Is turmeric milk really healthy? (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Haldi is one of the most commonly used spices in Indian kitchens. Owing to its innumerable benefits, is it also applied to wounds for healing and consumed raw and/or mixed with milk. As such, you must have also read about the benefits of haldi doodh, also called golden milk, including its ability to strengthen immunity, reduce inflammation, and protect against heart disease. But, according to Dr Cyriac Abby Philips, a specialist in hepatology and liver transplant medicine -- better known better as TheLiverDoc on X -- turmeric (in all its forms) is not absorbed in the body.  In fact, "99 per cent of it is lost in the stools", he said.

So, is haldi doodh healthy? Dr Philips -- in conversation with independent journalist Faye D'Souza on her YouTube channel -- said, "The doodh is, not the haldi". "Turmeric is a part of our culinary practice and daily diet. It gives flavour and adds colour (to food); that's it. So when you add it to milk, the milk turns yellow and it gets flavoured. But you are not getting any goodness from the turmeric because it is not absorbed in the body. 99 per cent of it is lost in the stools. The goodness that you get is actually from the milk, not the turmeric," said Dr Philips.

Considering the popularity and reliance on turmeric and turmeric milk in many households, especially as a remedy for cough, cold, and flu which intensified with the Covid-19 pandemic, we decided to find out more.

What is turmeric or haldi?

Turmeric, a popular yellow-coloured spice, contains a compound called curcumin that is known for its numerous health benefits. But, as pointed out by the expert, its absorption in the body remains a concern. Why, though?

"The absorption of curcumin by the body can be limited due to its low bioavailability or when it is poorly water-soluble in the body. This means it has insufficient time to be absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract," said Dr Urvi Maheshwari, internal medicine expert, Zynova Shalby Hospital.

Are you taking care of your liver? (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

So, is haldi doodh not healthy?

When consumed as turmeric milk, according to Dr Maheshwari, "curcumin faces challenges in being absorbed by the body". "It has low solubility in water and is susceptible to degradation in the stomach and liver. Additionally, curcumin is rapidly metabolised and excreted from the body, reducing its bioavailability," said Dr Maheshwari.

How to improve its bioavailability?

To improve the absorption of curcumin, various strategies have been explored. Dr Maheshwari elaborated that one common approach is to consume turmeric with a source of fat, such as black pepper or coconut oil, as these may enhance absorption. "Combining curcumin with piperine, a compound in black pepper, has shown promising results in increasing its bioavailability," said Dr Maheshwari.

Curcumin is fat-soluble and, therefore, whole milk with fat may be a better source than reduced and low-fat milk, said Dr Sukrit Singh Sethi, consultant, gastroenterology, hepatology and liver transplantation, Narayana Hospital, Gurugram.

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Furthermore, Dr Maheshwari noted that using standardised curcumin supplements or nanoformulations may also improve absorption. "These formulations are designed to enhance curcumin's solubility and stability, allowing for better absorption and utilisation by the body," said Dr Maheshwari.

However, Dr Sethi said usually "doctors might advise patients to consult with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to their diet or supplementation routines, especially if they are seeking specific health benefits from turmeric".

What to keep in mind?

It is important to note that the efficacy of curcumin and its absorption can vary among individuals. "Factors such as genetics, gut health, and the presence of certain enzymes can influence how well curcumin is absorbed," said Dr Maheshwari.

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2024-04-17T09:08:37Z dg43tfdfdgfd