What if you could decrease aches and pains and decrease the risk of cancer or its spread, improve your mood, your immune and digestive function, as well as lower blood pressure, blood sugar and manage autoimmune disease – all with one supplement? These would be the benefits of curcumin.
Curcumin is the active component of the spice turmeric and it is widely used in India, where the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is really low. It is a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties as well as antibacterial activity. It’s the active ingredient that is responsible for the health benefits of turmeric. Curcumin is actively being studied because of the wide range of benefits on many chronic health conditions.
Health Benefits of Curcumin
The greatest benefits of curcumin are the powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. As stated, it has been used to treat or modulate a wide variety of inflammatory diseases. It has been used successfully in the following:
- Ulcerative colitis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Seasonal allergy
- Muscle soreness after exercise
- Anterior uveitis
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
The American Association of Pharmaceuticals Science Journal published, “Some promising effects have been observed in patients with various pro-inflammatory diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, uveitis, ulcerative proctitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel disease, tropical pancreatitis, peptic ulcer, gastric ulcer, idiopathic orbital inflammatory pseudotumor, oral lichen planus, gastric inflammation, vitiligo, psoriasis, acute coronary syndrome, atherosclerosis, diabetes, diabetic nephropathy, diabetic microangiopathy, lupus nephritis, renal conditions, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, β-thalassemia, biliary dyskinesia, Dejerine-Sottas disease, cholecystitis, and chronic bacterial prostatitis. Curcumin has also shown protection against hepatic conditions, chronic arsenic exposure, and alcohol intoxication.”
The benefits of curcumin may also include inhibition of tumor growth and preventing metastases. A study in humans showed it stopped the growth of prostate cancer cells and contributed to their dying off.
Because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action, the health benefits of curcumin have a profound effect on brain function. Its actions include improved memory and thinking. While animal studies have shown a decrease in Alzheimer’s plaque, human studies have not yet shown the same benefits of curcumin. However, it may be the way the curcumin is made. Different products break down more easily and are not absorbed to the same extent, so it’s important to understand what you are buying. Quality counts.
While cooking with the spice turmeric is a healthy option, it only contains 60-100 mg of curcuminoids. It is used in many curries and other dishes. While I encourage using spices for their taste and health benefits of curcumin, these are not readily absorbed in an amount that would have therapeutic effects. Studies that showed health benefits of curcumin used 3,000 to 12,000 mg a day. The type of extract, the way it is extracted, what it is mixed with and the standardization can make a huge difference in its ability to achieve the health benefits of curcumin.
Since curcumin is standardized at different amounts, is not well absorbed, breaks down and its effects don’t last long, consider the many types of curcumin supplements that were made to overcome theses issues. These should be taken with a meal since curcumin is best absorbed with fats and oils. Here are some things to look for on the label.
- Bioperine is a patented extract of black pepper containing piperine. Adding this increased the bioavailability 1.5 times since it inhibits the metabolic breakdown of the product. You need high doses of piperine to increase the bioavailability however, these doses may interfere with many drugs and prevent them from being broken down.
- Meriva increased the absorption 5 times that of normal curcumin but has only 18-22% of a standardized extract.
- BCM-95 increases absorption 7 times that of normal curcumin and lasts about 8 hours, while most other formulas last about 4 and a half hours. It has 86% curcuminoids and 9% essential oils that provide a synergistic effect so you need less pills to reap the health benefits of curcumin.
- Curcuwin has the greatest bioavailability however it contains only 24% curcuminoids.
The amount of and type of curcumin in a product matters. Look for Curcumin longa with the number of milligrams of standardized root, or rhizome extract with 85-95% curcuminoids, or total curcuminoids complex and the additives that are used to enhance bioavailability to compare products. Most studies used 250 to 5000 mg to get desired results. So, if a product only has 50 mg of the extract, you may need to take more capsules to get the same health benefits of curcumin. Some labels try to fool you by putting the number of milligrams of the herb that may have as little as 1% curcuminoids but not the extract. Some products use the essential oils found in turmeric to further enhance absorption or one of the other methods mentioned above. When in doubt, consider getting advice from a functional medicine doctor who is well versed in the use and quality of supplements. It will save you time, money and your health.
Lorraine Maita, MD is an award winning physician, speaker, and author of “Vibrance for Life: How to Live Younger and Healthier.” She can make you slim, sharp, sexy and supercharged. She is an expert in anti-aging medicine, bioidentical hormone replacement, weight loss, medical nutrition, supplements, and executive health. Dr. Maita was the medical director for 3 Fortune 100 companies and has a private practice specializing in Functional, Integrative, Personalized and Anti-Aging Medicine in Summit and Basking Ridge, NJ. She educates virtually at www.vibranceforlife.com. She is also an advisory team member for Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life on WOR radio, the #1 talk radio station in the NY Metropolitan area. Call today to schedule your consultation!