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Turmeric, omega-3s and selenium protect cells and support cellular health

Turmeric helps cells resist infection, omega-3s protect against air pollution and selenium may prevent anemia, three new studies reveal.

Researchers in a lab study discovered how curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, supports cells. Viewing individual cells in solution, scientists saw curcumin molecules insert themselves into cell membranes. Once inside the cell membrane, curcumin molecules appeared to help create a stronger membrane structure. Scientists believe that this molecular restructuring may be how curcumin protects cells from infection.

In an omega-3 study, researchers explained that air pollution, or small particulate matter (PM), in big cities is usually from vehicle exhaust. PM gets into lungs and, over time, may cause lung, heart and other health problems,  particularly in older adults. Doctors thought these health effects might be due to oxidative stress (cell damage) and wanted to see if omega-3s could protect the lungs. In Mexico City, where PM is high, about 50 residents, average age 77, took fish oil or soy oil. After eight months, antioxidant activity in the omega-3 group increased 49 percent compared to 23 percent for soy oil. Soy oil did not prevent fat oxidation, while omega-3 decreased fat oxidation by 73 percent.

Doctors in a selenium study explained that anemia, the most common blood disorder, often affects older adults. In anemia, there are too few healthy red blood cells to carry sufficient oxygen from the lungs to the body and carbon dioxide back to the lungs. Researchers measured blood levels of selenium in about 2,100 adults, aged at least 65, and found that 13 percent were anemic. Those with the lowest selenium levels were nearly three times as likely to have anemia as were those with the highest selenium levels. The findings raise the question of whether public health officials have overlooked low levels of selenium—which is an affordable supplement—as a cause of anemia in older adults.

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