We move, we walk, we bring our hands where we want without thinking about what allows us to perform these gestures, the muscles. Protecting muscles and maintaining their mass therefore appears to be of vital importance for the health and quality of our life. Turmeric has been shown to be a powerful ally in preserving muscle health by reducing the risk of sarcopenia. This emerges from a very recent scientific research that appeared in Nutrients magazine thanks to the work of a Japanese team (Furukawa et al, Nutrients, Sep 2022).
The causes of muscle mass loss
Oxidative stress, inflammation and advancing age are the factors responsible for the loss of mass, strength and functionality of the muscles with a significant deterioration in the quality of life. Actions become more difficult and the risk of falling and breaking a bone is higher. The condition of muscle loss is called sarcopenia. Muscle mass in adulthood is given by the balance between synthesis and degradation of proteins. Sarcopenia arises from an imbalance in this delicate protein turnover process. Scientific studies have observed that at the base of this imbalance there is an increase in the production of particular enzymes, stimulated by an excess of free radicals, by chronic inflammation and by hormones, such as the insulin-like growth factor IGF1, which increases as a consequence of a poorly varied and unbalanced diet, such as the Western one, too rich in dairy products, sugars and refined carbohydrates (Melnik et al, Nutr Metab, 2011). Turmeric is antioxidant, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective, since it inhibits the accumulation of fat in the liver. Despite these properties, turmeric has never been studied for its possible beneficial action on the muscles. That is why Japanese scientists from the University of Tokyo have developed the research we are talking about today.
Turmeric protects muscles, the study
The study was carried out on a population of mice which had been induced to lose muscle mass following the activation of the responsible enzymes. Some of the mice were also given turmeric as an extract. Well, turmeric inhibited the excess production of enzymes responsible for muscle loss. Not only that, a reduction in muscle mass loss was observed in the group to which turmeric was administered, despite its induction by the researchers. It is worth noting that, following further analysis, it was found that it is not curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, that determines this beneficial action. In fact, the scientists found no link between curcumin and the enzymes responsible for sarcopenia. It seems that other substances present in turmeric, such as the antioxidants thymol and p cymene, are responsible for these beneficial properties for the muscles.
Turmeric has once again been shown to be a powerful and beneficial spice for our health. Turmeric is not only useful in combating inflammation, free radical damage and cellular degeneration, from today we know that it also protects muscle mass. As emerges from the research, it is important to include turmeric as a whole spice in a varied and balanced diet and not curcumin-based supplements as this is not the active ingredient called into question to counteract the loss of muscle mass. Green light for the use of curry that contains turmeric or for the addition of turmeric to soups, sauces and gravies but also to salad dressings. In this case you can mix a teaspoon of turmeric, extra virgin olive oil and a grind of pepper in order to maximize the properties of turmeric and make curcumin available as well. It is true, as mentioned, that curcumin does not participate in the protection of muscle mass but still counteracts the damage of free radicals and inflammation.