Does Turmeric Help With Weight Loss?

Turmeric on a black backdrop

Getty Images / Liudmyla Yaremenko

If you’ve already implemented a nutritious diet and other lifestyle changes but are looking for additional ways to support a weight loss goal that you have set for yourself, you may find yourself browsing the supplement category online. Trendy weight loss supplement options are endless but often contain unwanted additives and side effects.

To steer clear of any extra unwanted additions, going the natural route is sometimes a safer choice. This is where turmeric comes into play!

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric is an aromatic eastern root, commonly used in Indian cuisine and touted for its medicinal properties. Turmeric skin is brown in color, similar to a sweet potato, and has bright orange flesh with an earthy, sweet, and slightly spiced flavor.

While you may be more familiar with the powdered turmeric found in the spice section of your local market, it is also often available in its raw form. You can find this in the produce section.

Turmeric and Weight Loss

While turmeric contains as many as 235 different compounds, most research on turmeric has been done on its most bioactive compound, curcumin. However, the studies on the association between curcumin supplementation and weight loss are limited.

Nicole Rodriguez, RDN, NASM-CPT, owner of Enjoy Food. Enjoy Life, LLC, advised that while the studies that have been done show promise, the body of research contains fewer than 2,000 participants which is not enough to prove a definitive connection.

Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, FAND, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of My Indian Table: Quick & Tasty Vegetarian Recipes, agreed with Rodriguez on the limitations present in current research.

Sheth brought up a 2021 review of randomized control trials (RCTs) that concluded higher dose curcumin intakes [of 1500 mg] or supplementation with specifically bioavailable forms showed the most promising results with significant reductions in participant body weight, BMI, and waist circumference.

It's important to note many of these studies were shorter in duration— one to six months—and lacked follow-up. Sample sizes were also very small, consisted of mostly women, and may have had confounding factors such as the inclusion of dietary and physical activity intervention during the studies.

Furthermore, many studies included participants who had been diagnosed with specific diseases like metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. With this in mind, it may be more pertinent to investigate the root cause of some of these diseases, and how curcumin can be beneficial.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Many diseases have something in common: inflammation. Sheth points out that turmeric, namely curcumin, may help support weight loss efforts primarily due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

The scientific community, in in vitro studies, (in a test tube) has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt curcumin’s potential for anti-inflammatory benefits.

Furthermore, many human studies, including RCTs and systematic reviews of RCTs, have also proven the effectiveness of curcumin supplementation to reduce biomarkers for inflammation.

However, similar to Rodriguez and Sheth’s findings, the authors of these studies call for more robust studies that include more participants, consistent dosage and formulations, and the establishment of long term effectiveness relative to an individual's health status, yet again proving there is not a "one-size-fits-all" approach to health.

The Connection Between Inflammation and Weight Loss

When someone is experiencing obesity, inflammation may also incited in the body.

Studies have shown that in states of obesity, not only are pro-inflammatory cytokines increased, but anti-inflammatory cytokines decrease. Pro-inflammatory cytokines, like TNF-ɑ, are responsible for modulating the adaptive and innate immune response. When their homeostasis is dysregulated, like in cases of obesity, autoimmune diseases and other complications can occur.

Furthermore, adipose tissue secretes several hormones, the most commonly studied being adiponectin and leptin. These hormones are responsible for glucose metabolism and protect against insulin resistance (adiponectin), as well as appetite regulation and fat storage (leptin).

When obesity is present, the ratio of these hormones becomes disturbed. When adiponectin is low and leptin levels increase, adipose tissue dysfunction occurs and is correlated with chronic low-grade inflammation and places one at increased risk for cardiometabolic disease and other chronic diseases.

How Does Increased Inflammation Lead to Decreased Ability to Lose Adipose Tissue?

Unfortunately, conditions such as leptin resistance and insulin resistance can occur, meaning the body no longer responds to their stimulation. In these cases, it may make it difficult to regulate one’s appetite and metabolize nutrients properly.

With these mechanisms in mind, we must consider where curcumin can play a role.

While the connection between weight loss and curcumin is not entirely clear, the evidence points to curcumin as being able to disrupt the dysregulation of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory systems in cases of obesity that can lead to difficulty losing weight.

Turmeric Supplements vs. Turmeric Root

If you decide to add turmeric to your diet, one question you may be facing is if you should take it as a food or through a supplement. One of the challenges to harnessing the potential anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin is bioavailability, or how well the body can absorb and utilize the nutrient in question. 

Rodriguez and Sheth agree with the current research that another compound, piperine, found in black pepper, can improve curcumin’s absorption. Rodriguez advises that pairing turmeric with a heart-healthy fat can also assist this process. That being said, if taking a supplement, one would need to be sure it’s in a form optimized for absorption.

Additionally, as noted earlier, dosing amounts are also important. Speak with a health care professional to see if a turmeric supplement would be appropriate for your diet, as well as what dosage you should take.

Sheth also advises checking with a health care provider before taking a new supplement, especially if you're taking prescription medication that may react to a new supplement.

What the Experts Recommend

Rodriguez and Sheth are in agreement: If you’re interested in getting some of the benefits that turmeric may have, including its bright color, go ahead and add it to stir-fries, salad dressings, curries, or lattes.

However, research has not yet conclusively discovered a link between curcumin and weight loss. If one chooses to take a supplement, at this point, there is no certainty that it is the hero it may be claimed to be.

Nicole Rodriguez, RDN, NASM-CPT

Whether we're talking curcumin or any other supplement du jour, keep in mind where it falls in the hierarchy of priorities for fat loss: energy balance (caloric deficit) is king, followed by macronutrients, then micronutrients, meal timing, and, finally, supplements.

— Nicole Rodriguez, RDN, NASM-CPT

Ultimately, following a variety-filled diet is the key to achieving and maintaining weight loss over time.

A Word From Verywell

While there is a need for more research in this area, we highly recommend speaking with a health care provider before adding a turmeric supplement into your routine. Experimenting with the turmeric spice in your diet through recipes is an excellent way to become familiar with it and begin to provide your body with the benefits this spice offers. 

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kunnumakkara AB, Bordoloi D, Padmavathi G, et al. Curcumin, the golden nutraceutical: multitargeting for multiple chronic diseases. Br J Pharmacol. 2017;174(11):1325-1348. doi:10.1111/bph.13621

  2. Alsharif FJ, Almuhtadi YA. The effect of curcumin supplementation on anthropometric measures among overweight or obese adults. Nutrients. 2021;13(2):680. doi:10.3390/nu13020680

  3. Amalraj A, Varma K, Jacob J, et al. A novel highly bioavailable curcumin formulation improves symptoms and diagnostic indicators in rheumatoid arthritis patients: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, two-dose, three-arm, and parallel-group study. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2017;20(10):1022-1030. doi:10.1089/jmf.2017.3930

  4. Hasanzadeh S, Read MI, Bland AR, Majeed M, Jamialahmadi T, Sahebkar A. Curcumin: an inflammasome silencer. Pharmacological Research. 2020;159:104921. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2020.104921

  5. Frühbeck G, Catalán V, Rodríguez A, Gómez-Ambrosi J. Adiponectin-leptin ratio: A promising index to estimate adipose tissue dysfunction. Relation with obesity-associated cardiometabolic risk. Adipocyte. 2017;7(1):57-62. doi:10.1080/21623945.2017.1402151

  6. Battineni G, Sagaro GG, Chintalapudi N, Amenta F, Tomassoni D, Tayebati SK. Impact of obesity-induced inflammation on cardiovascular diseases(Cvd). Int J Mol Sci. 2021;22(9):4798. doi:10.3390/ijms22094798

  7. Prasad S, Tyagi AK, Aggarwal BB. Recent developments in delivery, bioavailability, absorption and metabolism of curcumin: the golden pigment from golden spiceCancer Res Treat. 2014;46(1):2-18. doi:10.4143/crt.2014.46.1.2

By Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CPT
Liz is a national nutrition expert, adjunct professor, personal trainer, and author who owns Shaw Simple Swaps, a nutrition communications business.