Last week, a group of researchers from Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Illinois published a review article on curcumin in the reputable Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. The authors argued that curcumin is not the health purveyor it’s made out be. Given that the review so vehemently opposes some of the compelling evidence we have seen, we saw this as an opportunity to re-evaluate and investigate as any good scientist should. Widely used in both the ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) systems of healing, curcumin derived from the yellow pigment of the turmeric root, is revered and extensively used for religious, cultural
By now, I’m sure that most of us health buffs have heard about curcumin. Curcumin research has dominated the science and nutraceutical field for quite some time because in vitro and animal studies on curcumin have been so promising. Curcumin has experienced clinical success in human studies in the areas of: depression, cancer, enlarged prostate, osteoarthritis, cholesterol, cardiovascular health, metabolic health, GI inflammation, autoimmunity, gallbladder, toxicity, dental health, surgical recovery, and more. For some reason though, it hasn’t spilled over into the media as much as one might expect. Perhaps this is because the results haven’t been quite as miraculous as we hoped they would be: but we now know that this was mainly due to inadequate dosing and formulation problems. I’m not quite sure why clinical studies keep being published that are using a plain-Jane curcumin extract when there is so much evidence showing that a bioavailable curcumin formula is far more effective!
One of the latest, most relevant potentials for curcumin is for its protective effects on the brain. Curcumin was supposed to be the revolutionary treatment in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease due to its ability to bind and remove beta-amyloid plaque from the brain. Unfortunately, no clinical studies have been able to show this effect in humans.
UCLA (the University of California, Los Angeles) has done close to 2 decades of research on solving the curcumin conundrum: how to make it do what we know it’s capable of! And they may have found the answer. A new study using an optimized curcumin formula has recently been published showing that it improved cognitive function and mood over 30 days, taking just one capsule a day! (Actually, cognitive improvements were noted just 1 hour after taking the first dose, but this would be too crazy for most to believe.) Another study showed that this same optimized curcumin reduced blood levels of beta-amyloid proteins in healthy people in just 30 days!
What this shows is that certain curcumin formulas allow curcumin to get into the brain and do its job. Scientists are beginning to think that only free-form curcumin can get from the blood into the brain, and it appears that the formula developed by UCLA does just that. And if we have finally found a way to get curcumin into the brain, perhaps human clinical studies in Alzheimer’s disease patients will finally be successful…. At last, there is hope!
Cox KH, Pipingas A, Scholey AB. Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population. J Psychopharmacol. 2014 Oct 2.
Disilvestro RA, Joseph E, Zhao S, Bomser J. Diverse effects of a low dose supplement of lipidated curcumin in healthy middle aged people. Nutr J. 2012 Sep 26;11:79.
Hamaguchi T, Ono K, Yamada M. REVIEW: Curcumin and Alzheimer’s Disease. CBS Neuroscience and Therapeutics. 2010; 16(5): 285-297.