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Researchers Look at Health Benefits of Curry

Posted April 16, 2007 3:20 p.m. EDT
Updated April 17, 2007 10:49 a.m. EDT

Researchers are looking at how curry can be used to prevent certain health ailments.

Ned Van Dyke is at high risk of developing colon cancer. He has a family history and a colonoscopy revealed polyps.

"My mother had colon cancer late in life," he said.

Van Dyke wanted to avoid the same fate, so he joined a study to test a pill made from an ingredient called curcumin found in the spice, turmeric, and used in curry. Dr. Carmen Guerra said it is common in India.

"Curcumin is abundantly used in their diet but also as a food preservative. Whereas here in the U.S., it's hardly ever used," Guerra said.

So why are scientists interested?

"India has the lowest rates of colon cancer in the world," Guerra said.

Curcumin seems to lower inflammation in the body and is being studied for several reasons. Researchers believe the spice may also ease arthritis, protect against heart disease and even Alzheimer's disease.

Animal studies also found it can reduce pre-cancerous polyps.

"These animal studies have shown that this may be a very effective anti-colorectal cancer agent, and interestingly, a very safe one," Guerra said.

Guerra is leading a study to see if the results can be repeated in humans.

"We're trying to determine if curcumin induces cell death in cells that are precancerous," he said.

Van Dyke said he is not sure if high doses of curcumin will work for him, but he's willing to give it a shot.

"Well, if I'm going to try to benefit from medical advances, I have to be willing contribute," he said.

Another recent study also showed curcumin may help in the treatment and prevention of prostate cancer.