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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Benefits of Compound in Turmeric Spice Studied / May 21, 2009 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

Photo: Powdered turmeric in a small dish and on a spoon.
Turmeric. Photo courtesy of Microsoft Clipart.


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Benefits of Compound in Turmeric Spice Studied

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
May 21, 2009

There may be a new way to spice up your weight loss routine, according to results from a new animal model study by Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-funded scientists and colleagues.

The researchers theorized that dietary curcumin could stall the spread of fat-tissue by inhibiting new blood vessel growth, called angiogenesis, which is necessary to build fat tissue. Curcumin is a bioactive component in curry and turmeric that has been consumed daily in Asian countries for centuries without reported toxic effects.

The study was led by nutritionist Mohsen Meydani at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston, Mass. Meydani is director of the HNRCA's Vascular Biology Laboratory.

Eighteen mice were assigned to three groups of six mice each. For 12 weeks, the mice were fed special diets. A “control” group’s mix contained 4 percent fat, a “high fat” group’s mix contained 22 percent fat, and another group was fed the same “high fat” diet supplemented with curcumin. A mouse typically eats about 3,000 to 3,500 milligrams (the weight of about six or seven paper clips) daily, so the curcumin-supplemented mice would have consumed about 1.5 to 1.75 milligrams of curcumin daily—a relatively small amount.

The researchers recorded the body weight and food consumption of the mice twice each week. At the end of the 12-week period, their total body weight and fat distribution were measured.

The study found that supplementing the animals’ high-fat diet with curcumin reduced body-weight gain and total body fat, even though food-intake was not affected, when compared to the nonsupplemented high-fat-diet group.

The curcumin-treated group also had less blood vessel growth in fat tissue. Blood glucose, triglyceride, fatty acid, cholesterol and liver fat levels also were lower.

At this time, it is not known whether the amount of curcumin normally present in food dishes prepared with turmeric is sufficient to inhibit complex fat-tissue secretions that are involved in recruiting new blood vessel growth. The researchers’ next step is to determine the effectiveness of dietary intake of curcumin in reducing weight in humans.

The study results were published in the May issue of The Journal of Nutrition.

ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Last Modified: 5/21/2009