Turmeric might be relatively new in the Western world, but it’s been used medicinally for almost 4,000 years. Also known as “liquid gold,” turmeric is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties and beauty uses. However, its powers don’t stop there – you might also eat turmeric for weight loss.
If you’re already eating a healthy diet and hitting your workout goals, you might be looking for a little extra help with weight loss – whether you want to burn belly fat or get overall body fat reduction. Whatever the case, turmeric might be able to help – here’s what you need to know.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric, which also goes by “the golden spice” for its vibrant yellow-orange hue, is a spice that is often found in Indian and Asian cuisine. In fact, it was probably in the last curry dish you ate! As a plant, turmeric has yellow flowers with long green leaves. Beneath the ground, it grows an expansive network of tuberous roots that can extend for several feet in length. It’s these tubers that we harvest and eat.
Turmeric can be peeled and eaten fresh. It’s often added to wellness shots or stews in this form. However, you’ll most often find turmeric in its dried state, ground down to a powder, like other spices.
Curcumin: Turmeric’s Superpower
To understand how turmeric can help with weight loss, we must first understand curcumin – the bioactive polyphenol component found in turmeric. Curcumin is the reason turmeric’s yellow color is so rich and the source of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
While inflammation in the body is natural, as it plays a role in repairing damage and fighting off colds, too much inflammation is linked to serious health conditions. Specifically, chronic, low-level inflammation is linked to conditions like metabolic syndrome, heart disease, cancer, and more.
Protecting yourself from chronic inflammation is key. While there are several ways to do this, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory factor is a great place to start. Plus, the compound is a potent antioxidant, which can neutralize damaging free radicals.
Turmeric and Weight Loss
Current research suggests that using turmeric for weight loss can be quite beneficial. Studies have been done on test tubes, animals, and humans. Test tube studies show that curcumin can suppress inflammatory markers that are typically elevated in people with obesity, suggesting that turmeric could potentially help lower inflammation for people who are overweight.
In animal studies, turmeric has been shown to reduce fat tissue growth, promote weight loss, limit wait regain, and even enhance sensitivity to insulin. Since some obese individuals struggle with insulin resistance, this could be a significant finding.
Human studies show more positive signs that using turmeric for weight loss could be worth it. In one study, 44 people who previously struggled with weight loss took turmeric supplements with piperine, which may improve curcumin absorption. After 30 days, participants reported significant weight loss, as well as reductions in waist and hip circumference and body mass index (BMI).
Inflammation and Weight Loss
It’s likely that curcumin is so helpful for weight loss because of its anti-inflammatory properties. When someone is obese, they have increased levels of inflammatory cytokines and decreased levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines.
To make matters worse, obesity has also been shown to disrupt the ratio of leptin and adiponectin. Leptin is responsible for regulating your appetite and fat storage, while adiponectin protects against insulin resistance and manages glucose metabolism. These hormones are secreted by adipose tissue.
For people who are obese, the disruption in hormones causes adipose tissue dysfunction, which then causes more low-grade inflammation. That puts people at higher risk for chronic diseases, including cardiometabolic disease.
Put simply, obesity causes imbalanced hormones, which can increase your appetite, make it harder to metabolize nutrients properly, and cause more inflammation. This creates a kind of negative cycle, making it much harder to lose weight.
Key Benefits of Turmeric Supplements
Apart from using turmeric for weight loss, supplementing turmeric and curcumin can have a whole host of benefits.
The rates of chronic disease across the world are increasing. There are two types of inflammation, acute and chronic. Chronic systemic inflammation is a root cause of many chronic diseases. Chronic inflammation can signal chronic issues, like metabolic conditions, and be difficult to detect.
According to Dr. Kara Fitzgerald, “Most people don’t realize that inflammation is at the root of nearly every chronic disease, and the symptoms that go along with them. Things like joint and muscle pain, brain fog, fatigue, depression, anxiety, weight gain, and more are all rooted in inflammation.”
Human studies and test-tube studies have proven that curcumin can help reduce the biomarkers for inflammation. By addressing chronic inflammation in your body, you’re not only alleviating a symptom, but you’re also attempting to reverse a root cause of chronic disease and move your body towards health and homeostasis.
An Alternative to NSAIDs
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, like aspirin, used to be recommended by doctors for long-term, regular use. However, in the last few years, consistent use of NSAIDs has been discouraged due to negative side effects.
Turmeric has been shown to be as effective as NSAIDS but with fewer side effects. The results of a study published in BMC showed that turmeric was just as effective as NSAID diclofenac in relieving arthritis symptoms. “94% of those taking curcumin and 97% of those taking diclofenac reported at least 50% improvement. People reported fewer side effects with curcumin. For example, none of the study subjects taking curcumin needed treatment for stomach trouble, but 28% of those taking diclofenac needed treatment.” Other studies comparing the effects of ibuprofen to turmeric on knee pain have found similar results.
Improve Metabolic Syndrome
When turmeric is used as a consistent supplement for therapeutic purposes, it can make a positive impact on patients with metabolic syndrome. “Metabolic syndrome (MetS), obesity, and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) are rapidly increasing in prevalence globally, possibly related to poor lifestyle habits” (Akbari, Lankarani et al.).
Poor lifestyle and diet habits have our country locked in an obesity and diabetes epidemic. It is no surprise that lifestyle and diet changes such as incorporating whole foods and powerful herbs, spices, and supplements can help reverse this problem for us.
“Overall, we have found that curcumin intake among patients with metabolic syndrome and related disorders was correlated with significant reductions in BMI, weight, WC, and leptin, and a significant increase in adiponectin levels” (Akbari, Lankarani et al.).
In another PubMed article reviewing research on curcumin, it was concluded that it reduces oxidative stress and inflammatory status in people with metabolic syndrome and arthritis. Turmeric shows success in reducing inflammation in people with a variety of inflammatory conditions.
Your body has a built-in detoxification system – the liver. It cleans your blood of toxins on a daily basis. However, the liver can become overburdened when we take over-the-counter medications or when we drink in excess.
Turmeric has a natural cleansing capability. When consistently taken, turmeric can aid the liver in flushing out any built-up toxins. Plus, the liver plays a key role in metabolizing fats, so when you clear the liver of toxin build-up, it’s better able to help get rid of fats and potentially aid in weight loss.
Turmeric also has great external beauty effects. It can be difficult to work with in powder form due to its ability to stain everything, but it is an incredible ingredient for facial masks. People notice an improvement in skin appearance immediately after. However, after a turmeric facial, your face will stain your pillowcase that night. The strength and richness of turmeric’s color and its ability to stain everything is a testament to its antioxidant content.
Is Turmeric Safe for All?
Turmeric is an effective supplement for weight loss – however, there are some potential adverse effects to be aware of. In short-term human studies, taking up to eight grams of curcumin each day showed no health risks. There are no long-term studies to determine whether it’s safe to continue this regimen over time.
There is also evidence that large doses can cause adverse effects, like nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, skin rash, or allergic reactions. You should avoid turmeric supplements if you have diabetes, bleeding disorders, iron deficiency, or kidney stones, as they can react negatively with certain medications and conditions. There is also not enough research as to the effects of turmeric on pregnant and breastfeeding women, so it’s best to avoid it altogether if you fall into this category.
With that said, turmeric has been used for thousands of years and is a common cooking spice. Consuming it according to package directions, especially after consulting your doctor, should be safe for most.
Turmeric Supplements and Proper Curcumin Supplementation
When it comes to how to use turmeric and effectively reap its benefits, go for quality and consider its bioavailability. It is important to pair turmeric with black pepper for absorption, since the bioavailability of turmeric increases 2000% when paired with some black pepper. Adding fat can also help as it is fat-soluble. Choosing to consume turmeric without pairing it with black pepper isn’t likely worth your time since you won’t absorb much.
Turmeric generally comes in powder, pill, or liquid form. Pill and liquid form are best for supplementation, medicinal purposes, and as an NSAID replacement. The powder form is best for beauty or culinary uses. Using the powder form in your cooking is a great option, but it likely wouldn’t have the same medicinal effects as consistent supplementation.
Turmeric for weight loss is best in pill or liquid form, as it makes it easier to be consistent with taking it, and you can choose a company that has already done the work of making it more bioavailable. The most effective supplement is one you take consistently!
We like APEX because of its quality and bioavailability. It not only tastes good, but they’ve enhanced the bioavailability of the curcumin with micronized emulsification delivery and black pepper extract. If you try it out, you might consider taking 500-1000 mg a day consistently for a few weeks. This is how many of the turmeric vs. NSAID studies are run, so it may be necessary in order to reap the anti-inflammatory medicinal benefits from the turmeric.
As current research shows, taking turmeric for weight loss can be incredibly helpful for obese and overweight individuals. Not only can it help you lose weight, but it’s also incredible for reducing inflammation, boosting the immune system, and providing many more health benefits.
If you’re struggling on your weight loss journey, seeing a certified medical professional could be the best next step. At the Center for Wellbeing, we offer weight loss programs, including health coaching, non-surgical joint pain solutions, and allergy testing/treatment. Along your journey, you gain a deeper understanding of nutrition and weight loss as well as tactics to reduce inflammation. Reach out today if you’re ready to make self-care a priority.