Turmeric and Lead, Here's Everything You Need To Know

turmeric plants

Turmeric is commonly used as a spice to flavor food. It's beneficial properties promote its popularity throughout the world as a healing and restorative agent. Turmeric's most notable claim to fame is perhaps its anti-inflammatory capability. With a long history of use in herbal recipes and remedies, turmeric has now caught the attention of individuals interested in supporting good fitness and health. It is often taken in supplemental form, such as a powder, capsule, or tablet.

Unfortunately, one recent study has shown that some variations of this colorful spice may not be as healthy as users imagine, particularly when it is taken in low-grade supplement form or purchased as a cooking spice ingredients. We're referring to the recent study of increased amounts of lead found in turmeric. If you have a bottle of turmeric in your kitchen, you may want to continue reading to learn more about the dangers associated with lead-contaminated turmeric.

Before we dive in, we'd like to tell you that the study that found higher levels of lead was only found in turmeric produced in Bangladesh. Bangladesh produces roughly 8% of the world's turmeric. Me First Living sources its turmeric from India. To read more about this, please scroll to the bottom of the article to see why Me First Living's turmeric is one of the safest turmeric supplements on the market. 

What is Lead?

Lead is a heavy metal that is not biodegradable. It never becomes less than it is, and it never disappears. It occurs naturally in the soil, water, and air. Cross contamination often occurs. If lead becomes airborne, it eventually lands on the soil or water. It can also seep into water from the ground or vice versa. 

Lead is a well-known neurotoxin, which means that it is bad for you. Exposure to lead can cause cognitive issues, anemia, organ damage, heart issues, brain damage, and other health problems. Long-term exposure to high amounts of lead can even lead to death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that no amount of lead is safe for children. Currently, the United States regulates importations of turmeric spice, most of which come from India.

How Does Lead Get into Turmeric?

Since lead is found naturally in the soil, it only makes sense that plants test positive for its presence. Lead exists in soil and water used to grow spices, vegetables, and fruits, it is absorbed by the plants. Typically, testing indicates the presence of only trace amounts of lead in plants grown commercially. This is completely normal and nothing can be done about this. 

Sometimes, lead levels in the water or soil are higher due to industrial, commercial, or recreational activity. When this type of environmental contamination exists, higher levels of lead are found. Plants growing in contaminated areas absorb higher amounts of lead than normal. 

Which Turmeric Products Contain Higher Levels of Lead?

Typically, naturally occurring lead levels are higher in turmeric products that are not extracts. An extract is made by taking a specific part of a raw substance rather than using the entire thing. Since a turmeric extract contains a specific portion of turmeric root, it does not have the same levels of lead as the root itself. Extracts are also less likely to contain contaminants such as insects and heavy metals other than lead. Testing shows that turmeric extracts have a much lower amount of naturally occurring lead and heavy metals when compared to Curcuma Longa and turmeric root powder. Extracts also have lower levels of lead and other heavy metals than that contained in a jar of turmeric spice.

turmeric spices with lead

The products that have been found to contain higher amounts of lead have all been spices used for cooking as you can see above. Again, these are all products which contain turmeric grown in Bangladesh. 

How Is Non-environmental Lead Contamination Occurring in Turmeric?

Companies located in Bangladesh have a practice of enhancing turmeric's bright yellow coloring using industrial-strength pigments containing lead chromate. You may wonder why merchants are bothering to add this pigment to turmeric. Is it for aesthetic purposes? The simple truth is that merchants can sell more turmeric when it looks attractive. 

Although turmeric is naturally yellow, this coloring varies. Lead chromate pigment increases the vibrancy of turmeric's yellow hues. Therefore, manufacturers boost the color of their turmeric using this pigment to increase sales. The study also discovered the use of this pigment eases the process of removing turmeric's skin. This aspect allows manufacturers to use more of the root for processing, increasing their profits. 

The vibrant yellow coloring created by treating turmeric with the lead chromate pigment provides the illusion of a quality product. The exact opposite is the case. While the treated turmeric looks wonderful, it is actually dangerous for anyone who takes it. The risk is simply too great to take. 

Who Discovered the Lead Contamination of Turmeric in Bangladesh?

Stanford University recently released the results of a study showing processors in Bangladesh added lead directly to the turmeric through the use of the industrial-grade pigment. The study evaluated human blood levels of lead in nine turmeric-producing districts of Bangladesh. Seven of these areas exceeded the concentrations deemed safe in Bangladesh by as much as 500 times. 

The study was prompted by the discovery of high levels of lead in children and women residing in Bangladesh. At first, researchers believed the contamination came from the soil, but the levels seemed too high. Eventually, these scientists came to believe the contamination came from an additive used during processing to remove the skin and brighten the natural color of turmeric roots. This pigment has previously been used to color furniture and toys. Just the thought of using furniture dye on food should send shivers down your spine. 

Researchers wondered why processors began using this pigment. After all, turmeric does offer a bright yellow coloring that should have been sufficient to make it attractive enough for sale. In truth, the inclusion of the pigment serves two purposes. It not only enhances the yellowish tint of the roots but it also makes it easier to remove the skins. This practice began after massive flooding in the 1980s reduced turmeric crops in Bangladesh to a colorless collection of roots. Too much rain leads to turmeric roots offering a dingy yellow coloring rather than a brilliant mustard hue. 

How Can You Avoid Lead Contamination in Turmeric?

Two strategies exist if you want to avoid lead contamination in your turmeric products. The first one is to select quality turmeric extracts. The second option is to purchase turmeric sourced from areas outside of Bangladesh. Choosing a standardized turmeric extract gives you access to products that are less likely to contain lead and other heavy metals. 

How Should You Choose a Turmeric Supplement?

Taking a turmeric supplement can enhance your health in many ways. However, it is important to choose a quality supplement for the best results. You may be able to achieve some health benefit by including this spice in the meals you prepare. However, fresh turmeric, turmeric spice, and turmeric root powder contain only 2 to 4% curcuminoids. Your best option is to select a standardized turmeric extract.

What Are the Benefits of Standardized Turmeric Extracts?

Most of the studies on turmeric and its health benefits have been conducted on standardized extracts. Therefore, similar results can only be expected when taking supplemental extracts rather than fresh turmeric or root powder. 

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of taking a standardized turmeric extract is limited exposure to naturally occurring lead. However, this type of supplement also offers certain health benefits that cannot be obtained through the use of turmeric root powder, Curcuma Longa, or turmeric spice. 

In particular, standardized turmeric extracts are more beneficial for you than other forms of this spice due to the amount of curcuminoids they contain. Curcuminoids are the active ingredients responsible for the anti-inflammatory and other health benefits of turmeric. 

Purchasing a supplement isn't as simple as choosing between the least expensive product and the one with the higher price tag. Price makes a difference. The turmeric supplement with the lower cost is likely to offer lower quality and weaker results than the one with the higher price on it. 

In order for your turmeric supplements to deliver the highest level of benefit, you need to take one containing the highest possible level of curcuminoids. Standardized turmeric extracts contain 95% curcuminoids whereas Curcuma Longa and turmeric root powder contain only 2 to 4% curcuminoids. 

When you choose a standardized version of turmeric extract, you receive a quality product containing the highest level of curcuminoids. Research studies provide results indicating that the best results are achieved when the suggested dosage of turmeric contains between 1000 mg and 1300 mg of turmeric curcumin that has been standardized to a 95% concentration.

Ideally, you should select a supplement containing BioPerine, a branded form of black pepper extract. The human body has difficulty absorbing curcumin, an active compound found in curcuminoids. Black pepper aids in this process, allowing the body to more fully absorb the curcumin contained in your turmeric extract.

It is important to keep in mind that quality turmeric supplements have a reputation for offering beneficial qualities. Choosing a standardized turmeric extract containing 95% curcuminoids has the potential to alleviate inflammation and pain while promoting overall good health. Be sure to select your product carefully, choosing extracts with 95% curcuminoids. To avoid buying a supplement of low quality, look for a product that is labeled GMO-free, vegan, organic, and filler-free. 

About Me First Living's Turmeric Supplement and Safety

The safety, purity and quality of our products has always been our utmost concern. By now we're sure you've noticed that our turmeric supplement is one of the only supplements on the market to contain 1000 MG of Standardized Turmeric Extract. Almost all other turmeric supplements contain 100-150 MG of this ingredient. Why? Because it's expensive! The common ingredient you'll find in a turmeric supplement is "turmeric root powder" or "curcuma longa". This is a much cheaper, less effective, and less safe option! As you just read, extracts are much safer in terms of heavy metals and more. 

We source our raw turmeric from India which produces roughly 80% of the world's turmeric. Our turmeric undergoes multiple tests for things like heavy metals, E.Coli, salmonella, and more. First, our raw ingredients are tested. Once tests come back positive, we then create and encapsulate the product. Once we have the final product, we then send it through another round of tests for verification and analysis. Once this is completed, we receive a certificate of analysis. The Certificate of analysis shows the specification at which supplements are supposed to meet. Our supplements not only meet these specifications but are always well under what is "normal". Please keep in mind, lead and heavy metals are naturally occurring and will be found in any herbal supplement and many things you consume daily. However, some may have more than others. 
This is yet another reason why we highly recommend Standardized Turmeric Extract 95% curcuminoids and are very against any turmeric supplement that contains a majority of Turmeric Root Powder or "Curcuma Longa". Turmeric Root Powder contains a much higher amount of these naturally occurring heavy metals, it is consistently much higher in regards to the test limitations and is not nearly as effective for health benefits. 
If you or anyone you know is taking a turmeric supplement where the main ingredient is turmeric root powder or curcuma longa and NOT the extract, they should take caution. 

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