The February 2008 edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation reports a study that suggests that eating curries and other foods including the antioxidant curcumin found in turmeric just might prevent or correct congestive heart failure.
Ayurvedic medicine has used turmeric to prevent scar formation for centuries. Scientists at the Canadian Insitutes of Health Research have found that, at least in mice, curcumin can prevent the production of scar tissue and help enlarged hearts return to normal pumping capacity.
This study shows that curcumin acts directly on the DNA of heart cells in animals, protecting it from unraveling under stress. The kinds of stress that cause DNA to unravel include both oxygen deprivation, when heart tissue is deprived of blood circulation because of a clot, and sodium infiltration, when heart cells are exposed to high levels of glucose or salt that keeps them pumping sodium out and pumping potassium in.
The study also shows that benefits of curcumin are not increased by eating more of it. Experiments showed that the test animal only needed just enough curcumin to turn off an "unraveling switch" in the DNA in heart cells that otherwise would be expected to develop into scar tissue. "Just enough" curcumin was also the maximum effective dose. In humans, there are some indications that just enough curcumin roughly corresponds to 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (2-4 grams) of turmeric a day.
What this study does not show is that curcumin will definitely prevent or cure congestive heart failure in humans (and you should not quit medications in hope it does), although it offers hope of a safe and inexpensive treatment for the tens of millions of people with enlarged heart and/or congestive heart failure. Lead researcher Dr. Peter Liu told reporters:
"Whether you are young or old, male or female, the larger your heart is, the higher your risk is for developing heart attacks or heart failure in the future. However, until clinical trials are done, we don't recommend patients take curcumin routinely." Dr. Liu goes on to remind people with congestive heart failure that lowering blood pressure and healthy eating remain essential even if curcumin is found to play a profoundly useful role in restoring the heart tissue damaged by heart attack.
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Li HL, Liu C, de Couto G, Ouzounian M, Sun M, Wang AB, Huang Y, He CW, Shi Y, Chen X, Nghiem MP, Liu Y, Chen M, Dawood F, Fukuoka M, Maekawa Y, Zhang L, Leask A, Ghosh AK, Kirshenbaum LA, Liu PP. Curcumin prevents and reverses murine cardiac hypertrophy. J Clin Invest. 2008 Feb 21 [Epub ahead of print].