Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

What’s the Evidence, Ms Kardashian?

By Lauren Giorgio

It is disturbingly common to find celebrities paid to spruik alternative treatments, medicines and practices that science has already shown are ineffective – or worse.

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Critics of complementary and alternative medicine demand an evidence base to separate effective medicines from those that offer no more than a placebo. The gold standard for evidence is often cited as peer-reviewed publication, but the story is complicated by the powerful influences of media hype and celebrity endorsement.

Medicinal use of turmeric, a spice we all have in our kitchen cupboards, dates back more than 2000 years to ancient Indian and Chinese civilisations. Its active ingredient, curcumin, is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Indeed, there is promising clinical and testimonial evidence to support curcumin as a treatment for diseases of inflammatory origin.

Epidemiological evidence also reveals a lower incidence of gastro­intestinal cancer and mortality rates in India and other Asian countries compared with Western countries, and Asians consume more turmeric than Westerners. Somewhere along the line a link was made between turmeric consumption and lower cancer rates.

This connection saw the exploration of curcumin’s possible anti-cancer activity grow exponentially in the past 15 years. Many studies demonstrated that curcumin’s anti-cancer potential is immense because it can target multiple factors involved in the growth of cancer, but much of that research tested curcumin against human cancer cells maintained in laboratories...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.