It turns out that many foods and spices taste good to humans for a reason: They sometimes have powerful disease-preventing properties. At least, this appears to be the case for curry, according to University of California, Los Angeles researchers.
In a study, a team of scientists found that curcumin, a main component of curry powder, helps suppress cancer-inducing cell signaling pathways. Specifically, the compound was shown to reduce molecular activity that contributes to malignant head and neck cancer.
"And it not only affected the cancer by inhibiting a critical cell signaling pathway, it also affected the saliva itself by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines within the saliva," said senior author Marilene Wang, M.D.
Study volunteers with head and neck cancer ate 1,000-milligram tablets of curcumin. One hour later, researchers tested their saliva and found that pro-inflammatory proteins were reduced and cell signaling pathways known to contribute to tumor growth were inhibited.
Previous research has suggested that curry powder and turmeric have anti-inflammatory capabilities. In fact, the spices have been traditionally used in Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian cultures for hundreds of years in topical anti-aging treatments, wound-healing and the alleviation of menstrual cramps, the study authors noted.