By Dr. Atli Arnarson
Turmeric is a popular yellow spice originating from southern Asia. It's an essential ingredient in many Indian dishes.
It's also consumed for its health benefits. Supplements of turmeric or curcumin—its main active ingredient—are becoming increasingly common.
However, some people are concerned about the possible side effects of high-dose turmeric and curcumin supplements. This review looks into the evidence.
What Is Turmeric?
Turmeric, also known by the scientific name Curcuma longa, is an ancient Indian spice, medicinal herb and food dye in the ginger family.
Its root stalks, called rhizomes, are bright yellow or orange. They're usually dried and ground into powder, and are rich in curcuminoids, plant compounds that are responsible for turmeric's characteristic color.
Turmeric is an essential ingredient in Indian curries, with its taste described as bitter and peppery. Nearly all of the world's turmeric is grown and consumed in India.
It mainly consists of carbs, mostly starch and fiber. However, like all spices, turmeric contains numerous plant compounds and nutrients.
The main active compounds in turmeric are the curcuminoids. They are responsible for turmeric's orange-yellow color and most of its health benefits.
The most widely studied curcuminoid is curcumin, which may constitute around 3 percent of turmeric (1).
Additionally, commercial turmeric or curcumin powders usually contain additives. These include silicon dioxide, an anti-caking agent that prevents clumping.
Some cheap turmeric powders may also contain illegal additives that are not listed on the labels. Turmeric adulteration is discussed in more detail below.
Summary: Turmeric is a popular, yellow-orange spice. It is also used as a food dye and dietary supplement. The compound curcumin is thought to be responsible for most of its health benefits.
Why Do People Eat Turmeric?
Turmeric is used as a spice and food dye, adding both flavor and color to food.
But it has also been consumed for its health benefits, all of which have been attributed to curcumin, its main active ingredient.
Curcumin supplements have the following benefits, to name a few:
• Improved antioxidant status: Curcumin and other curcuminoids are powerful antioxidants that may improve your antioxidant status (3).
• Reduced heart attack risk: They may also lower the risk of heart attacks, possibly through their anti-inflammatory effects (6).
This article contains more info about the health benefits of turmeric.
Summary: In addition to using turmeric as a spice and food dye, people eat it for its health benefits.
Adverse Effects of Turmeric and Curcumin
Yet, some people may experience side effects when they take them in large doses as supplements.
Additionally, not all commercial turmeric powders are pure. Some are adulterated with cheaper and potentially toxic ingredients not listed on the label.
Eating turmeric that contains wheat, barley or rye flour will cause adverse symptoms in people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Some turmeric powders may also contain questionable food colorants, which are added to improve color when turmeric powders are diluted with flour.
One food colorant frequently used in India is metanil yellow, also called acid yellow 36. Animal studies show that metanil yellow may cause cancer and neurological damage when consumed in high amounts (11, 12, 13).
While the toxic effects of metanil yellow have not been investigated in humans, it's illegal to use in the United States and Europe.
Summary: Pure turmeric is considered safe for most people. However, turmeric powders may sometimes be adulterated with cheap fillers, such as wheat starch and questionable food colorants. They may even contain lead.
Curcumin supplements are considered safe and no adverse side effects have been reported at low doses.
One study in 10 adults found that taking 490 mg of curcumin daily for a week caused no side effects (16).
Yet, a small proportion of people may experience some mild side effects at higher doses. These may include:
• Skin rash: People have reported a skin rash after taking a dose of 8,000 mg of curcumin or more, but this seems to be very rare (20).
Extremely high doses of 1,170 mg per pound (2,600 mg/kg) of body weight daily for 13 weeks, or up to two years, may cause some serious side effects in rats.
These included an increase in liver size, stained fur, stomach ulcers, inflammation and an increased risk of intestinal or liver cancer (22).
However, the dose makes the poison. There is currently no evidence that lower amounts of curcumin cause serious side effects in humans when taken over short periods, though human studies on the long-term effects are lacking.
Summary: High doses of curcumin may cause mild side effects in some people, but they are generally considered safe. The long-term effects of taking curcumin in humans are unknown.
How Much Is Too Much?
There are no official recommendations for the intake of turmeric, and the maximum tolerable intake level has not been identified.
However, as a general rule, you should not exceed the dosage recommendations you find on supplement labels.
On the other hand, there are some official guidelines for the intake of curcumin.
The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives set the acceptable dietary intake as 1.4 mg per pound (3 mg/kg) of body weight per day (23).
For a 178-pound (81-kg) man, this would translate into 239 mg per day.
Summary: There are no official guidelines for the intake of turmeric, but the acceptable intake level for curcumin is 1.4 mg per pound (3 mg/kg) of body weight.
How to Ensure Turmeric Quality
Some turmeric powders contain cheap fillers not mentioned on the labels.
These adulterated powders are difficult to identify without a chemical analysis. Your best bet is to choose turmeric that has been certified by a reputable agency.
For instance, you could look for turmeric that has been certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
If you are taking turmeric or curcumin supplements, select supplements that have a quality certification by a third party. Several companies provide quality certifications for supplement manufacturers.
These include NSF International, Informed Choice and the US Pharmacopeial Convention. Look for their seal on the packaging of products, or go to their websites to see what supplements they've certified.
Summary: Buy your turmeric and curcumin supplements from trustworthy suppliers and choose products that are certified by a reputable third party.
The Bottom Line
Turmeric and curcumin supplements do not seem to have any serious side effects.
However, some people may be prone to mild discomfort, such as headaches or diarrhea, at high doses.
Keep in mind that low-quality turmeric may be adulterated with cheap fillers, such as wheat starch, which will cause adverse symptoms in people with gluten intolerance.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
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