecans?

            1. Either in a video or in his book Dr. Greger says that raw turmeric and cooked turmeric have some benefits that are complementary, so eating both is the right thing to do, but with food so there’s fat to facilitate absorption. (I don’t know if this is general, but I can’t eat turmeric to an empty stomach; it causes tummy trouble.)

            2. The benefits to endothelial function showed in the Japanese studies was not using whole turmeric or even regular Curcumin supplements. If you go and read the whole study, you will see that they were using a new cutting-edge curcumin supplement called Theracurmin (note, this is not a BRAND name, it’s the form. Different brands sell this form of curcumin). They say its nanoparticle form makes it highly water soluble and therefore highly absorbable — 27 times more so than regular curcumin. (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2153215)

              While I think turmeric is a great spice to incorporte into your daily diet, I believe this article is misleading in promoting turmeric for these specific benefits when it remains to be shown that turmeric can achieve these same results. An isolated and highly concentrated and absorbable active ingredient from of a whole food cannot be expected to act in the same way as the whole food itself. Consume turmeric for its overall health-giving properties, but moderate your expectations.

      2. Personally, from experience I’ll stick to the whole food option. The profit motivated pharmaceutical approach of concentrating and isolating a selected component too often misses out on the beneficial co-nutrients that make natural foods so effective, or often even cause negative actions.

    1. If that’s true, I second that. What a great guy! He has made a profoundly positive impact on my life. As well as many others I’m sure. The first thing I look every day on the internet is NF.

      And 17 miles a day. WOW! I’m sure we’ll have Dr. G. around for many, many more years. Keep it coming Dr. G.!

        1. Maybe it’s a good thing. He has to rest sometime. I’ve never seen anybody that puts out as much work as him. On top of walking 17 miles a day.

    1. I’ve been curious about this same thing! This is my go-to method for getting turmeric in daily. I mix 1/4-1/2 tsp with lemon-ginger tea (very tasty!) and add some black pepper (for better absorption).
      I’d like to know if this is good for absorption though.

  2. Be aware that the Japanese study that shows equal benefit from exercise and “turmeric” was using a very high dosage of Theracurmin — a specific, highly absorbable patented form of Curcumin. This supplement has been shown to be 27 times more absorbable than regular Curcumin supplements. It is highly doubtful that turmeric itself can provide these benefits — but of course, turmeric may have other benefits of its own.

  3. “Increased blood flow promotes a healthy endothelium.”

    During sleep, blood circulation decreases. But sleeping too much or too little is bad

  4. How can the authors of the paper not specifify the amount of frequency of dose? I read the abstract that is linked, it says “The curcumin group ingested curcumin orally for 8 weeks.”. Any idea on what dose/frequency was used?

    1. Hi Patrick, I am one of the group’s moderators. I agree it is confusing but since it is just the abstract it is hard to know how much they used for the study. I recommend you refer to Dr. Greger’s daily dozen that he refers to today’s 10/26/2016 video. In there he says he takes 1/4 tsp of turmeric per day. I typically will put this in my smoothie in the morning and it’s done for the day. Hope this helps.

  5. I am looking for more details on the best way to use raw turmeric. Some say heat, others say heat destroys some of the benefit. I’m now going for a few minutes at around 180 degrees. (in my oatmeal as it simmers). I found the black pepper reference, not much needed (actually tastes good in oatmeal and berries). I’m still looking for information on how much fat (nuts) are needed, and does it need to be blended with the nuts, or is just eating it with nuts sufficient. I’m going with about 2x in weight nuts to turmeric and enough water to make a usable consistency. Any suggestions on improved methods would be appreciated.

    1. I seem to remember that Dr. G put 1/4 tsp/day whole turmeric spice in his food (and probably with a little black pepper). So that’s not very much. I also remember from the walnut video that he recommended an ounce of walnuts a couple times per week.
      I so wish I liked oatmeal – don’t dislike it, but just don’t like it really either. So for breakfast I make soba noodles in vegg broth with whatever green vegg I have in the fridge. I stick my turmeric in that and you can’t even tell its there. For anyone who is interested, here’s the basic recipe: vegg broth from a quart container, mushrooms, 1 kefir lime leaf (asian store), 1 round galangal root (asian store), chopped ginger root, tsp vinegar, 1/2 tsp sugar (to balance), enough water to allow the soba noodles to cook (3-4 mins or so), whatever vegg on hand. Adjust flavorings with some tamari, squish fresh lime, chopped green onion or cilantro or whatever you like. Good hot bowl of breakfast noodles with vegetables ready in 10 minutes. And, oh ya, throw the turmeric in there at some point.

  6. Mix turmeric powder with peanut butter 1 to 1 – Surprisingly Tasty!
    Optional (recommended) additions – honey and/or coconut oil – a real treat! I prefer all three.
    It’s also a great way to take care of “sweet tooth cravings”.

  7. I recently read that Consumer Labs said not to consume turmeric spice, even organic, because of the amount of filth present (insect parts, etc). Wouldn’t that be true for any spice though? Nevertheless, I still put turmeric in my smoothie.

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