Spicing Up DNA Protection

Spicing Up DNA Protection
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The DNA of those cooking with spices such as ginger, rosemary, and turmeric appears less susceptible to breakage.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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. But, what about DNA protection?

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 had been eating ginger for a week, that drops to just 8%. This is from a tissue sample taken from someone who hadn’t been eating any herbs and spices. And, 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. 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 our cells in our body— with or without 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, we see 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 of the body. Each one can detoxify millions of free radicals—per second. And, if you consume the equivalent of about three-quarters of a teaspoon of turmeric a day, the activity of this enzyme in our 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 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 are otherwise just a can of pumpkin, frozen cranberries, pitted dates, pumpkin pie spice, and some nondairy milk. And also, 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to EssjayNZPhotoverulamMeerkatbabyAnthro_ayaMeganmillscrmTheimpulsivebuydoegoxCarol Mitchell and riy via Flickr; Ayacop via Wikimedia Commons; and Saxluvr via clker.com. Thanks to Ellen Reid for her image-finding expertise, and Jeff Thomas for his Keynote help.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

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. But, what about DNA protection?

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 had been eating ginger for a week, that drops to just 8%. This is from a tissue sample taken from someone who hadn’t been eating any herbs and spices. And, 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. 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 our cells in our body— with or without 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, we see 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 of the body. Each one can detoxify millions of free radicals—per second. And, if you consume the equivalent of about three-quarters of a teaspoon of turmeric a day, the activity of this enzyme in our 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 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 are otherwise just a can of pumpkin, frozen cranberries, pitted dates, pumpkin pie spice, and some nondairy milk. And also, 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to EssjayNZPhotoverulamMeerkatbabyAnthro_ayaMeganmillscrmTheimpulsivebuydoegoxCarol Mitchell and riy via Flickr; Ayacop via Wikimedia Commons; and Saxluvr via clker.com. Thanks to Ellen Reid for her image-finding expertise, and Jeff Thomas for his Keynote help.

Doctor's Note

What landmark study? You may have missed the first half. See my previous video, Which Spices Fight Inflammation? 

For some other extraordinary benefits of spices, see:

There are a few herb and spice caveats. See, for example:

Also, too much turmeric may not be a good idea for those at risk for kidney stones (see Oxalates in Cinnamon).

And feel free to check out my Healthy Pumpkin Pie recipe for one of the many ways to spice up your diet.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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