Turmeric is a yellow coloring spice widely used in the preparation of food. Curcumin is the active principle isolated from turmeric, exhibits antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic activity [Food Chem. Toxicol. 25 (1987) 545; J. Nutr., Growth Cancer 4 (1987) 83; J. Am. Nutr. Coll. 11 (1992) 192.]. Presently, curcumin is undergoing clinical trials for the prevention of cancer, at the NCI, Bethesda, USA. During boiling, broiling, frying and baking food proteins and carbohydrates pyrolyses to form Maillard reaction products, some of which are mutagenic/carcinogenic. We have tested the effect of turmeric extract and curcumin on the formation of mutagenic products in an in vitro model system. Glycine, 35 mM, creatinine, 70 mM and glucose, 70 mM were refluxed for 2 h at 150 °C with or without turmeric extract and curcumin. Turmeric extract and curcumin exhibited dose-dependent inhibition of formation of mutagenic pyrolysates as detected by TA98 with S9 mix. In another set of experiments, lysine, 1 M and glucose, 1 M was refluxed for 150 min at 100 °C with or without turmeric extract and curcumin. Mutagenic activity of reaction product was measured with TA100 without S9 mix. Both the test substances exhibited dose-dependent inhibition of mutagenicity of pyrolysed products. Moreover, turmeric extract and curcumin also inhibited the mutagenicity of lysine+glucose pyrolysed products. Some of the Maillard reaction products (pyrolysates) are known mutagens/carcinogens; they play an important role in the development and progression of diabetes and age-related degenerative diseases; they also destroy important essential amino acids. Spice turmeric, an important ingredient in the food preparation, blocks the formation of hazardous Maillard reaction products and its mutagenic activity.
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