Those who keep up with weight loss fads may know that turmeric is a common ingredient in weight loss products and that turmeric tea is a favorite with weight watchers. This golden spice from the East has anti-inflammatory properties and can prevent and manage a number of conditions like diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and cancer, thanks to curcumin.1 But is turmeric truly good for weight loss? Let’s find out.
The primary reason for weight gain is consumption of more calories than are burnt off. The excess calories are stored in the body as fat, whether as visceral fat around vital organs or as subcutaneous fat under the skin. Weight gain may be due to physical inactivity or due to other health conditions like hypothyroidism, stress, depression, chronic inflammation, and PCOS.2 Besides fighting obesity directly through multiple mechanisms, turmeric can also fight against all these risk factors.
1. Regulates Fat Metabolism
In animal studies, at very high doses, curcumin has been found to reduce fat accumulation in the body, especially the visceral fat or the fat around the vital organs in the body. However, at this dose, it also increased oxidative stress in the liver.5
Curcumin prevents the differentiation of preadipocytes into adipocytes. Simply put, it prevents the formation of mature fat cells, in the early stages in the cell cycle, by modulating certain cell signals.
In mature fat cells, on the other hand, curcumin inhibits the secretion of inflammatory chemicals called adipokines and increases the expression of adiponectin, an anti-inflammatory chemical. It also raises the antioxidant defense in cells and activates an enzyme called AMPK that enhances fat burning.6 Curcumin also inhibits angiogenesis or the formation of new blood vessels that are necessary for the growth of fat tissues.7
Another novel way in which curcumin enhances fat burning is by transforming white fat into brown fat by elevating the levels of neurotransmitter norepinephrine.8 White fat is the type that is stored under your skin, sometimes even around your vital organs, and leads to obesity, while brown fat helps in burning fat and glucose into energy. So the more brown fat, the lower your chances of gaining weight.9 10 11 12
2. Fights Chronic Inflammation
Curcumin is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it a good weight loss remedy. Inflammation and obesity feed off each other. Chronic inflammation in the body, whether due to a long-standing infection, injury, poor immunity, or a faulty diet, can mess with your hormones and lead to metabolic disorders including obesity. Obesity, on the other hand can also trigger chronic low-grade inflammation in the body. The visceral fat cells become inflamed as they create more free radicals (reactive oxygen species) and this in turn leads to the release of more inflammatory mediators.
Turmeric can strike the problem at its root by enhancing the levels of antioxidants that fight free radicals. Curcumin inhibits inflammatory pathways in the body as well. It also prevents and repairs damages caused by obesity to other organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys.13 14
3. May Prevent Weight Gain Due To Hypothyroidism
Turmeric is often recommended in the diet for hypothyroidism as an anti-inflammatory food and may help in weight loss. Hypothyroidism is a chronic lack of thyroid hormones which regulate metabolism in your body. This condition slows down the metabolism and reduces the rate of fat burning, making you gain weight rapidly. A study has found that when hypothyroid rats were given turmeric extract, vitamin C, or vitamin E, their thyroid weight and total cholesterol levels dropped and circulating thyroid hormones increased. While the study did not directly measure loss of body weight, the results indicate a better-functioning thyroid gland and an improved metabolism, which has the potential to trigger weight loss.15
4. Fights Metabolic Syndrome
In most cases, an obese person also has metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by high amounts of visceral fat, triglycerides, increased blood pressure and plasma glucose, insulin resistance, and reduced HDL cholesterol.16 Often, patients of metabolic syndrome do not lose weight despite diet control or exercising. In one study on such obese individuals with metabolic syndrome, curcumin increased weight loss and reduced body fat, waist and hip circumference, and BMI more effectively than just dietary and lifestyle interventions.17 This could again be attributed to turmeric’s anti-inflammatory property and its ability to regulate a diverse range of functions in the body.
Obesity is a common side effect of insulin resistance, a condition where cells become unresponsive to insulin, eventually leading to excess insulin in the blood. High levels of insulin enhance fat storage. This is why type 2 diabetics and prediabetics often have weight issues. Turmeric is good for diabetics and prediabetics and can help them in weight loss by reducing insulin resistance and enhancing glucose uptake.
5. Can Lower Stress, A Cause Of Weight Gain
You may also pack in the pounds when under chronic stress or suffering from anxiety and depression due to high amounts of cortisol in the body. Cortisol enhances weight gain in a number of ways, including chronic inflammation. In animal studies, curcumin has been found to lower cortisol levels and increase the secretion of mood-lifting hormones like serotonin and dopamine which fight the ill effects of cortisol.20 21 With a more relaxed mind, you would also not give in to stress eating.
6. Can Help With PCOS-Related Weight Gain
PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome is a hormonal disorder that can make women gain weight rapidly. Not just that, weight loss becomes difficult when one has PCOS. But anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric can help fight the inflammation associated with the condition and lead to significant weight loss. In an animal study, curcumin reduced inflammatory markers, abdominal fat, and body weight in a dose-dependent manner in rats with PCOS.22 23 While similar tests have not been conducted on human participants, go ahead and have more anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric, ginger, and berries.
Have turmeric daily to get a host of other health benefits. You may add it to your meals as a spice or use it to make turmeric tea or milk, keeping the consumption limited to 3 g a day. That said, turmeric alone cannot help you lose weight. Consume it combined with other anti-inflammatory foods, measured calorie intake, and exercise to lose weight in a healthful and sustained manner. While curcumin supplements are widely available, do not consume them without a doctor’s go-ahead.
|↑1||Aggarwal, Bharat B., Chitra Sundaram, Nikita Malani, and Haruyo Ichikawa. “Curcumin: the Indian solid gold.” In The molecular targets and therapeutic uses of curcumin in health and disease, pp. 1-75. Springer US, 2007.|
|↑2||Nine medical reasons for putting on weight. NHS Choices.|
|↑3||Alappat, Lini, and Atif B. Awad. “Curcumin and obesity: evidence and mechanisms.” Nutrition reviews 68, no. 12 (2010): 729-738.|
|↑4||Koithan, Mary, and Kathryn Niemeyer. “Using Herbal Remedies to Maintain Optimal Weight.” The journal for nurse practitioners: JNP6, no. 2 (2010): 153.|
|↑5||Lee, Chi-Ho, Ah-Young Kim, Chang-Won Pyun, Michihiro Fukushima, and Kyu-Ho Han. “Turmeric (Curcuma longa) whole powder reduces accumulation of visceral fat mass and increases hepatic oxidative stress in rats fed a high-fat diet.” Food Science and Biotechnology 23, no. 1 (2014): 261-267.|
|↑6||Bradford, Peter G. “Curcumin and obesity.” Biofactors 39, no. 1 (2013): 78-87.|
|↑7||Ejaz, Asma, Dayong Wu, Paul Kwan, and Mohsen Meydani. “Curcumin inhibits adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 adipocytes and angiogenesis and obesity in C57/BL mice.” The Journal of nutrition 139, no. 5 (2009): 919-925.|
|↑8||Wang, Shan, Xiuchao Wang, Zichen Ye, Chengming Xu, Ming Zhang, Banjun Ruan, Ming Wei et al. “Curcumin promotes browning of white adipose tissue in a norepinephrine-dependent way.” Biochemical and biophysical research communications 466, no. 2 (2015): 247-253.|
|↑9, ↑12||Sidossis, Labros S., Craig Porter, Manish K. Saraf, Elisabet Børsheim, Ravi S. Radhakrishnan, Tony Chao, Arham Ali et al. “Browning of subcutaneous white adipose tissue in humans after severe adrenergic stress.” Cell metabolism 22, no. 2 (2015): 219-227.|
|↑10||Cannon, Barbara, and J. A. N. Nedergaard. “Brown adipose tissue: function and physiological significance.” Physiological reviews 84, no. 1 (2004): 277-359.|
|↑11||Poekes, Laurence, Nicolas Lanthier, and Isabelle A. Leclercq. “Brown adipose tissue: a potential target in the fight against obesity and the metabolic syndrome.” Clinical Science 129, no. 11 (2015): 933-949.|
|↑13||Castro, A. M., L. E. Macedo-de la Concha, and C. A. Pantoja-Meléndez. “Low-grade inflammation and its relation to obesity and chronic degenerative diseases.” Revista Médica del Hospital General de México 80, no. 2 (2017): 101-105.|
|↑14||Aggarwal, Bharat B. “Targeting inflammation-induced obesity and metabolic diseases by curcumin and other nutraceuticals.” Annual review of nutrition 30 (2010): 173-199.|
|↑15||Deshpande, Usha R., Lebana J. Joseph, Uma N. Patwardhan, and Aban M. Samuel. “Effect of antioxidants (vitamin C, E and turmeric extract) on methimazole induced hypothyroidism in rats.” (2002).|
|↑16||Han, Thang S., and Mike EJ Lean. “A clinical perspective of obesity, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.” JRSM cardiovascular disease 5 (2016): 2048004016633371.|
|↑17||Di Pierro, F., A. Bressan, D. Ranaldi, G. Rapacioli, L. Giacomelli, and A. Bertuccioli. “Potential role of bioavailable curcumin in weight loss and omental adipose tissue decrease: preliminary data of a randomized, controlled trial in overweight people with metabolic syndrome. Preliminary study.” Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci 19, no. 21 (2015): 4195-4202.|
|↑18||Ramırez-Tortosa, M. C., M. D. Mesa, M. C. Aguilera, J. L. Quiles, L. Baro, C. L. Ramirez-Tortosa, E. Martinez-Victoria, and A. Gil. “Oral administration of a turmeric extract inhibits LDL oxidation and has hypocholesterolemic effects in rabbits with experimental atherosclerosis.” Atherosclerosis 147, no. 2 (1999): 371-378.|
|↑19||Hlavačková, Livia, Andrea Janegová, Olga Uličná, Pavol Janega, Andrea Černá, and Pavel Babál. “Spice up the hypertension diet-curcumin and piperine prevent remodeling of aorta in experimental L-NAME induced hypertension.” Nutrition & metabolism 8, no. 1 (2011): 72.|
|↑20||Yu, Z.F., Kong, L.D. and Chen, Y., 2002. Antidepressant activity of aqueous extracts of Curcuma longa in mice. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 83(1-2), pp.161-165.|
|↑21||Kulkarni, Shrinivas K., Mohit Kumar Bhutani, and Mahendra Bishnoi. “Antidepressant activity of curcumin: involvement of serotonin and dopamine system.” Psychopharmacology 201, no. 3 (2008): 435.|
|↑22||Mohammadi, Shima, Parvin Kayedpoor, Latifeh Karimzadeh-Bardei, and Mohammad Nabiuni. “The Effect of Curcumin on TNF-α, IL-6 and CRP Expression in a Model of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome as an Inflammation State.” Journal of reproduction & infertility 18, no. 4 (2017): 352.|
|↑23||Al-Suhaimi, Ebtesam A., Noorah A. Al-Riziza, and Reham A. Al-Essa. “Physiological and therapeutical roles of ginger and turmeric on endocrine functions.” The American journal of Chinese medicine 39, no. 02 (2011): 215-231.|