Ar-Turmerone: The Turmeric Compound That Stimulates Brain Stem Cells

At this point, the list of health benefits attributed to turmeric is getting pretty ridiculous. This is not to say that the benefits are overhyped (quite the opposite) - rather, the body of research done on turmeric's benefits in the past decade is so voluminous, it's awe-worthy to the point of being almost comedic.

Can one food really be responsible for so many benefits? The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric have been well known for a few decades now - but the list of conditions that turmeric has shown to be effective in treating as a result of these anti-inflammatory properties continues to grow. Everything from arthritis to depression to heart disease have been treated successfully with turmeric (often with greater success that prescription medications).

In the past decade, researchers have started to look into other potential benefits of turmeric and found that it has powerful neuroprotective effects, anticancer properties, antitumor properties and stimulates body's endogenous antioxidant systems. Now you understand why I use the term ridiculous when talking about turmeric.

Expanding Beyond Curcumin

Still, despite literally thousands of studies on turmeric listed in research databases, researchers continue to find new benefits to attribute to turmeric.

Much of the research to date has focused on one particular compound - curcumin - found in turmeric. Curcumin is welll known to be the most potent single anti-inflammatory compound in turmeric, and perhaps was assumed by some researchers to be the sole compound responsible for turmeric's benefits.

Yet, when researchers looked at benefits of whole food turmeric, rather than isolated curcumin, they saw entirely new effects, suggesting that there was more to turmeric than just curcumin.

In the past few years, more research has started to look at a group of molecules known as turmerones, and has uncovered a number of new impressive benefits not seen when research looked exclusively at curcumin. 

Stem Cells And Turmerones: The Research

In a study published in September of 2014, researchers from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Julich, Germany examined the effects of turmerones on a few different aspects of neural stem cell function in vitro (isolated stem cell in culture) and in vivo (in rats). [1]

They found that in vitro, neural stem cells (NSC's) proliferated 50-80% faster when exposed to varying levels of ar-turmerone. While this is interesting, in vitro studies are always deserving of a certain degree of skepticism, as isolated cells in a lab is not the same as a living organism.

Fortunately, when researchers looked at the effects of ar-turmerone in rats, the results were just as promising.

Rats injected with ar-turmerone showed both increased proliferation of NSC's (more total neural stem cells) and increased neurogenesis (more NSC's turning into neurons). 

Additionally, NSC's in the rats were found to mobilize to other areas of the brain at a greater rate in the presence of ar-turmerone, allowing for stem cells to move from the subventicular zone (where the greatest concentrations of NSC's are found) to other areas of the brain.

Stem Cells And Turmerones: The Implications

Given the ability of ar-turmerone to increase proliferation, differentiation and mobilization of NSC's in vivo, the potential of turmeric for treating a variety of neurodegenerative diseases is huge.

Alzheimer's, dementia, depression and many other neurological diseases are driven in part by neurodegenerative activity in the brain and central nervous system. The research is obviously in very early stages, but the potential is there for turmeric to mitigate or even reverse some of the effects of the disease attributable to neurodegeneration.

Another application where stem cells would seem to hold promise is in cases of head trauma, where damage to brain tissue in certain areas (particularly the hypothalamus and pituitary) can have profound effects on the hormonal function of the individual. 

We know all of these conditions are also driven in part by neurological inflammation, so given the established ability of turmeric to reduce neurological inflammation, the healing effects of turmeric are potentially two-fold. [2][3]

Past studies have also shown that the presence of NSC's in a certain area of the brain will increase the rate of myelination. Myelin is the thin sheath that surround a neuron and "cements" the connections between neurons. Researchers looking at the neurological requirements for learning and memory formation often point to myelination as a critical part of that process. [4]

Increased myelination is of tremendous benefit to those looking to recover from neurodegenerative conditions, but the benefits could possibly extend to those with otherwise healthy brains. Researchers expect that increased myelination in certain areas of the brain would help with learning and memory retention. 

Additionally, NSC's have been shown to have neuroprotective effects when studied in animal models. [5] The combined effect of reduced neurological inflammation, neuroprotection and potential increased myelination make turmeric somewhat of a brain wonder drug.

Caveats

It comes with the territory - any time you're dealing with new research, there's going to be some caveats when extrapolating the data to make inferences about applications in humans. 

The study was done on rats, which although decidedly not human, do have a nervous system very similar to our own and offer a fairly reliable model for how a given drug will function in a human system. So while not quite as convincing as a human study, this is not my primary hesitation with this data.

The main issue I can see with this study is that the rats were injected with isolated ar-turmerone directly into cerebral fluid. The levels of turmerone that made it into the brain tissue of these rats are likely impossible to achieve by ingesting turmeric orally. That being said, based on the dose-response curve demonstrated in the study, it's reasonable to assume that lower levels of turmerone in brain tissue would have similar effects qualitatively, if of a lower magnitude.

Making predictions based on very early data about how a given compound may effect certain health conditions is always highly speculative. However, based on our best models of disease pathology for conditions like Alzheimer's and dementia, we would expect to see some level of benefit to the patient when treated with turmerone. However, until these studies are actually done, this remains in the realm of speculation.

How To Get Your Turmerone Dose

Assuming you're not going to inject isolated turmerone into your cerebral fluid, getting therapeutic levels of turmerone into your bloodstream and brain is a tricky proposition.

Raw turmeric root and powdered turmeric both suffer from the problem of poor absorption of alkaloids, meaning you would have to eat massive loads of either one of these to achieve therapeutic levels of turmerone (and it's likely not actually possible because of the limits of digestion and absorption).

There are a number of turmeric supplements on the market, and some of these have been formulated to absorb quite well. Unfortunately, these supplements almost universally use only isolated curcumin, and contain no ar-turmerone.

It is out of this frustrating lack of options that we formulated Synchro Gold, the world's only high-absorption turmeric product utilizing a full-spectrum extract of turmeric root. We can now proudly say that no other product on the market comes even close to delivering the such high levels of turmeric alkaloids, including ar-turmerone. Learn more about Synchro Gold here.

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[1] http://stemcellres.com/content/5/4/100

[2] http://www.jimmunol.org/content/171/11/6072.short

[3] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1567576912001725

[4] http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v4/n11/full/nn738.html

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/eutils/elink.fcgi?dbfrom=pubmed&cmd=prlinks&retmode=ref&id=19628689 

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A Synchro Guide To Fixing Your Posture

Generally when people want to improve the way they look, feel or perform, they look to changing things like their diet or lifestyle habits or, in the case of athletes, their training regimens. Certainly, all of these things are important parts of the equation.

That being said, it's shocking how often people overlook posture as part of the wellness-performance equation. Our posture is so fundamental to the way we experience our bodies - when our posture is out of whack, it has the potential to negatively affect every other system in the body. Conversely, when posture is excellent and all major joints are close to ideal alignment, the body (unsurprisingly) feels and works great more often than not. 

Once you learn to recognize postural problems, you realize pretty quickly that most people in the western world live every day of their lives with significant postural issues and accept it as "normal'.

Fixing posture problems often takes quite a bit of work and is best looked at as a long-term investment - but there's really no way to adequately describe how good it feels to walk around straight, solid and well-aligned after a lifetime of living with screwed-up posture.

This is what I want to do in this article - give you the knowledge to identify your posture issues, learn why you have them and then learn the tools and practices you need to fix them. Posture is a reflection of what you do with your body every day - and if the aim is to change posture, the techniques described below should be implemented every single day.

 

Posture Problem #1: Hunched Back (Kyphosis)

 

Why You Have It: This is perhaps the most common posture problem in the western world and it's definitely the easiest to identify in other people. Sitting in chairs for extended periods is the primary cause. The hunching effect is generally exacerbated if your time in a chair involves staring at a screen and typing. 

What's Happened To Your Muscles And Tendons: Hunching over a computer for hours every day causes the pectoral muscles to tighten, while stretching and loosening the rhomboid and trapezius muscles in your upper back that are responsible for maintaining a straight upright posture.

Lifestyle Changes To Make: For some of us, time in front of a computer or in a car seat is inevitable. Try to replace as much of your sitting time during a day with standing, moving or preferably - squatting. The manner in which squatting decompresses the spine and hips is the perfect antidote to the negative effects of sitting. I've written previously about squatting benefits and techniques, you can find that article here.

When you must sit in a chair, focus on sitting upright and keeping your shoulders back and down, away from your ears - and try not to sit for more than 30 minutes at a time without getting up and moving.

Stretches/Exercises To Fix It: Regaining length and flexibility in the pectorals will be the factor that most limits how quickly you're able to fix this posture issue. The single-arm pectoral stretch against a wall is an excellent technique for improving pectoral flexibility. Do this stretch with your arm flush against a wall and roll slowly away from that arm until you hit encounter some meaningful resistance, and then take a few deep breaths pushing gently against this resistance. Do this stretch with each arm parallel with the ground, and then again with each arm at 15 degrees and then again at -15 degrees relative to the ground. If this puts too much stress on your elbow, the stretch can be done with bent elbows.

The second part of the equation is to build back strength in your rhombiods and trapezius. Low cobra pose from yoga will help rebuild strength in these muscles while also helping you regain flexibility in your upper spine. It may not look challenging initially, but try doing a set of 20 without using only your back muscles to lift you (no arms). Hold for 2 breaths at the top of each repetition. To make the exercise more challenging, try doing the technique with your arms to the side - or graduating to locust pose.

 

Posture Problem #2: Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Why You Have It: There's a number of reasons why a person might develop forward hip tilt. Tight quadriceps attach to the top of the front of the pelvis and can pull the front of the pelvis down. Tight low back muscles (erector spinea) attach on the back of the pelvis and can pull the back of the pelvis upward.

For most people, however, forward pelvis tilt is caused by way overly-tight hip flexors, muscles that have attachments at your pelvis and femur as well as between your pelvis and lower spine. Why do people have tight hip flexors? Again, it's largely from sitting for most of the day. 

What's Happened To Your Muscles And Tendons: Your hip flexors have tightened and shortened over the years and are now pulling your pelvis out of alignment. This has consequences for the low back, the hips, the knees and the ankles.

Lifestyle Changes To Make: Again - sit less, squat more. Or at least sit less, move around more.

Stretches/Exercises To Fix It: I'm aware I'm at risk of being repetitive here, but it is remarkable the extent to which squatting acts as the natural antidote to so many of the negative things sitting does to our joints and posture. Working on mobility in your squat is one of the best things you can do to restore length in the hip flexors. There is a great video showing techniques for building squatting mobility in this article.

Some other exercises to improve length in the hip flexors: Low lunge, lizard pose and pigeon pose.

 

Posture Problem #3: Forward Head Tilt

Why You Have It: You guessed it. Sitting for long periods looking at a computer screen.

What's Happened To Your Muscles And Tendons: Your scalenes and upper trapezius have become tight from holding your head up as you stare down at a computer screen, and now hold your head permanently in a forward posture. 

Lifestyle Changes To Make: When you are sitting, practice holding your head upright. Using an external keyboard and a stand for your laptop is a good way to set up your workspace to keep your vision at a more natural level. Something like this.

Stretches/Exercises To Fix It: Because this issue is created by the scalenes and trapezius stiffening in an elongated position, stretching isn't useful here as it is with other posture issues.  Massage is the really the only way to make these muscles supple again. As I said above, to change any of these posture issues, you really need to be using the stretches/techniques every single day. For most of us, getting a massage every day isn't feasible. Thankfully, you can use a massage ball to access the scalenes and trapezius. There are a number of YouTube videos explaining the technique. I recommend watching one before trying to work on your own muscles.

 

Posture Problem #4: Internal or External Rotation Of The Femur

Why You Have It: There are a few common causes for this issue. Tight hip flexors from sitting is definitely a culprit, but so too is crappy footwear. 

What's Happened To Your Muscles And Tendons: Modern shoes have a number of issues that interfere with the natural movement of the foot. Almost all shoes have a higher heel than forefoot and a restrictingly narrow toebox. This prevents the foot from "splaying" as it makes contact with the ground and prevents the achilles from fully extending in the way it would if walking barefoot. The result is improper ankle alignment that turns into improper knee and hip alignment - which as you can see in the image above, creates issues at every level of the skeletal system.

The cumulative result of countless thousands of misaligned steps over many years is rotation of the femur and generally poorly movement in the hip joint. 

Lifestyle Changes To Make: I assume you've gotten the message about sitting by this point in the article. But perhaps the most significant change to make is the shoes you put on your feet every day. I am a huge advocate of barefoot/minimal shoes for this very reason. In the months and years after switching to barefoot minimal/shoes, you will slowly be retraining your ankles, knees and hips to walk in proper alignment. The potential of these shoes to radically improve posture is hard to understate.

Stretches/Exercises To Fix It: Hip flexors are a big part of the equation, so all of the exercises/techniques mentioned in the pelvic tilt section also apply here. In particular working on hip mobility in the squatting posture can do wonders to improve the alignment of the femurs. 

 

Go See A Professional, At Least Once (Seriously)

Our posture so fundamentally affects the way we experience our bodies - the way we move, our emotional states, how good our bodies feel day-to-day - all of these are deeply connected to the way our muscles sit on our bones and the way our bones sit relative to each other. 

This article and others like it can certainly help you identify major issues in the alignment of your joints, but there really is no replacement for going to see a professional. A highly trained eye like you would expect from a good chiropractor or orthopedist will be able to identify both subtle and major issues in your posture - and tell you which ones are most needing of correction. Often one posture issue begets another, and knowing which is the root issue is something that's hard to identify unless you've looked at hundreds or thousands of bodies over the years.

Even if you only go once to have your posture issues identified and do the rest of the work on your own, the amount you will learn about your body's alignment from a professional is well worth the investment of time and money.

 

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