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Curcumin’s Heart Health Benefits

February 5, 2019 (Updated: February 21, 2019)
Lily Moran

Recent research has pulled back the curtain on an underappreciated group of cells that line the inside of your heart, veins and arteries—they’re called endothelial cells. These cells provide a smooth surface that allows speedy passage of blood throughout your cardiovascular system.

Endothelial cells can be negatively affected by high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, and more—damaging the smooth surface they provide, leaving them vulnerable to tiny pits, tears and scars where plaque can take hold and build up blockages.

But breakthrough research identified one way you can protect your endothelial cells and improve your overall heart health. And much of this research points to a single nutrient whose anti-inflammatory and antioxidant superpowers are already turning heads in the medical community.

I’m talking about curcumin. Read on to learn how curcumin can protect your heart, endothelial cells, and more.

Strong, Flexible Cells That are Crucial for Cardiovascular Health

When you read about heart disease, you hear a lot about cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and clogged arteries. We hear considerably less about the health of your blood vessels.

“Flow-mediated dilation” is one of the biggest indicators of your blood vessel health. One of the jobs of your endothelial cells is to act as muscles inside your veins and arteries. They can constrict or relax helping to widen or narrow your blood vessels as needed. You need them, for example, when your heart rate increases and more blood is distributed to the rest of your body.

Flow-mediated dilation is a measurement of blood vessels’ ability to expand and contract.

Dilated blood vessels allow more blood to flow, delivering nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood to all major systems and organs faster so they get the extra fuel they need when under stress (like when you’re exercising).

As you age, your endothelial cells weaken—decreasing their ability to constrict and relax as needed. This can lead to high blood pressure and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. A healthy diet and aerobic exercise were considered the best ways to reverse this vascular aging. That is, until curcumin’s superpowers were discovered and popular cardiovascular disease interventions were put to the test.

Three new studies did exactly just that. And curcumin’s results did not disappoint.

Game Changing Endothelial Study #1: Curcumin v. Exercise

Exercise has long been considered one of the best ways to reverse vascular aging—perhaps the best. Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects are also well documented. But, until recently, little was known about how (or if) curcumin helps your cardiovascular system.

A total of 32 participants—all post-menopausal women—were divided into three groups: curcumin group, exercise group, and control group (no intervention). For the next eight weeks, the curcumin group took 150 mg/day and the exercise group moderately exercised.

As expected, no improvements in baseline flow-mediated dilation were observed in the control group. As expected, flow-mediated dilation improved in the curcumin and exercise groups. What was surprising is that flow-mediated dilation increased significantly and equally in the curcumin and exercise groups.

Bottom line: Curcumin proved just as effective as exercise in improving endothelial cells’ ability to dilate veins and arteries.

Game Changing Study #2: Curcumin v. Exercise versus Curcumin and Exercise

How does your heart eject blood into your arteries? That’s the job of the left ventricle, and it’s a tough job indeed. There is constant pressure of blood into and out of the left ventricle (called left ventricular afterload). That pressure can increase as you age, damaging the ventricle.

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Chronic Inflammation Decoded

Curcumin and exercise were tested again to see if they can lower left ventricular afterload. The twist: This time not only were they compared to one another, there was also a group that combined curcumin with moderate exercise. Not only that, but the study was randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled. In other words, some participants were given a placebo instead of curcumin but neither the participants nor researchers knew who took what until the end.

Forty-five post-menopausal woman were divided into four groups: placebo, curcumin, exercise training with placebo, exercise training with curcumin.

To nobody’s surprise, exercise with curcumin was hands down the best performing group. Not only was there a significant decrease in blood pressure, but this group was also the only group in which left ventricular afterload decreased.

Game Changing Study #3: Curcumin v. Atorvastatin (Lipitor)

This is the marquee matchup I have been waiting for. Curcumin and many other natural remedies are often dismissed by doctors. And pharmaceutical companies are inclined to downplay the benefits of natural remedies because it can cut into their multi-billion dollar profits. And let’s not forget the laundry list of potential side effects we hear about in pharmaceutical advertisements.

Some of these side effects are not just potentially harmful, but fatal. So, to me, it’s common sense to seek out effective natural therapies first—resorting to drugs only when necessary.

But back to your endothelial cells. Type 2 diabetes is particularly damaging to your veins and arteries because a diabetic’s blood has high levels of free radicals that damage the vascular walls. This is known as oxidative stress.

In a nutshell, oxidative stress accelerates aging throughout your body—and this can have a profound negative impact on your cardiovascular system. Curcumin, atorvastatin, and a placebo were tested against each other in a study involving 72 patients with type 2 diabetes.

Naturally, results for the placebo group were relatively flat. But remarkably, endothelial function significantly improved and markers for oxidative stress decreased in the curcumin and atorvastatin groups. Most notably, the curcumin and atorvastatin groups performed nearly the same.

Now, this is where I circle back to my discussion of side effects. Curcumin has few negative side effects. It can thin the blood somewhat, but that’s only problematic if a) you’re already taking blood thinners or b) you’re taking so much that it poses a risk of unhealthy bleeding (you’d need to take a lot).

Common atorvastatin side effects include: constipation, heartburn, stomach pain, rash, swelling, fever, joint pain, cramping, blistering/peeling of your skin, yellowing of your eyes and skin, fatigue and more.

You tell me: If you could get equal benefit from a drug with dangerous and uncomfortable side effects, or a naturally occurring substance without side effects…which one would you choose?

How You Can Start Benefitting from Curcumin Today

Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers make it a first-tier remedy for a growing list of illnesses and diseases—in addition to being a powerful preventative supplement. There are a lot of supplements on the market, and that number is growing. Curcumin is one of a handful of supplements that I recommend everyone take regularly… but not just any bottle that says curcumin on it will get the job done.

Curcumin itself isn’t easily absorbed by your body. Look for a curcumin supplement that’s standardized with “enhanced bio-availability,” which means that the product is specifically designed for better absorption. I recommend that you take 500 mg of curcumin, with either added piperine or gamma cyclodextrin (both are totally safe and natural) for enhanced bioavailability, three times a day so your body has a continuous supply at all times.

Take Curcumin to Heart

Your cardiovascular health becomes harder to protect as you age. Adding curcumin to your daily health regimen is one of the healthiest things you can do to protect not only your heart and endothelial function, but your entire body.

Of course, combined with exercise, it works even better. So take good care!

References

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