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Eat This Spice. It Could Save Your Life

The curry spice turmeric could help prevent and possibly even cure cancer.

Also found in yellow mustard, turmeric contains an ingredient called curcumin 
that researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in 
Houston say may help suppress and destroy the blood cancer multiple myeloma. 
Curcumin is what gives mustard and turmeric their yellow color.

In the laboratory, the researchers added curcumin to human cells infected 
with multiple myeloma. The result: The curcumin stopped those cells from 
replicating, and the cells that were left died, reports Reuters.

Even though the study did not actually test curcumin in cancer patients, lead 
researcher Dr. Bharat B. Aggarwal is so impressed with these early lab 
results that he recommends cancer patients eat food seasoned with turmeric. And with 
good reason. Previous research has shown that curcumin may fight other types 
of cancers besides multiple myeloma. It has also been shown to have 
antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can heal wounds and possibly fight 
Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis. Best of all, curcumin has no known 
side effects in human beings--even in large amounts. The study findings were 
published in the journal Blood.

A study last year from Kumamoto University in Kumamoto, Japan, that was 
published in the journal Cancer also found that curcumin prevented cancer and 
stopped tumors from growing. Reuters reports that the Japanese researchers 
determined that curcumin inhibited the production of interleukin-8 (IL-8), a protein 
that attracts white blood cells to a particular site and leads to inflammation. 
The compound also reduced the activity of nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-kappaB), 
a molecule that helps regulate the gene that produces IL-8.

What does that mean? Tumor cells secrete high levels of IL-8, which is a 
protein that causes inflammation. The exact role IL-8 plays in cancer growth is 
still unclear, but previous research shows it may stimulate tumor cells to 
produce at the same time it suppresses the immune system. But the compound in 
turmeric--curcumin--curbs IL-8. If the spice actually does what the study findings 
suggest, then "curcumin is capable of working as a potent agent that reduces 
tumor promotion," the researchers concluded.

In yet another study, researchers from the University of Rochester Medical 
Center in Rochester, N.Y., found that curcumin helped protect the skin of cancer 
patients who were undergoing radiation therapy. A common and painful side 
effect of radiation is burns and blisters. Mice who were given three doses of 
curcumin for five to seven days a week along with a dose of radiation had minimal 
skin damage caused by the radiation. In addition, curcumin was found to 
suppress the development of new cells in tumors, which furthers the effectiveness 
of radiation therapy, reports Health Newswire.

There's only one problem with what could be Mother Nature's miracle cure for 
cancer, and you won't believe what it is: Greed. To learn more about 
turmeric's cancer-fighting properties, including the proper dosage, requires large 
medical experiments with a great number of patients. Such ventures are costly and 
are typically financed by drug companies eyeing future product development. 
However, in this case, the "drug" is a natural compound. Aggarwal explained to 
Reuters that no drug company can reap the financial benefits if turmeric proves 
to be an effective anti-cancer drug so no drug company is likely to pay the 
big bucks needed for the medical studies.

--Cathryn Conroy

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