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SPECIAL REPORTS

Functional potential of turmeric in a post Covid-19 era
Friday, 16 October, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Benny Antony
Turmeric is a spice that is very familiar to civilisations across Asia where it was grown, but especially in the Indian sub-continent where it was used as both a spice as well as medicine. It has long been an ingredient of both Ayurveda and Chinese medicinal practice for centuries.

Modern scientific research has thrown light on the ‘magic’ of this versatile spice. While most of the benefits from turmeric have been attributed to its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, it has also been proven that turmeric has anti-microbial properties as well.
Modern scientific investigation has established that the most active component of turmeric is a set of 3 compounds collectively called curcuminoids (or curcumin), as well as minor compounds like the essential oil components also have strong positive impact on health.
Covid-19 has been a ‘moment of history’ in more ways than one. No doubt there be a ‘Before-Covid and post-Covid’ situation for every aspect of life. Covid-19 has made a sea of difference to the way the world regards health, both as a community and as an individual.

Maintaining health has become the priority with immune health at the forefront. This has led to an increased interest in finding natural ways to boost immunity and unsurprisingly, turmeric has been hailed a key player amongst consumers globally. Many home-remedies and DIY drinks from traditional concoctions to modern mixes have caught their place in the public imagination. While the product has been rightly identified, the means to go about boosting one’s immunity has been widely misunderstood.

While assuming that the act of just consuming turmeric is good enough and easy, this unfortunately not the case in reality. There are multiple challenges to overcome. For one, curcumin is available only to the tune of 2% in most varieties of turmeric. This means that for a therapeutic dose of curcumin, an average adult should consume about 350g of turmeric powder per day. This is not something that is generally considered feasible. One solution has been to extract the curcumin for direct consumption.

This presents the second challenge:
Curcumin, on its own is not absorbed by the body, but is metabolised and removed. While, over the years, many solutions have been proposed and used, most of them use a second compound or chemical to suppress the body’s mechanisms which would otherwise remove curcumin from the body to help better absorb curcumin, an approach which can have long-term safety concerns. However, the safest and the most natural way is the way it was ingested for centuries, in its whole form. This mechanism powers BCM-95, which is the world’s most researched bioavailable turmeric extract.

While  bioavailability presents the technical challenges, there is a larger challenge to address, and this is habit and palatability. Even if we assume that consumers the world over are willing to take the 1g / day recommended dosage, how do they take it? The traditional solution of supplements is capsules. This has a limited appeal. Today’s generation demands to consume their daily dose ofsupplements as a part of their lifestyle, like the fortifications of minerals and vitamins in foods and beverages.

Curcumin, which is insoluble in water and only mildly soluble in fats has not lent itself to these formats very well traditionally. But formulators are increasingly finding creative ways to overcome these hurdles. Of course, incorporating curcumin which has a characteristic taste requires some adaptation as well and this is also possible.

Coming back to the current times, Covid-19 is there to be with us for some time to come. It is important that we also find ways to live side by side with it and manage our lives in a natural and healthy manner. Consumers realise this and their quest is to find solutions that work for them. The few particles of turmeric or curcumin in that ready to mix ‘turmeric latte’ or ‘turmeric smoothie mix’ are not going to make a difference to their lives, it settles and is washed away. It is important that the food and beverage industry rises up to the occasion to incorporate more healthy goodness into everyday snacks, foods and drinks like it had done with vitamin fortifications to support overall wellness.

(The author is joint MD, Arjuna Natural Pvt. Ltd)
 
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