Turmeric has long been used as a natural way to treat a host of ailments. Mahtab Jafari's study is the first to show how its active ingredient impacts age-associated genes and increases longevity in fruit flies. Image: Daniel A. Anderson
Mahtab Jafari, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at UC Irvine, has discovered that the main active ingredient in turmeric may have even greater health benefits. In a study published in Rejuvenation Research, she and Korean researcher Kyung-Jin Min found that curcumin extended the lifespan of fruit flies by up to 20 percent, while improving locomotion and having tumor-prevention properties.
As a member of the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine, Jafari studies the potential anti-aging qualities of foods many people use for their purported health benefits, such as Rhodiola rosea, green tea extract and Rosa damascena, which is found in rose water.
"Mahtab's research area is extremely important, because most herbals and medicinal foods remain unregulated, with little scientific evidence that they're effective or safe," says Dr. Wadie Najm, the Samueli Center's medical director.