Curcumin Tempers Arsenic Toxicity Through DNA Repair

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 by: Barbara L. Minton
Tags: curcumin, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric is effective against the harmful impact of arsenic according to a recent study reported in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition. Arsenic is a poison that can be fatal to humans.

The study investigated whether curcumin could counteract the DNA damage caused by arsenic using peripheral blood lymphocytes from healthy donors. Researchers found that DNA damage could be effectively reduced by curcumin, and the effect was more pronounced when lymphocytes were preincubated with curcumin prior to the arsenic insult.

Arsenic causes DNA damage by generating reactive oxygen species and enhancement of lipid peroxidation levels. Curcumin counteracted the damage by quenching the reactive oxygen species, decreasing the level of lipid peroxidation, and increasing the levels of phase II detoxification enzymes like catalase, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and glutathione peroxidase. Curcumin also elevated the level of polymerase, a repair enzyme.

Arsenic is usually found in the environment combined with other elements such as oxygen, chlorine or sulfur. Arsenic combined with these elements is called inorganic. When combined with carbon or hydrogen, it is referred to as organic arsenic. The inorganic form is much more toxic than the organic form. Arsenic is colorless and has no taste or smell. So you will not know if it is present in your food, water, air, or a substance you touch.

Most of the arsenic produced is used as preservative for wood. Since 2003, manufacturers have voluntarily transitioned away from arsenic containing preservatives for children's play structures, picnic tables, decks and some fencing. These items made before 2003 most likely contain the arsenic preservative. Arsenic preserved wood continues to be used in other applications, and the extent of exposure from them is either not known or not made public.

In the past, many pesticides widely used in cotton fields and orchards contained inorganic arsenic, and it is likely that residues remain. Arsenic is still used in batteries for automobiles, and in semiconductors and light-emitting diodes.

In addition to the normal levels of arsenic in the air, water, soil and food, you could be exposed to higher levels in several ways, such as living in an area that has high natural levels of arsenic in rock leading to elevated levels in soil or drinking water. Children may take in higher levels by touching or eating soil. Hazardous waste sites not properly run can allow arsenic to get into surrounding water, air, or soil.

If you saw or sand arsenic treated wood without protecting yourself, you will inhale some of the sawdust into your nose or throat. Anyone working on a house, deck of dock that contains pressure treated wood is at risk of this. The burning of arsenic treated wood will release the arsenic into the surrounding air. The soil of an agricultural area where arsenic was used on the crops may contain high levels of arsenic.

Inorganic arsenic has been recognized as a human poison since ancient times. While larger amounts of ingested inorganic arsenic can cause death, lower levels of exposure may result in hypertension, stomach and intestinal irritation, stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased production of red and white blood cells, fatigue, abnormal heart rhythm, blood-vessel damage resulting in bruising, and impaired nerve function with 'pins and needles' feeling in your hands and feet. Long-term oral exposure to lower amounts of arsenic may result in darkened skin and appearance of wart-like growths on the body.

Swallowing arsenic increases the risk for cancer of the liver, bladder and lungs. The EPA, Department of Health and Human Services, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer classify inorganic arsenic as a known human carcinogen.

Data suggests that inhaling of inorganic arsenic may interfere with normal fetal development as well as increasing the risk for lung cancer. Since children tend to eat and drink less of a variety of foods than adults do, ingestion of food, juice or infant formula made with arsenic contaminated water may represent a significant source of exposure. Although most of the exposure pathways for children are the same as those for adults, children may be at a high risk of exposure because of normal hand-to-mouth activity, particularly involving outdoor play.

Learn more about curcumin and turmeric at ( .


Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

About the author

Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.

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