Doctor analyzes turmeric effectiveness and risks

Health Watch

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Dr. Colleen Fogarty, the Department Chair at Highland Family Medicine, discussed the effectiveness and risks of turmeric Thursday during News 8 at Sunrise.

“Turmeric is a common spice, actually used in a lot of South Asian cooking,” said Dr. Fogarty. “It’s been around for a really long time and actually in Ayurvedic tradition is a remedy for fatigue and other kinds of things.”

Dr. Fogarty said turmeric is being sold as a supplement with a variety of claims around it including that it’s helpful for inflammation and helpful for gall bladder. “It’s important to talk about these supplements because many of them don’t do all the things that they’re purported to do.”

Dr. Fogarty said right now there are no randomized control trials suggesting benefits for turmeric. “There are some very small studies that have some preliminary signs that it could be helpful for the pain of osteoporosis and possibly post-heart attack. But again, these are small, preliminary studies. There’s no FDA indication for the medication, and it’s not something physicians are prescribing, typically.”

She added, “In terms of its safety, there’s typically not a lot of bad effects. Although at high doses, there are some issues with GI, so people can get nausea and some diarrhea with it, if they’re taking an excess dose. Also, it has been found to possibly cause anemia in some people, so a low red blood count. And there’s certainly the possibility of interacting with medications, particularly blood thinners. So people who are taking blood thinners should not be taking an excess of turmeric.”

Turmeric is not approved by the FDA. Dr. Fogarty said, “This is why we advocate a variety of foods. Particularly fruits and vegetables. many, many spices are beneficial in a diet in ways that we don’t know. So we’re not advocating taking supplemental turmeric. We are suggesting that if people are eating that commonly in their food as a seasoning, that’s absolutely fine and to be enjoyed.”

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