14 Research Backed Benefits of Curcumin for Heart Health

 

Over 200 research studies have investigated the therapeutic efficacy of turmeric and curcumin in various heart conditions. Not only does turmeric protect the heart but it also combats various metabolic conditions that could serve as a risk factor to the development of heart diseases.

Heart disease contributes significantly to the mortality rate across the world today. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death globally.What’s more concerning is that it is not an ‘old age’ disease anymore. The more young and middle-aged population is suffering from heart disease today than ever before in history. Heart disease or cardiovascular diseases are a very broad term for a number of conditions that directly or indirectly affect heart health.

  • Coronary heart disease is the most common condition where the blood vessels connected with the heart are damaged.
  • Atherosclerosis is the build of plaque in blood vessels that obstructs blood flow.
  • Coronary heart disease is the most common condition where the blood vessels connected with the heart are damaged.
  • Heart attack or myocardial infarction is when blood flow to the heart is blocked by clots.
  • Strokes are conditions when blood vessels providing blood to the brain are blocked.
  • Arrhythmia is a condition where the rhythm of the heart is abnormal.

Risk factors that lead to heart diseases involve obesity, lack of exercise, unhealthy diet, use of tobacco, alcohol as well as stress-related factors.

Preventing cardiovascular diseases is the first line of defence which would translate as a change in diet as well as lifestyle. In those suffering from heart conditions medications are provided to treat cholesterol, lower blood pressure, prevent clot formation. In certain conditions, surgical procedures may be required. These procedures not only involve risks but also lead to a heavy burden of costs in healthcare.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there is just only one compound that does all these things: lowers cholesterol, reduces blood pressure, protects heart and blood vessels, helps in weight loss, prevent clot formation, etc. There is one such compound and its name is curcumin.

1. It has a cardioprotective effect

Curcumin has a cardioprotective action- its pharmacological properties help in protecting the heart and also benefits individuals with various heart conditions. These pharmacological properties involve antioxidant action, anti-inflammatory action, antiplatelet activity, etc.

Cardiac hypertrophy is a condition in which the heart muscle thickens and reduces the size of heart chambers. Animal studies show that curcumin can benefit individuals who suffer from cardiac hypertrophy by affecting genetic expressions.

Cardiac arrhythmia is an abnormal rhythm of the heart. A study published in the International Journal of Cardiology, 2009 suggests that curcumin’s anti-inflammatory action and ability to affect calcium homeostasis can benefit people who suffer from arrhythmia and also prevent arrhythmia.

What does this mean?
Curcumin found in turmeric protects heart. Research confirms its role in various heart conditions like congenital heart disease, cardiac arrhythmia, cardiac hypertrophy, ischemia-reperfusion injury, chemotherapy induced cardiotoxicity etc.

2. It has an anti-inflammatory effect

Turmeric and curcumin have natural anti-inflammatory property. In inflammatory conditions like arthritis, curcumin is found to counteract inflammation as effectively as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Curcumin acts on major proteins that regulate the inflammatory process like Nuclear factor kappa B. It reduces the production of inflammatory cytokines and also inhibits their action. It prevents the migration of immune cells to the site of inflammation. This anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin and turmeric is beneficial in various heart conditions like myocarditis, cardiac fibrosis, cardiotoxicity, etc.

What does this mean?
Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory action benefits in heart health and prevention of various heart diseases such as myocarditis, cardiac fibrosis, atherosclerosis etc.

3. It is an antioxidant

One of the prime reasons why antioxidants are touted to be beneficial for health is because they are heart friendly agents.

Apart from improving the body’s antioxidant defense, dietary antioxidants can help in reducing inflammation and lowering cholesterol which, in turn, benefit heart health and can reduce the risk of heart diseases.

Curcumin and curcuminoids are strong antioxidants and their antioxidant activity is comparable to that of vitamin C and E.

Research shows that curcumin’s antioxidant action can protect from obesity-induced cardiac surgery, cardiotoxicity, atherosclerosis, diabetes-related heart conditions, and various other heart conditions.

What does this mean?
Turmeric is rich in antioxidants, primarily curcumin and curcuminoids which help fight and prevent heart diseases.

4. It protects from heart attacks

Curcumin is cardioprotective in nature. Curcumin is found to act on the genes that affect the cardiac repair and cardiac function after a heart attack. Curcumin is found to improve the antioxidant profile, reduce inflammation and also regulates the repair of cells found in heart muscles after a heart attack.

Researchers suggest that dietary curcumin is beneficial for those recovering from a heart attack as it facilitates proper cardiac repair. A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, 2012 examined the effect of curcuminoid therapy in those undergoing specific heart surgery. The idea was to see whether curcumin provides sufficient cardioprotection after the surgery as this surgery is associated with poor outcomes and the current treatment options to protect the heart are limited. The 121 patients enrolled in the study received 4g of curcuminoids or a placebo per day for 3 days prior to surgery and continued till 5 days after the surgery.

It was found that the incidence of heart attack was 30% in the placebo group while it was only 13.1% in curcuminoids group. Improvement in antioxidant and inflammatory status was also observed. (Important note from Oshun Health: Curcumin is a blood thinner and should never be taken before surgery unless under doctor’s supervision.)

What does this mean?
Curcumin offers cardioprotection that can help prevent heart attack. Dietary curcumin is found to be beneficial in promoting heart repair in those who have suffered from heart attack.

5. It reduces the risk of atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is characterized by a build-up of plaque in blood vessels due to elevated levels of cholesterol and fats. This constricts blood vessel thereby affecting blood flow and blood pressure. A study published in Atherosclerosis, 2014 demonstrates that curcumin can attenuate diet-induced atherosclerosis. It ameliorates dyslipidemia (abnormal lipid/fat levels in the blood), reduces expression of inflammatory enzymes, prevents the formation of fatty streaks (precursors to plaque build up in blood vessels) and also protects liver function. However these effects are found to be dose dependent, researchers suggest that a medium dose of curcumin in the diet is more effective than high dose curcumin in atherosclerosis.

Curcumin acts on various genetic expression, liver function as well as raises antioxidant defenses in order to prevent atherosclerosis. A study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry,2014 investigated the effect of curcumin in type 2 diabetes patient who was at high risk of developing atherosclerosis. Curcumin was found to regulate hormones linked with fat metabolism and also to reduced pulse wave velocity (a parameter that indicates the stiffness of arteries or how blocked they are in terms of obstructed blood flow).

Other changes observed were the reduction in body fat, improvement in insulin activity, reduced blood lipid levels etc. Curcumin therapy successfully improved metabolic health thereby preventing atherosclerosis in type 2 diabetes.

What does this mean?
Turmeric contains curcumin which can help prevent atherosclerosis as an antioxidant and by regulating cholesterol levels and liver function. It helps improve overall metabolic health in order to prevent atherosclerosis.

6. It benefits in myocarditis

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties can support individuals with myocarditis. A study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 2013 demonstrated curcumin’s therapeutic efficacy in viral myocarditis. It was found that curcumin brought down levels of inflammatory enzymes by acting on key proteins involved in inflammation.

Mito et.al have proven via an animal study that curcumin counteracts inflammation in autoimmune myocarditis.

Other studies point out that curcumin’s immunomodulatory (ability to regulate immune function) and antioxidant action protect heart function in autoimmune myocarditis. These properties can help in protecting heart function and preventing the progress of myocarditis, thus making curcumin a novel therapy in myocarditis.

What does this mean?
Various pharmacological properties of turmeric and curcumin such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-microbial action benefit in treatment of myocarditis. Curcumin’s immunomodulatory action can help control inflammation in autoimmune myocarditis.

7. It improves vascular function

Vascular function or endothelial function refers to the health of blood vessels. This parameter indicates the balance between constriction and relaxation of blood vessels thereby affecting blood flow and blood pressure. Endothelial dysfunction is when this state is imbalanced. Curcumin is found to protect from endothelial dysfunction caused by drug induced toxicity.

A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2016 demonstrated that supplementation of 200mg curcumin every day for 8 weeks brings about a significant increase in flow-mediated dilation (FMD) – an indicator of improved blood flow and better endothelial function.FMD.

Based on the results of this clinical trial researchers suggested that simple oral supplementation of curcumin can improve cardiovascular health. A really interesting study published in Nutrition Research, 2012 demonstrated that oral curcumin intake is as efficacious as moderate aerobic exercise in improving endothelial function in postmenopausal women.

What does this mean?
Endothelial dysfunction indicates impaired health of blood vessels. Simple curcumin supplementation or dietary turmeric is found to improve vascular function in as little as single consumption as well as over a period of 2-3 months.

8. It may help to counteract thrombosis

Thrombosis or clot formation can present serious health complications. This is where curcumin’s anti-platelet property can help. A study published in Thrombosis Research, 1995 reveals that curcumin has an anti-thrombotic action. Further research reveals that curcumin is as effective as aspirin (an anticoagulant or blood thinner) in treating thrombosis. However, these findings need to be confirmed via human studies.

What does this mean?
Curcumin and turmeric’s anti-platelet action may help maintain anti-coagulant status and benefit in thrombosis.

9. It benefits individuals with cardiac fibrosis

Many heart diseases are associated with fibrosis. Cardiac fibrosis is scarring of the cardiac tissue which leads to the thickening of the tissue. Thickening leads to the reduction of heart chambers thus causing arrhythmia.

A recent study published in Drug Design, Developmental and Therapy, 2016 shows that curcumin has an anti-fibrotic action. It acts via the SIRT1 gene which is famous for its anti-aging action but also plays a significant role in fibrosis.

Curcumin may also benefit individuals with cardiac fibrosis by reducing collagen synthesis and facilitating collagen breakdown. It also inhibits the activity of enzymes that initiate scarring of the cardiac tissue.

In their animal study, Meng et.al proved that curcumin attenuates cardiac fibrosis occurring as a result of hypertension or high blood pressure.

What does this mean?
Curcumin is natural anti-fibrotic agent. Research proves that curcumin can be a novel therapeutic agent in cardiac fibrosis.

10. It can have a therapeutic effect on coronary artery disease

Coronary arteries are those that are directly linked to the heart via the aorta. Coronary artery disease is when plaque builds up in these arteries. This is one of the most common heart diseases.

As mentioned previously, curcumin has an  anti-atherosclerotic effect – it prevents the buildup of plaque.

In a study, patients with coronary artery disease were treated with 500mg curcumin 4 times a day for 2 months. Curcumin treatment brought about a decrease in blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, as well as triglyceride levels. However, no significant change in inflammatory parameters was observed.

What does this mean?
Curcumin’s anti-atherosclerotic activity and anti-platelet property benefits individuals with  coronary artery disease.

11. It may lower blood pressure

Curcumin may lower blood pressure by acting on angiotensin receptors; angiotensin being one of the hormones that regulate blood pressure and kidney function.

Curcumin derivatives have been identified to have vasorelaxant properties – they help blood vessels relax for better blood flow and reduced blood pressure. Nanocurcumin has proven anti-hypertensive property and this activity is comparable to catopril, a prescription drug used to treat blood pressure.

What does this mean?
Turmeric helps to lower blood pressure by acting on various enzymes that regulate and control blood pressure levels. It also helps alleviate hypertension by acting on other aspects of metabolic health that could serve as a risk factor for developing high blood pressure.

12. It lowers cholesterol

Curcumin has an hypocholesterolemic effect in other words it lowers cholesterol levels. There are many mechanisms involved in this activity, for example, curcumin acts on the genes involved in fat metabolism in order to lower cholesterol levels.

A study was conducted to assess the effect of curcumin on lipid levels in patients suffering from acute coronary syndrome. 75 patients participated in this study.

Curcumin was given in the following doses:

• Low dose: 3 times 15mg/day
• Moderate dose: 3 times 30mg/day
• High dose: 3 times 60mg/day

A dose dependent change in lipid and cholesterol level was observed with curcumin therapy. Low dose curcumin brought about a better reduction as well as an increase in HDL cholesterol.

Researchers concluded that low dose curcumin is efficacious in reducing cholesterol- and LDL levels.

What does this mean?
Curcumin helps lower cholesterol levels and this protects heart and vascular health by preventing atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia etc.

13. It benefits in metabolic health

Metabolic health is very intricately linked with heart health. Metabolic syndrome is a broad term for a number of health conditions like high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, obesity, etc.

Turmeric and Nigella sativa seed supplementation for 4 weeks is found to improve all parameters associated with metabolic syndrome.

Results of a clinical trial published in Phytotherapy Research, 2016 demonstrated that curcumin supplementation brought a significant reduction in liver fat and brought about a 78.9% improvement in the disease.

Turmeric and curcumin’s multiple benefits and ability to lower blood sugar levels is found to benefit in diabetes and protect against diabetes-induced cardiac risk.

What does this mean?
Curcumin treats various aspects of metabolic health and helps ameliorate various conditions like metabolic syndrome, diabetes and fatty liver disease which otherwise would pose a risk for heart diseases.

14. It protects the heart against aging

Turmeric and curcumin are excellent natural agents for the prevention of age-related health deficits. (Read Turmeric for Aging)

Khurana et.al have identified curcumin as one of the plant polyphenols that can help protect the aging heart. Santos-Parker et.al demonstrated that high dose curcumin supplementation for 12 weeks improved endothelial function in elderly and middle-aged individuals. Curcumin’s antioxidant activity was responsible for this action.

The combination of endurance exercise and curcumin intake is found to benefit and improve vascular function in postmenopausal women.

What does this mean?
Curcumin’s antioxidant and cardioprotective property benefits and supports heart health in aging.

Precautions

Turmeric in the diet is safe, but large amounts may cause gastric upset. Therefore it’s best to start with small doses and increase gradually. (Read Side effects of Turmeric)

One of the important precautions in relation to cardiovascular diseases is that turmeric has anti-platelet properties proven by animal studies. Though minimal amounts of dietary turmeric should not pose any problem, it is advisable to consult a health practitioner with regards to this, especially when you are already taking blood thinners.

Also, due to the anti-platelet properties of turmeric, it is advised to discontinue turmeric two weeks prior to surgery in order to avoid bleeding risks.

Turmeric supplements should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation.

Curcumin at low doses can cause gall bladder contractions, so if suffering from gallstones or gallbladder obstruction, avoid curcumin supplements. (Read Should you take turmeric if you have gallstones)

Turmeric as a spice is high in oxalates hence it is advisable to limit intake of turmeric as a spice in case of gout or kidney stones. (Read Is Turmeric safe in gout? Does Turmeric cause kidney stone?)

Curcumin in turmeric does interfere in drug metabolism. Therefore it is advised to avoid taking curcumin supplements concomitantly with other medications.

Consult a health practitioner prior to taking turmeric supplements.

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Oshun Health’s Curcumin Boost contains a full extract of bio-active curcuminoids. It contains piperine and makes use of trademarked liposomal absorption technology and fulvic acid to achieve maximum absorption into the cells of the body.

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