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Turmeric lessens risk of heart attack

16th April 2012

Researchers in Thailand say that an extract from turmeric, a spice widely used in Indian cuisine, may be helpful in warding off heart attacks.

heart surgery

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties are already well-attested, but the research team, writing in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Cardiology, says they have identified a specific use for curcumins, the compounds that give turmeric its yellow colour.

Patients who have received bypass surgery often suffer heart muscle damage following a prolonged lack of blood flow, but curcumins may ease that risk if it is added to an existing drug regimen.

A research team led by Wanwarang Wongcharoen of Thailand's Chiang Mai University followed the use of turmeric extracts, which have been used for a long time in traditional Indian and Chinese medicine, in a relatively small group of heart bypass patients.

Of the 121 patients, all of whom had received non-emergency bypass surgery between 2009 and 2011, half were given one gram of curcumin capsules four times a day, while the other half took a placebo.

Just 13% of the group taking curcumin had a heart attack during the course of their post-surgery hospital stay, compared with 30% of the control group.

Overall, after pre-surgery differences were taken into account, the team calculated that the patients who took curcumin had a 65% lower chance of a heart attack, compared with those who did not.

According to Bharat Aggarwal of the MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, Texas, inflammation plays an important role in a large number of diseases, and heart disease is no exception.

Aggarwal, who was not involved in the study, said the results were very encouraging, because they showed how curcumins could have an effect on inflammatory pathways in the body.

Arkansas-based cardiologist Jawahar Mehta said curcumin was already know to reduce inflammation and oxygen toxicity, or free radical damage, in experimental settings.

However, he added that all the patients in the study were also taking various combinations of aspirin, statins and beta-blockers, all of which had been proven to be helpful to heart patients.

He said curcumins, which can have side-effects in large doses, should not be regarded as a substitute for existing medication.

Experts called for further studies to confirm the results of the Thai study, which used a relatively small number of participants.

 

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