Research to date, in both menopausal women and animals, has shown that once ovulation ceases significant changes to the composition of gut bacteria occurs.
Curcumin (the active component of Turmeric) has been shown in previous studies to demonstrate weight-gain prevention effects in menopausal rats. An interesting study by a research team from the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences looked at how the possible changes in gut bacteria induced by curcumin might be involved.
The study showed that rats fed curcumin for 12 weeks after undergoing removal of their ovaries (ovariectomy) showed a greater gut microbiome diversity than those administered just distilled water indicating that curcumin may help to reverse the decreases in gut bacteria once ovulation ceases.
The study observed a group of rats which had received an ovariectomy (OVX) but were fed the distilled water and it showed they had a reduced gut bacterial diversity compared to a control group which underwent a sham operation (SHAM). However the group of rats that had an ovariectomy but were fed curcumin (CUR) displayed significantly different numbers of 7 species of gut bacteria.
First author of the study, Dr Zhiguo Zhang wrote:
"Estrogen deficiency induced by ovariectomy caused changes in the distribution and structure of intestinal microflora in rats, and curcumin could partially reverse changes in the diversity of gut microbiota."
Curcumin shown to prevent weight gain
In support of previous studies, rates in the OVX group displayed significant weight gain compared with the SHAM group however curcumin supplementation prevented this weight gain in the CUR group.
The study we're writing about here is relatively small (just 18 subjects) which is, of course, a limitation of the research but if the results were to be replicated on a larger scale it may justify future intervention trials in humans which may in turn lead curcumin to be used a part of a therapy to prevent post-menopausal weight gain and maintain good health of the gut.
Two other potentially beneficial effects of curcumin
The study observed two other possible benefits of curcumin - the CUR group showed lower levels of Anaerotruncus, a stain of bacteria that has been linked to pre-natal stress and age related macular degeneration.
Researchers also found that curcumin reduced levels of Helicobacter pylori, a strain of bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers.