Looking to lose weight but tired of the gimmicks, fad diets and quick-fix solutions out there on the market? Me too! Instead of restricting foods and going on extreme diets, you can use food and supplementation as healthy and safe weight loss tools. More than just a spice, turmeric has been linked to weight loss for years and has been a staple in many traditional ethnic dishes for good reasons.
Not only does it give food an added flavor kick, but it also contains important nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that can speed up your metabolism, reduce inflammation and help promote fat loss over time.
What is turmeric extract?
Before diving into how turmeric can help promote weight loss, let’s first look at what exactly turmeric is, as well as how many of the turmeric powders on the market differ from turmeric extract.
Turmeric comes from the Curcuma longa plant and is actually a member of the ginger family. You can purchase it as a powdered cooking spice or in its whole root form in the fresh produce section, as well as in topical or supplemental forms.
Most of the health benefits from this spice come from a few chemical compounds, known as curcuminoids. One of those curcuminoids is curcumin, the active ingredient that is mainly responsible for the many health benefits of turmeric, including its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Curcumin is also what gives turmeric its distinct deep orange or yellow color. Two other common curcuminoids are desmethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin.
When you are cooking with turmeric spice it’s still going to be effective in delivering some of the health benefits mentioned above, however, it’s not always as bioavailable. Because curcumin is metabolized quickly in the liver and intestinal wall, it’s less easily absorbed by the body for use elsewhere and doesn’t contain a high enough concentration of curcumin. In fact, the spice usually only contains between 2-5%1of the curcumin compound.
That’s why people often choose to also take a high-quality turmeric extract supplement, such as Active Atoms, which contains 95% of the curcuminoid curcumin and BioPerine®. Why BioPerine®? In order to be effective, curcumin must also be paired with black pepper, which contains an alkaloid known as piperine. Piperine is a known inhibitor of hepatic and intestinal glucuronidation, and when paired alongside curcumin, has been shown 2 to increase the bioavailability by 2000%.
Combined with BioPerine®, curcumin can help improve digestion, reduce overall systemic inflammation in the body, aid in fat/weight loss, reduce pain from arthritis and even help fight some cancers.
How can turmeric extract help with weight loss?
There is a strong connection between increased body fat and overall inflammation.
We know that people who are overweight or obese have excessive storage of adipose tissue, or fat cells and often suffer from insulin resistance leading to high blood sugar and metabolic dysfunction. The World Health Organization classifies overweight as a body mass index, or BMI, between 25-30 and obesity as a BMI of greater than 30.
Over time, excessive stored micronutrients in those fat cells cause the body to release certain inflammatory mediators3, mainly tumor necrosis factor α and interleukin 6 (IL-6) as well as a protein hormone — adiponectin — that causes oxidative stress and inflammation.
The increase in IL-6 also activates the synthesis and secretion of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the liver, which is a common marker for systemic inflammation and an increased risk in cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes, autoimmune skin conditions such as psoriasis, metabolic syndrome, and cancer.
The role of inflammation and oxidative stress in chronic modern disease
In fact, we know that all chronic modern diseases like the ones listed above are diseases of chronic inflammation. It’s important to note that inflammation is a natural part of a healthy immune response.
When we get sick or have a cut or infection, the body’s white blood cells produce antibodies, cytokines and other chemicals involved in our immune response to help us heal. This temporary inflammation serves as a protective tissue barrier while our body sends T-cells to fight off whatever foreign invader is threatening our wellbeing.
However, chronic systemic inflammation, which can be identified from CRP markers, leads to degenerative and autoimmune diseases 4 like cardiovascular disease, dementia/Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, etc. If left unchecked, ongoing inflammation can even cause damage to cellular DNA, creating mutant genes that lead to cancer.
The foods we eat are a major factor for systemic inflammation and can contribute to excess fat storage. Processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar and artificial sweeteners as well as highly processed oils such as canola oil all activate the body’s inflammatory messengers: cytokines. Mentioned briefly above, cytokines are mainly produced by T helper cells and macrophages and are involved in the upregulation of inflammatory reactions.
When we have an excess of stored body fat, or adipose tissue, this can eventually produce certain bioactive substances called adipokines, including IL-6, which create oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress is an imbalance in the body between free radicals and antioxidants. Our body produces free radicals as part of our regular metabolic processes. In a normal healthy person, oxidative stress is a tool our body employs to create temporary inflammation to fight off an infection or heal a wound. We also experience mild oxidative stress when we workout. Antioxidants act as a counterbalance to free radicals. While we do make antioxidants naturally, we can also get them from healthy food sources, which help reduce overall inflammation.
That’s why obese individuals with poor diets are more likely to suffer from systemic inflammation and are at a much higher risk for degenerative diseases. An inadequate diet combined with elevated insulin and an imbalanced metabolic process can cause our body to create a loop of oxidative stress and inflammation that over time can damage our protein, cells and DNA and contribute to the many chronic diseases already mentioned.
Effect of curcumin on inflammation and weight loss
We have two different kinds of fat tissue: brown adipose tissue (BAT), which is responsible for the thermogenic (or metabolic) activity of that tissue via the mitochondrial uncoupling protein UCP1, and white adipose tissue (WAT), which is responsible for fat storage from excess calorie consumption. Brown adipose tissue converts energy from food sources into heat and this also tends to speed up metabolism and fat burning.
In obese individuals, there is an absence of brown adipose tissue and excess in white adipose tissue, which exhibits a low density of insulin receptors and higher beta-3 adrenergic receptors, ultimately leading to a pro-inflammatory response that is chronic and destructive to our cells.
One study conducted on mice showed 5 that curcumin promotes browning of white adipose tissue, creating beige adipocytes that can burn lipids (or fat) to produce heat. Rising body temps are also correlated with an increase in metabolism, also known as thermogenics, which can ultimately aid in weight loss over time.
The study found that just 50 or 100 mg/kg/day of curcumin decreased body weight and fat mass without affecting food intake in mice. The study also showed that curcumin promotes β3AR gene expression in inguinal WAT and elevates the levels of plasma norepinephrine, a stress hormone and neurotransmitter that can induce WAT browning.
A second randomized controlled study6 of 44 subjects showed that bioavailable curcumin had a positive influence on weight loss and body fat reduction in just 30 days. Subjects who took a supplemental bioavailable form of curcumin for 30 days experienced increased weight loss from 1.88 to 4.91%, enhanced percentage reduction of body fat from 0.70 to 8.43%, and enhanced reduction of BMI from 2.10 to 6.43%.
Additionally, there is reason to believe turmeric extracts that contain a high concentration of curcumin can increase serum activities of antioxidants 7 such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) that reduce oxidative stress, and therefore systemic inflammation in the body. Curcumin works its magic in a few different ways. First, it can scavenge different forms of free radicals, like reactive oxygen species (ROS) and it also can modulate the activity of certain enzymes, including SOD, catalase and GSH to neutralize free radicals.
How does turmeric extract help with digestive health?
Another benefit of curcumin is its positive effect on digestive health. Unfortunately, most of us struggle with digestive issues like leaky gut (or intestinal permeability), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), irritable bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis (UC), Crohn’s disease, bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections, as well as general digestive distress like acid reflux, bloating and indigestion.
When digestion is impaired, we do not properly absorb the necessary vitamins and nutrients our bodies need to not just survive but thrive. This can also prohibit us from reaching our weight loss goals. There’s also evidence that shows that digestive issues such as SIBO and leaky gut can cause chronic inflammation, food intolerances/sensitivities, and neurological disorders.
Studies show that curcumin can soothe digestive issues, help aid in nutrient absorption and even reduce inflammation associated with autoimmune disorders like IBD, Crohn’s disease and UC. These disorders, particularly IBD, result from an inappropriate inflammatory response to intestinal microbes in a genetically susceptible individual. The body recognizes those otherwise normal microbes as foreign substances, which activates our adaptive immune system with the release of innate immune cells and cytokines. This process will continually repeat itself, which as we now know, will lead to chronic systemic inflammation in the gut, as well as ongoing gastrointestinal distress. There is a specific protein present in people with IBD — NF-κB — which might be another cause for the excess secretion of cytokines, particularly IL-6.
Curcumin plays a key role in the inhibition of both the activation of NF-κB pro-inflammatory cytokines and the IL-6/STAT3 signaling pathway8, which could have a therapeutic effect on controlling inflammation associated with IBD and other digestive disorders.
Additionally, the piperine present in high-quality turmeric extracts helps promote proper digestion by stimulating digestive enzymes 9 in the pancreas. The role of digestive enzymes in the body is to help break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates for proper absorption and usage throughout the body.
You can learn more about the benefits of turmeric extract for Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and ulcerative colitis (UC) by reading this article:
How much turmeric extract should you take per day?
The general recommendations for turmeric extract consumption range between 500-2000mg per day. That might seem like a lot but remember that this is a highly concentrated therapeutic form of curcumin that differs from the turmeric root powder used as a cooking spice.
Now that’s not to say that you can’t continue to use turmeric powder in the kitchen. You absolutely should! It’s a very warming spice that adds deep flavor to meals and contains essential vitamins and nutrients like manganese, iron, vitamin B6 and potassium.
But if you are looking to gain the most out of curcumin’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, digestive and weight loss promoting benefits, you’ll want to supplement with a high-potency turmeric extract supplement that is more bioavailable than the traditional Indian spice.
You can learn more about the optimal dosage of turmeric by reading this article:
Are there any potential side effects of turmeric?
Turmeric is generally safe for most people, however, it might cause a potential allergic reaction for some, especially when exposed to the skin. This typically results in a mild rash or itchy skin.
Other potential side effects10 of turmeric include:
- Nausea or upset stomach
- Hyperactive gallbladder contractions
- Hypotension (lowered blood pressure)
- Increased risk of bleeding or bruising
- Increased liver function tests
- Iron deficiency
- Uterine contractions in pregnant women
- Increased menstrual flow in women
It’s best to stop the use of turmeric if you experience any of the above symptoms and consult your doctor right away. You can learn more about the side effects of turmeric supplements by reading this article:
While we know that turmeric extract is an effective strategy for reducing overall inflammation and supporting your weight loss goals, it is only one small piece of the overall health puzzle and it doesn’t necessarily get to the root cause of your issues. That’s why it’s important to make sure you are eating a balanced diet from whole, nutrient-dense foods, getting adequate exercise and sleep throughout the day and managing stress as part of an overall healthy approach to weight loss and inflammation reduction.
Before considering adding a turmeric extract supplement to your daily regimen, it’s always best to consult your doctor or practitioner to figure out the best way to incorporate these as part of your existing healing routine. Nothing in this article is intended as medical advice or diagnosis.
That said, if you are ready to take the turmeric leap, you can get started with this highly effective and potent turmeric extract supplement!
Nicole Cieslak is a functional nutritional therapy practitioner and certified personal trainer located in Denver, Colorado specializing in gut health, hormone balance and performance nutrition. Every day she strives to help people overcome chronic health issues by getting to the root cause. She helps clients take back control of their health through personalized food, lifestyle and supplementation adjustments. Learn more about her nutritional therapy services at thefitfoodist.com and follow her on Instagram at @fitfoodist_foundations for free health, fitness and beauty advice.