If there's a theme song for smokers and their cigarettes, it is probably “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.” Just about every smoker has been told by his or her doctor to quit. Almost no smokers are able to quit smoking for good.
But if you can't stop smoking, or you don't want to stop smoking, curcumin may help you offset the changes in your lungs that eventually cause frequent shortness of breath.
Medical researchers in Singapore, where a large percentage of the adult population smokes, conducted an epidemiological study of the possible relationship between a curcumin-rich diet and respiratory capacity, that is, how much air a person can take in a single breath. The researchers tested 2478 Singaporeans chosen randomly in a door to door survey, measuring their lung capacity with a device called a spirometer.
You can see how the spirometer is used in this video:
Researchers asked their study volunteers whether or not they had ever smoked, as well as how often they ate curries made with turmeric. The 2478 Singaporeans were asked if they ate curries never, less often than once every six months, every month but not every week, every week but not every day, or every day. The scientists then compared lung capacity to curry consumption in smokers, former smokers, and people who had never smoked.
Curcumin-rich curries were found to be correlated with greater lung capacity in smokers and non-smokers alike. The average lung capacity in study volunteers who never ate curries made with turmeric was 1.57 liters. In study volunteers who ate curry at least once a month, lung capacity averaged 1.64 liters. In the volunteers who ate curry every day, lung capacity average 1.68 liters.
The benefits of curcumin were even greater for smokers and former smokers. Smokers who ate curry on a regular basis had slightly over 9% greater lung capacity than smokers who never ate it. And in former smokers, curcumin was linked to 10% greater lung capacity.
If you are a smoker, why should you care about lung capacity? The simple fact is, the more lung capacity you have, the less you feel the effects of asthma, colds, flu, and COPD. You'll feel better, and you'll live longer if you have greater lung capacity.
How much curcumin do you need to make a difference? This study suggests that as little as 100 mg of curcumin every day could make a big difference in lung capacity. That's about the amount of curcumin you get in a single serving of curry.
To improve or maintain your lung health, you could just eat curry every day. There's nothing wrong with that if you like curry. But if you want to get the benefits of curcumin for lung protection, as little as 500 mg a day will support the health of your lungs.
Ng TP, Niti M, Yap KB, Tan WC. Curcumins-rich curry diet and pulmonary function in Asian older adults. PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e51753. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051753. Epub 2012 Dec 26.