First ginger, then matcha, now turmeric. The yellow spice often found in Indian food (and ginger’s cousin, FYI) has officially reached celebrity status, making its way into lattes in just about every trendy café and on Instagram (see: #turmericlatte or #goldenlatte). And the fad is only growing. Case in point: News broke recently that a woman supposedly died after receiving an intravenous turmeric injection, according to Forbes. Yes, an injection.
Why the sudden infatuation with an ancient root? For years, holistic health practitioners have heralded turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to its active ingredient, curcumin. Studies have shown that the compound inhibits a number of molecules that play a role in inflammation in the body, and other studies have shown that inflammation has been linked to metabolic diseases, like obesity.
As we’ve become more intrigued by the relationship between inflammation and obesity, turmeric emerged as a seemingly magical solution to our weight-loss struggles.
The problem is: We don’t have the science to officially say that it is—yet. "All of the research on turmeric or curcumin and its effect on weight loss has been done on rodents, not humans," says registered dietitian and certified strength and conditioning specialist Alissa Rumsey, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “And while there are some studies that show adding turmeric to your diet may help control inflammation, the amounts used in those studies are much, much higher than the amount you’d ever use in a drink or dish,” she says.
Though there have been studies on real, live people that investigate curcumin’s antioxidant nature, and they’ve been positive, we don’t know that turmeric as an antioxidant can help with weight loss—or even weight management, says Rumsey.
Regardless, Rumsey says turmeric could potentially aid weight loss, in other ways: She recommends using it to add flavor without sugar or salt and to infuse diversity in to your diet. "When food is more flavorful, people tend to be satisfied with less of it," Rumsey explains. Plus, when you switch up the flavor profile of your meals, you’ll be less bored and more likely to stick to healthier options.
Bottom line: Consuming turmeric probably isn’t going to help you drop pounds the way not consuming soda or doughnuts would. But combined with a wholesome and nutritious diet, regular exercise, and stress management, it definitely won’t hurt. As long as, of course, you do it the smart way—think a few teaspoons per day…and nowhere near an IV (just to be safe).