You may have heard about how turmeric might revolutionize cancer treatment. The spice is already known to treat or prevent over 600 medical conditions. Studies consistently show that it outperforms certain medications in term of versatility, availability, non-toxicity and efficacy. A recent study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry has found that turmeric fights obesity by modifying fat cells (1). Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric is capable of inducing browning of white fat cells.
Brown Fat Cells Vs. White Fat Cells
Fat cells differ in color because of their density of iron-filled mitochondria. Brown fat cells simply have many more and as a result are metabolically more active than white fat cells. While brown fat cells burn off calories to produce heat, white fat cells simply store energy.
Overweight and obese people tend to have a surplus of white fat. In normal human development, white fat levels should peak in infancy, not adulthood. In fact, belly fat increases risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes (2). Watch the following video to learn more about brown fat.
Curcurmin Promotes Brown Fat
In the study, called “Curcumin induces brown fat-like phenotype in 3T3-L1 and primary white adipocytes” scientists describe how curcumin affects fat cells:
- By enhancing the expression of genes specific to brown fat cells. Through a process called nutrigenomic “epigenetic modification,” curcumin is capable of altering a cell’s patterns of gene expression resulting in significant changes in the structure and function of the cells involved.
- By encouraging new mitochondria production.
- By increasing protein levels of lipase and p-acyl-CoA carboxylase, two enzymes responsible for lipolysis (breakdown of fat) and by suppressing lipogenesis.
- By increasing the activity of the AMP-activated protein kinase enzyme. This enzyme helps regulate metabolic homeostasis, which is often out of balance in obese individuals.
Turmeric has been proven to be as effective as prescription drugs in treating depression and comparable to exercise in maintaining cardiovascular health (3, 4). A recent study also found that it is potent in preventing the progression of prediabetes into diabetes in 100% of subjects studied (5).