The turmeric trend – a powerful super spice

An American is 100 times more likely to die of Alzheimer’s than an Indian person. Does Indian cuisine combat this disease?

Alzheimers Disease

Recent research studies have found that turmeric is a powerful tool to tackle brain degenerative diseases. Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and gives Indian curries their yellow colour. It contains curcumin, reputed to have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is claimed to have many health benefits including against Alzheimer’s.

In one study, Alzheimer’s patients consumed 764 mg of turmeric supplement containing 100 mg of curcumin, each day for 12 weeks. The patients “improved remarkably,” according to researchers.

Their symptoms and burden on caregivers decreased. The benefits of turmeric last long as patients continued to enjoy better cognitive health a year later. It was concluded that turmeric increased patients’ quality of life and daily activity. Turmeric blocks beta-amyloid, a sticky protein substance that is toxic to the brain’s nerve cells and strongly linked to dementia. Turmeric also reduces the inflammation of neural cells associated with Alzheimer’s.

In other research studies, aromatic turmerone – another component of turmeric, promoted the proliferation of brain stem cells and their development into neurons. The Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Julich, Germany believe that “While several substances have been described to promote stem cell proliferation in the brain, fewer drugs additionally promote the differentiation of stem cells into neurons, which constitutes a major goal in regenerative medicine.” Aromatic turmerone takes regenerative medicine research one step closer to achieving this goal.

Global Market

Due to the anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant activities of Curcuma longa, the capsules/ tablets containing turmeric powder and extracts, are marketed to support the immune system, joint and digestive health.

European consumers are adopting healthier lifestyle. An increasingly aging population is also triggering the risk of developing joint related health conditions. This is further escalating demand for curcuma longa as an important ingredient in the diet as a natural way to adddress these ailments. The global market for curcumin is expected to grow by 12% annually from 2015 to 2022. In 2022, this market is expected to reach 1.3 thousand tonnes at $84 million (€74 million). In another study expectations of growth are even higher, stating that the European market will grow by more than 17% annually, from 2015 to 2022. Europe is the second largest global market for curcumin, after North America.

The global turmeric market is projected to be worth $248.3 million by 2021, growing at a CAGR of more than 6%.

In addition, the rising number of food product, health supplement and cosmetic line extensions which have turmeric as a functional ingredient is one of the key factors responsible for the growth of the global market.

Organic turmeric is also in high demand by consumers, who are prepared to pay a price premium to reap full health benefits of turmeric’s functional properties. Considering that the majority of turmeric is produced in theIndian sub-continent, it is critical to ensure product quality and prevent adulteration. Certified organic turmericwill always contain 3%-5% Curcumin. Therefore, we recommend such certification for any imports in Europe orother western countries. The table below shows the value-add potential in European Market.

Opportunities for Value-Add in Turmeric Food Supplements or Herbal Medicine

  Food Grade Powder Powder Capsule Pharmaceutical grade capsules High-potency tablets
Indicative Market Prices (per Kg) €21 €248 €285 €768

Source: Value Chains of Herbal Medicines-Research Needs and Key Challenges in the Context of eEhnopharmacology (2011)


Conclusion

Turmeric is a spice that is considered a super-food by its proponents. Turmeric is widely believed to cure everything from cancer to Alzheimer’s. Even if proving the medical claims about turmeric consumption may take several more years, we believe turmeric is a rising star. Google searches about turmeric and its health benefits grew 300% in the five-year period ending in 2016. It would be interesting to see how the functional food industry reacts to this turmeric trend.

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