Turmeric and Exercise: a Magic Combination for Heart Health

The endothelium is the inner lining of our blood vessels. Laid end-to-end, endothelial cells from a single human would wrap more than four times around the world. And it’s not just an inert layer; it’s highly metabolically active. I’ve talked about how sensitive our endothelium is to oxidation and inflammation. If we don’t take care of it, endothelial dysfunction may set us up for heart disease or a stroke. Are we ready to heed our endothelium’s early warning signal?

If it’s all about oxidation and inflammation, then fruits and vegetables should help. And indeed they do. Each daily serving of fruits or vegetables was associated with a 6 percent improvement in endothelial function. These fruit- and vegetable-associated improvements in endothelial function are in contrast to several negative vitamin C pill studies that failed to show a benefit. It can be concluded that the positive findings of the fruit and vegetable study are not just because of any one nutrient in fruits and veggies. Rather than searching for the single magic bullet micronutrient, a more practical approach is likely to consider whole foods. Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption is likely to have numerous benefits due to synergistic effects of all the wonderful things in plants.

Exercise helps our endothelial cells, too, but what type of exercise helps best? Patients were randomized into four groups: aerobic exercise (cycling for an hour a day), resistance training (using weights and elastic bands), both, or neither. The aerobic group kicked butt. The resistance group kicked butt. The aerobic and resistance group kicked butt, too. The only group who didn’t kick butt was the group who sat on their butts. Our endothelium doesn’t care if we’re on a bike or lifting weights, as long as we’re getting physical activity regularly. If we stop exercising, our endothelial function plummets.

Antioxidant pills don’t help, but drug companies aren’t going to give up that easy. They’re currently looking into anti-inflammatory pills. After all, there’s only so much you can make selling salad. For those who prefer plants to pills, one of the most anti-inflammatory foods is the spice turmeric. Researchers in Japan recently compared the endothelial benefits of exercise to that of curcumin, the yellow pigment in turmeric and curry powder. About a teaspoon a day’s worth of turmeric for eight weeks was compared to 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise a day.

Which group improved their endothelial function more? The group who did neither experienced no benefit, but both the exercise and the curcumin groups significantly boosted their endothelial function. The researchers reported: “The magnitude of the improvement achieved by curcumin treatment was comparable to that obtained with exercise. Therefore, regular ingestion of curcumin could be a preventive measure against cardiovascular disease” at least in postmenopausal women, who were the subjects of this study. “Furthermore, [their] results suggest that curcumin may be a potential alternative treatment for patients who are unable to exercise.”

Ideally we’d both eat curcumin and exercise. One study looked at central arterial hemodynamics. Basically, if our endothelium is impaired, our arteries stiffen, making it harder for our heart to pump. Compared to placebo, we can drop down the pressure with turmeric curcumin or exercise. However, if we combine both, then we really start rocking and rolling, as you can see in the chart about 4 minutes into my video below. The researchers conclude that these findings suggest that regular endurance exercise combined with daily curcumin ingestion may reduce the pressure against which our hearts have to fight more than one or the other. We want both healthy eating and exertion for our endothelium.

This entry is a follow-up to Turmeric Curcumin vs. Exercise for Artery Function.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations—2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet, and my latest, 2016: How Not To Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers.

Related
Turmeric Curcumin vs. Exercise for Artery Function
Turmeric Curcumin and Pancreatic Cancer
Treating Alzheimer’s with Turmeric

135 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven6 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen6 months ago

Thank you

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen6 months ago

Thank you

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Beth M.
Beth M6 months ago

ty

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Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine Andersen6 months ago

Might have to see about getting some in the vitamin section! sounds like a winner.

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Gerald L.
Gerald L7 months ago

Caution: source out Organic Turmeric Root. I suspect lead may be added to powdered turmeric root to enhance the colour as it is in some lipstick etc.


Ref: These 7 Turmeric Brands are Being Recalled Due to Lead ...
naturalsociety.com/turmeric-recalled-due-to-high-lead-levels-5546/
Aug 12, 2016 - “Gel Spice, Inc. is recalling one lot of Fresh Finds Ground Turmeric Powder because the product contains elevated lead levels. The recalled ...



Six brands of turmeric added to recall for excessive lead | Food Safety ...
www.foodsafetynews.com/.../six-brands-of-turmeric-added-to-recall-for-excessive-lea...
Aug 8, 2016 - A New Jersey company has expanded its recall of ground turmeric to ... the elevated level of lead,” according to the company's July 28 recall ...

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Edith B.
Edith B7 months ago

Thanks, need to know how much turmeric and how to use it. I keep the spice to make pickles, but haven't used it for anything else.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus7 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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mac C.
mac C7 months ago

OK! I'll add turmeric, sounds like a winner. I already exercise. Thanks, Dr. Greger.

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Jane M.
Jane M7 months ago

THANK YOU! didn't know so much about turmeric! nice to learn this.

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