Opinion

Can turmeric really help cure cancer?

Buttriss: ‘Bigger, high quality trials are needed and now underway’

The yellow spice turmeric, a major ingredient in curry powder, has been heralded as a solution to cancer. But does the evidence stack up?

This is explored in a paper in June’s Nutrition Bulletin. Turmeric has been widely used as an ingredient in foods and medications in south Asia for centuries, and these days it’s a common food ingredient globally as the popularity of curries has grown.

Studies in rodents and cell cultures have investigated the potential health effects – notably, anti-cancer effects – of bioactive components in turmeric, and in particular curcumin.

Only a few trials in humans

There have only been a few trials in humans, mainly non-randomised, which have used very high doses of curcumin – equating to a turmeric intake of around 100g/day.

The authors conclude that for an ingredient that has received considerable interest from the public, media and scientific community, the lack of randomised placebo-controlled trials is striking.

Some studies to date are promising, but bigger, high quality trials are needed and now underway.

Regardless of headlines, no single food or ingredient is going to transform a nation’s cancer risk, even when there is some credible evidence of benefits.

  • Professor Judy Buttriss is director general of the British Nutrition Foundation

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Comments (1)

David Smith - 31 May 2017 | 01:48

unequal opportunity for non-pharmaceuticals

Cancer treatment is controlled by the pharmaceutical companies as the regimens in the guidelines are stringent and have to be followed. Any doctor prescribing non-approved treatment risks losing his doctor's licence. How then can curcumin be the subject of extensive clinical trials?

31-May-2017 at 13:48 GMT

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