The #1 Best Supplement to Reduce Inflammation, Say Dietitians
If there's one buzzword that's been spreading like wildfire within the health and wellness community in recent years, it's inflammation—and with good reason. Inflammation is your body's natural defensive response to infections and injuries, after all, yet it can contribute to a whole slew of health problems when it's left unchecked. In fact, chronic inflammation plays a key part in the development of nearly every major disease, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease.
Fortunately, experts say there is one supplement you can take to reduce inflammation in the body, thereby lowering your risk of these ailments. According to registered dietitians, that supplement is turmeric. Who knew that flavorful yellow spice you cook with could have such potent health benefits?
"When the body is left in a state of inflammation, which is an immune response, it begins to no longer react appropriately to stimuli, leading to even more inflammation," says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, with Balance One Supplements. "If this inflammation is allowed to persist it leads to acute and chronic illnesses, poor immune function, and an overall decrease in quality of life and wellbeing."
That's where turmeric comes in. This plant, which is part of the ginger family and grown and used primarily across Southeast Asia (especially in Indian cuisine), contains compounds called curcuminoids that are known to carry some pretty powerful perks. And luckily, according to Best, turmeric is actually absorbed more easily by your body in a supplement form than it is as a spice in food.
"These compounds have been used for their medicinal purposes for centuries to help with everything from blood sugar to inflammation," says Best. "Turmeric is naturally anti-inflammatory, which can help to improve joint health and gastrointestinal issues, among many others."
Curcumin is not only what gives turmeric its golden color, but is also the active ingredient that provides many of the health benefits.
"Curcumin's anti-inflammatory properties are heavily influenced by it being an effective antioxidant," says Grace Clark-Hibbs, RDN. "Antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals that form in response to environmental factors such as air pollution and radiation from the sun. When left unchecked, these free radicals cause inflammation throughout the body and increase your risk of cancer and other chronic illnesses. Curcumin has been heavily researched and shown to help protect against a wide variety of chronic illnesses including cancer, Alzheimer's disease, asthma, and type 2 diabetes."
A 2014 study found that curcumin supplements suppressed inflammation in patients with tumors. Another 2019 study found that taking a supplement with turmeric extract three times a day relieved arthritis symptoms in 94% of patients—and was in fact just as effective as taking a traditional pain reliever. (As an added bonus, those who took curcumin instead of the pain reliever lost an average of 2% of their body weight in just four weeks!)
So, should you opt for a turmeric supplement or curcumin? Turmeric supplements contain many other beneficial plant compounds along with curcumin. Whether you opt for a turmeric or curcumin supplement, though, you may want to take it before a meal that has black pepper in it: one 2010 study determined that a substance found in black pepper can increase your body's absorption of curcumin by a whopping 2000%.
Best also notes that many supplements use turmeric powder rather than extract, which is less bioavailable and does not produce the same benefits. So, be sure to look for supplements that contain turmeric extract specifically. Last but not least, be careful with taking turmeric in capsule form if you have celiac disease or a gluten allergy, as some lower-quality supplements have gluten-containing fillers.
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