Turmeric is a beneficial food that has the ability to prevent cancer. This is a root, coming from the plant Curcuma longa, now widely used not only in the kitchen but in the context of natural medicine, in the form of a dietary supplement, as a coadjutant of traditional therapies to treat some of the most widespread diseases.
The main component of curcumin is the diferuloylmethane, also known as curcumin, a molecule whose root contains some variations.
What is the use of curcumin and how can it help cancer prevention?
The mechanisms of action of curcumin
Once taken, curcumin is not uniformly distributed in the body, so it works more effectively in the areas of the body that it can reach better. One of them is definitely the intestine. However once absorbed into the body, its bioavailability decreases and preventive action is reduced.
The mechanisms of action are mainly two: the first concerns the prevention itself, which intervenes before the formation of the tumor; the second has a destructive effect of the tumor, so the molecule acts when the disease is already present.
While remaining in the bounds of prevention, curcumin has a molecule, which, from a chemical point of view, it is extremely reactive towards other molecules that can be found within foods.
We constantly ingest substances that, probably or surely, are carcinogenic: we are talking about some foods but also of the air we breathe. Does cancer prevention means first of all avoiding coming into contact with potentially carcinogenic substances but, given their large number, it is impossible to avoid all of them. These harmful molecules have the ability to penetrate within cells and to bind to their DNA, modifying it in any way. Sometimes they change it so radical as to prevent the survival of that cell, which consequently dies while others bind to “alter” the behavior. That’s why a cell can begin to grow in an uncontrolled manner.
Curcumin has the ability, just like DNA, to bind to these harmful molecules, preventing them from binding to the cells. If this occurs in an organ such as the intestine, the onset of cancer there can be prevented.
Of course this effect is directly proportional to the quantity of curcumin taken over time and its concentration. The molecule must exist in the exact spot where the tumor is forming, in order to bind and prevents its emergence.
In addition to the preventive antineoplastic action, according to some studies, curcumin would also be able to act on the tumor cells already present.
In this case, the mechanism of action is based on the stimulation of certain cell receptors that are able to induce tumor cell apoptosis. Apoptosis is the mechanism by which the cell is induced to “suicide”, and it is physiological: the cells, for different reasons, can be programmed to die (think of the cells that hold the milk teeth to the gum in children, which at some point they die causing the detachment of the tooth). This process can be activated by curcumin.
However, it should be emphasized that curcumin is not a chemotherapeutic agent; it is simply a natural molecule that acts, if taken in the right quantities, as a coadjutant of the oncological therapies proposed by medicine, the only ones able to recover from cancer. Curcumin’s action will be more effective in cases of small tumors, in which it will penetrate the whole. In the case of larger masses it will act only on the outer surface; in these cases it will therefore be essential the targeted action and potent medicine or radiotherapy, to defeat the disease.
In any event, the therapeutic and preventive power of the molecule has been proven by numerous scientific studies. Although its action is not as strong as that of medicinal products, a constant intake of curcumin in the form of a dietary supplement brings many benefits to the body, without causing any side effects.