Turmeric, as most folks may know, is a yellow root of ancient origin. Derived from a plant similar to ginger, it has found use through the ages for medicinal purposes and has long been thought to possess antioxidant properties.
Early research suggests turmeric may help with conditions including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity and inflammatory bowel disease. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows the active ingredient in turmeric effectively kills certain cancer cells.
Yet the news about turmeric is not all good. Its purifying properties may also cause a person to bleed more easily, so it is not a recommended supplement for people on blood thinners. According to Healthline, some participants in studies using turmeric as a cancer treatment had to drop out because of its negative effect on their digestive system. And taking turmeric supplements may even trigger a rare liver condition.
As reported by the National Institutes of Health, a 71-year-old woman from Arizona started taking turmeric supplements based on a study she read suggesting turmeric might help prevent stroke. At the time she began taking turmeric supplements, she was also taking 20 additional medicines and supplements. Her health care providers knew about most of these medicines and supplements, but not turmeric. The suspected connection between the woman’s liver problem and this ancient root was never identified by her doctors, but by the woman herself, after she consulted the internet about her symptoms.
Upon review of 35 previous studies of people taking turmeric supplements, researchers found roughly five percent of participants in those studies experienced liver problems tied to the supplements. The authors said it is unclear whether turmeric compounds were actually responsible for the liver problems in this case. However, the case demonstrated the need for doctors and patients to communicate better about supplements the patients are taking.
The dangers of modern polypharmacy were never mentioned in the news coverage I read. Polypharmacy refers to the practice of taking multiple medications and is most frequently applied to the elderly. It is not inherently a negative term, but it is often used to describe situations in which individuals are taking an unhealthy mixture of various medications. According to the Health Research Funding website, polypharmacy is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States.
Conflicting information ascribing both health benefits and health threats to the same source is common in our media-driven world.
The dark side of alcohol consumption, for example, is well documented. We know heavy drinking can damage the liver and heart, harm an unborn child, increase the chances of developing cancer and contribute to depression and violence. It is a major cause of preventable death in most countries. In the U.S., alcohol is implicated in about half of fatal traffic accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 2,000 Americans die each year from acute alcohol intoxication.
In a recently published study in the Lancet, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it was reported that, in 2016, alcohol was the seventh-leading risk factor for premature death. The statement heard around the world was the report’s conclusion – there is no “safe” level of alcohol consumption. They found no evidence that light drinking might improve people’s health.
While neither group recommends that people start drinking, the CDC and the American Heart Association both say men can safely drink up to two alcoholic drinks a day and women up to one drink a day. The University of Washington team that conducted the Gates-funded study believes governments need to counter such prevailing theories.
Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is but one of the prominent health experts who are now saying they are not convinced. Willett believes moderate drinking can be healthy, while agreeing that this is not the case for everyone.
In a response posted to the Harvard Gazette, Willett points out that, given the complexity of alcohol’s effects on the body and the complexity of the people who drink it, blanket recommendations about alcohol are out of the question. He points to more than 100 prospective studies showing an inverse association between light to moderate drinking and risk of heart attack, ischemic (clot-caused) stroke, peripheral vascular disease, sudden cardiac death and death from all cardiovascular causes.
Dr. David L. Katz, the founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, tells Blue Zones – a holistic health organization – that drinking alcohol moderately, judiciously and responsibly can lower your overall health risk “depending on who you are.” In the new data set, as before, alcohol intake at a modest to moderate level was associated with reduced cardiovascular risk, a finding that was obscured by the frenzy to report that “no level” of alcohol is beneficial or safe.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.