Research: Turmeric may help with fat loss.


Turmeric may assist in weight loss.  

Chicken Curry
Chicken Curry

Turmeric has long been used as a spice in our foods.  Turmeric is a spice or perennial herb that has traditional usage worldwide but is most commonly used in Indian dishes.  It is a close relative of ginger.  It is a yellow-orange spice that is a large part of the color of yellow curry.  Outside of the flavor benefits, this spice adds to our food, turmeric also has been reported to have numerous health benefits.  Curcumin is the primary antioxidant found in turmeric and is likely the active agent that causes most of the positive effects tied to Turmeric.  In fact, curcumin has been used for centuries in medicine as an anti-inflammatory.  Recently, turmeric has also been touted as showing promise in the fight against obesity and metabolic syndrome, but does it really work?  

So what is turmeric?  It is an extract of the turmeric root.  One hundred grams of the root contains 354 Calories (kcal) with 10 grams of fat, 65 grams of carbohydrates (21 or which is fiber), and 8 grams of protein​[1]​,​[2]​.  It is a great source of potassium with 100 grams of root extract containing 2525 mg.  It is not calorie-free, but the distribution of the calories is a healthy one.  

Does turmeric work for weight loss?  Yes, and maybe.  There are a number of studies that show turmeric works for weight loss.  One, touted by the USDA in 2009 looked at mice​[3]​,​[4]​.  In the study, done by Tufts University, researchers gave mice a high-fat fat diet for 12 weeks.  The test group was given a small amount of curcumin, and the control group was not.  The study found that curcumin group gained less fat during the 12 weeks of the study.  

Great, so are tether any human trials?   There are not many or any.  At the time of writing this article, I could not find any that I felt were significant enough to mention.  That being said, the physiology between mice and human is similar, and we should expect some commonality.  Curcumin has been noted to attenuate lipolysis.  On article highlights that the anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric should help with preventing many of inflammatory causes of obesity and metabolic syndrome​[5]​.  Another study highlights that it induces lipolysis so in other words, it induces lipid or fat burning​[6]​,​[7]​.  Other studies show that turmeric induces leptin release​[8]​,​[9]​,​[10]​.  These were all done in mice, for the most part, with limited human trials, but they should translate to human physiology. 

The bottom line:  While increasing your intake of turmeric should not be the only strategy for weight loss, it may help you mitigate the inflammation associated with obesity and give you a boost in fat burning.  More studies are needed, but these studies are encouraging.  I suggest that you consider cooking with turmeric and enjoy the flavor.  Any weight loss you achieve is a bonus!!!!


  1. [1]
    “Turmeric nutrition facts and health benefits,” Nutrition And, 26-Jan-2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 26-Jan-2018].
  2. [2]
    “Curcumin – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects,”, 26-Jan-2018. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 26-Jan-2018].
  3. [3]
    “Benefits of Compound in Turmeric Spice Studied,” US Department of Agriculture, 21-May-2009. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 26-Jan-2018].
  4. [4]
    A. Ejaz, D. Wu, P. Kwan, and M. Meydani, “Curcumin Inhibits Adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes and Angiogenesis and Obesity in C57/BL Mice1,” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 139, no. 5, pp. 919–925, Mar. 2009. [Source]
  5. [5]
    P. G. Bradford, “Curcumin and obesity,” B, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 78–87, Jan. 2013. [Source]
  6. [6]
    W. Song and J. Choi, “Korean Curcuma longa L. induces lipolysis and regulates leptin in adipocyte cells and rats,” Nutr Res Pract, vol. 10, no. 5, pp. 487–493, Jul. 2016. [PMC]
  7. [7]
    Y. Pan et al., “Curcumin improves glycolipid metabolism through regulating peroxisome proliferator activated receptor γ signalling pathway in high-fat diet-induced obese mice and 3T3-L1 adipocytes,” R Soc Open Sci, vol. 4, no. 11, p. 170917, Nov. 2017. [PMC]
  8. [8]
    J. Lee et al., “KBH-1, an herbal composition, improves hepatic steatosis and leptin resistance in high-fat diet-induced obese rats,” BMC Complement Altern Med, vol. 16, no. 1, p. 355, Sep. 2016. [PMC]
  9. [9]
    S. L. Atkin, N. Katsiki, G. Derosa, P. Maffioli, and A. Sahebkar, “Curcuminoids Lower Plasma Leptin Concentrations: A Meta-analysis,” P, vol. 31, no. 12, pp. 1836–1841, Sep. 2017. [Source]
  10. [10]
    R. Navekar, M. Rafraf, A. Ghaffari, M. Asghari-Jafarabadi, and M. Khoshbaten, “Turmeric Supplementation Improves Serum Glucose Indices and Leptin Levels in Patients with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Diseases,” J, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 261–267, Apr. 2017. [Source]
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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