Turmeric has long been a folk remedy in India, valued for its antiseptic properties. Some Indians sprinkle the spice on Band-Aids as a disinfectant. For the past few years, Western scientists have been researching turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, and one recently published study suggests that it may help reduce inflammation and metabolic problems caused by obesity. What’s more, the yellow spice may also help prevent Type 2 diabetes and assist with weight loss. Researchers at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center treated obese mice with high doses of turmeric. The mice maintained better blood glucose levels and insulin resistance, and lost weight—despite consuming just as many or more calories as the control group.

Endocrinologist Drew Tortoriello cautions, “It’s too early to tell whether increasing dietary curcumin [through turmeric] intake in obese people with diabetes will show a similar benefit,” but says, “Although the daily intake of curcumin one might have to consume as a primary diabetes treatment is likely impractical, it is entirely possible that lower dosages of curcumin could nicely complement our traditional therapies as a natural and safe treatment.”

An article about curcumin in Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences cites the spice’s “surprisingly wide range of beneficial properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic activity.”

Go, wonder spice! CHOW’s chock-full of recipes to help you get more turmeric into your life.

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