Extracts from turmeric spice may help ward off heart attacks in people who have had recent bypass surgery, according to a small study in Thailand.
Curcumin, the substance which gives turmeric its hallmark yellow colouring, is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Curcumin, found in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties
During bypass surgery the heart muscle can be damaged by prolonged lack of blood flow, increasing risk of heart attack. A small study suggests that curcumin supplements may ease those risks when added to traditional drug treatment.
Researchers from Chiang Mai University studied 121 patients who had non-emergency bypass surgery between 2009 and 2011. Half the patients were given one gram of curcumin capsules to take four times a day before and after their surgery; the other half took drug-free placebos.
Their results, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, show that 13 per cent of patients who took curcumin supplements had a heart attack during their post-bypass hospital stays. In comparison, 30 per cent of the placebo group suffered a heart attack.
After accounting for any initial pre-surgery differences the researchers calculated that those on curcumin supplements had a 65 per cent lower chance of a heart attack.
It is likely that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin may have helped limit the heart damage. Turmeric extracts have long been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine; we recently reported how curcumin can benefit patients with prostate cancer.
Larger studies now need to be carried out in this field to confirm the results. Jawahar Mehta, a cardiologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock said:
"Curcumin has for many years now been shown to reduce inflammation and to reduce oxygen toxicity or damage caused by free radicals in a number of experimental settings”.
"But that doesn't mean that this is a substitute for medication”.
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