Curcumin: The Supplement Series
A quick guide to supplements that may enhance brain health and healthy aging
By Jeynaba Jamanka
Curcumin, also called diferuloylmethane, is the main natural polyphenol (micronutrient found in plants) found in Curcuma longa (Turmeric).
Turmeric has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years, particularly in Asia. Curcumin being isolated and taken as a supplement is a much more recent practice.
Why it’s Used
Numerous clinical studies have shown that Curcumin alters multiple cell signaling pathways related to the body’s inflammatory response, growth factors, cell-cycle regulatory proteins, and more. Specifically, Curcumin reduces oxidative stress, which causes over 100 diseases/disorders, and free-radicals present in the body. Researchers have confirmed that Curcumin has both an anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties that have multiple health benefits including:
Reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression
Beneficial to kidney health
Management of degenerative eye conditions
Improved symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
There have been multiple studies on humans on the effectiveness of Curcumin supplements.
Studies have been done on both individuals with pre-existing health conditions and healthy individuals. A recent study found that supplementing Curcumin may be beneficial even before the onset of disease. Specifically, the researchers found that Curcumin reduced the level of beta amyloid protein, which could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and higher levels of antioxidant action.
Some of these benefits can be found by ingesting turmeric (in root, tea, and spice form), however stronger results are found in Curcumin supplements, as Curcumin only makes up about 2 percent of the turmeric root. Curcumin is available in several variations though for health benefits is mainly taken as a capsule or tablet.
One drawback of Curcumin itself is poor bioavailability due to mainly poor absorption, rapid metabolism, and rapid elimination. Consuming Curcumin by itself is of limited benefit. However, this can be overcome, as the bioavailability of Curcumin can be significantly increased if ingested with a bioavailability enhancer. Namely, piperine, one of the main components in black pepper, has been shown to increase the bioavailability of Curcumin by 2000%. Although piperine is the most widely recommended, there is some controversy with which bioavailability enhancer is the most effective, with others advocating taking it in conjunction with fats
It has been approved as a supplement by the FDA and is “Generally Recognized As Safe'' (GRAS). The Allowable Daily Intake (ADI) value of Curcumin has been determined by the European Food Safety Authority to be 0-3 mg per kilogram of body weight, or roughly 0-1.4 mg per pound. Some side effects of taking extremely high doses of Curcumin (above 500-12,000mg) are diarrhea, headache, rash, and yellow stool.
Some alternative supplements that have been shown to also have anti-inflammatory properties include fish oil (omega 3-s), ginger, and resveratrol. Some alternative supplements also shown to help with oxidative stress are cranberry, vitamins A,C and E, and zinc.
Curcumin supplements can range from anywhere between $20-$70 (per 60 capsules).
For an overview of some of the leading brands in the market:
For more scientific background and data of Curcumin, please visit: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/