Spices in Asian cuisine have health benefits

Updated on Sep 10, 2004 09:20 PM IST

Scientists have found that turmeric, used in spicy Asian food, can protect the body against damage that leads to cancers, in particular leukaemia.

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PTI | ByNabanita Sircar, London

The growing popularity of Indian food is evident from the increasing number of Indian restaurants opening up across the country. But it is not merely the lure of the palate that ensures the success of the cuisine, now health benefits will add to the charm of a well-cooked roghan josh.

Scientists have found that spicy food could protect the body against damage that leads to cancers, in particular leukaemia. Most children in India grow up with the knowledge of the benefits of turmeric, but on Thursday, a childhood leukaemia conference in London was told that the root that gives yellow colour to Indian dishes is an anti-oxidant which can protect against environmental chemicals that damage DNA. Scientists now increasingly believe that lower rates of leukaemia in Asia may be due to the difference in diet.

Turmeric is also said to slow the rate of diseases such as Alzheimer's and to possess anti-inflammatory properties that could help with Crohn's Disease. Speaking at the conference, Professor Moolky Nagabhushan, of Loyola University Medical Centre in Chicago, said turmeric blocks some of the harmful effects of cigarette smoke, protects against chromosome damage and prevents dangerous chemicals forming after eating processed food.

It has been seen that curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric its yellow colour, stops leukaemia cells multiplying. He said: "Our studies show that turmeric - and curcumin - in the diet mitigate the effects of some of these risk factors."

Ken Campbell, of the Leukaemia Research Fund, said leukaemia was rare in people of Asian descent. He said: "This suggests that lower rates of childhood leukaemia in India, China and Japan may, at least in part, be due to differences in genetically determined susceptibility."

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