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  • Writer's pictureBeth Kitchin PhD RDN

TikTok, Turmeric Tea, and the Truth


Last week, the Good Day Alabama News Producer asked me to do a segment on TikTok and turmeric tea claims. Since I don’t do TikTok (I’m just not cool that way) I asked her to send me some of the videos people are seeing. Watching the three videos she sent confirmed that never going on TikTok was a wise choice. Three “influencers” touted the benefits of turmeric tea and powders for weight loss and waist slimming. They danced and smiled espousing claims such as “lose one pound a week without dieting” and “studies show that turmeric tea helps you lose weight and belly fat”. Of course, she did not cite any of these studies.

 

So, I went to two of the best evidence-based science sources - PubMed and Consumer Labs – for the scoop on turmeric. There is some good evidence that the active compound in turmeric, curcumin, can indeed aid in modest weight loss (about 2.5 pounds on average over several months) and reduce waist size (by about 1 to 1.5 inches in people who had obesity). What the studies did not show was that turmeric tea could do any of these things because the studies didn't actually test turmeric tea. The studies used highly concentrated supplements that had 1000 to 2,000 mg of curcuminoids - the bioactive compound in turmeric. A teaspoon of turmeric powder only has 70 mg of curcuminoids. So, drinking turmeric tea made from the turmeric root or using turmeric powder is unlikely to help you lose much weight. However, one benefit to turmeric powder is that it may make your food taste saltier without adding sodium!


If you want to try turmeric for weight loss, you need to buy turmeric extract supplements that contain these high concentrations of curcuminoids. Because the effects are modest, I suggest using it as an additional aid to your healthy exercise and eating habits. Buying dietary supplements can be tricky because they are not regulated by the FDA. So, you don't know if you're getting a quality supplement that has in it what it says it has in it! However, some consistently good supplements of high quality include Puritan's Pride, Kirkland,(the Costco brand) and CVS. In fact, CVS now requires all of its dietary supplements to undergo 3rd party evaluation for quality. That doesn't mean they've been tested for results such as weight loss or cholesterol lowering for example. But it does mean you're getting the amount of the substance as stated on the bottle and that it is not contaminated with lead or other things you wouldn't want in there!

 

What to Look for in a Turmeric Extract Supplement:

 

  • Get Turmeric Extracts: Not turmeric powders. Not only do turmeric powders not have nearly as much as the curcuminoids, but they are also more likely to be contaminated with lead.

  • Take it with a Meal that Contains Fats or Oils: Turmeric is not well absorbed by itself. Absorption goes up a lot when you take it with a meal that has some fat in it.

  • Add Black Pepper: Black pepper helps the turmeric stay in your body longer. Some products contain black pepper in the form of piperine.

  • No Need for Bio Enhanced Products: Unless you’re taking it on an empty stomach, there’s no need for expensive “bio enhanced” supplements. You’ll pay a lot more for these then regular turmeric extract supplements.

  • Do not Take Turmeric if You are on Blood Thinners or Some Other Medications: Turmeric can interact with blood thinners, blood sugar lowering medications, and other medications. So be sure to check with your doctor before you start taking a turmeric supplement to make sure it is safe for you.


If you would like to find out more about dietary supplements check out the Consumer Labs website at www.ConsumerLab.com. They do a great job of testing supplements for quality and evaluating the claims that supplements makers and influencers make. You can sign up for a free newsletter and also subscribe to their site for more in-depth information.

 

Some final thoughts: Don’t go on TikTok for nutrition, health, or medical information. Or at least go in with some healthy skepticism! While I’m sure there is some accurate info there, it may get lost in the sea of these silly videos that are not based on actual evidence. And don’t expect to see me on TikTok any time soon!


Have a great week everyone and I'll see you Tuesday morning on WBRC's Good Day Alabama around 8:15 am (sometimes a little earlier!).


Dr.. Beth K

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