Turmeric is a relative of ginger that is indigenous to India and Southeast Asia. It has been used for cooking in Asian cuisine and Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years. Beginning in 2012 sales of Turmeric products began to rise due to its use as a natural dye in make-up. Following that spike it began be viewed more and more as a dietary supplement prompting chemists to begin looking at its primary ingredient, curcumin, as a possible bio-therapeutic.
The initial results were disappointing. So disappointing in fact that in January of 2017 the journal “Nature” published an article in which medicinal chemists called curcumin “A cautionary tale” citing a meta-analysis of over 120 clinical studies that when summed together pointed to there being no reliable data backing up the use of curcumin.[i] The consensus he drew was that due to the compounds fluorescent properties, its tendency to degrade, and other compounds that may be present in extracts it had led to a series of false positives that sent scientists down a wild goose chase. So case closed, right?
Well, not exactly. Science isn’t that simple, no one has a complete picture of the truth and after only nine months a contradictory article came out pointing out that while ingesting curcumin by itself does not lead to any health benefits due to its poor bioavailability, ingesting curcumin with some other compounds can increase its bio-availability. This newer paper purports that curcumin has a range of effects when it bio-availability is increased in this manner.
Supposedly curcumin displays both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s antioxidant effects are the result of curcumin increasing serum activities of proteins such as superoxide dismutase, a molecule which scavenges your body for free radicals.[ii] Through a variety of mechanisms curcumin scavenges oxygen radicals, nitrogen radicals, and peroxyl radicals, which are all damaging bi-products of normal body metabolism that can cause toxicity if left undealt with. Oxygen and nitrogen radicals also cause a signal cascade that leads to increased inflammation throughout the body. When these are no longer left free, There is a reduction in the signal cascade leading to a reduction in inflammation.
Studies in healthy people have revealed a number of possible benefits of supplementing curcumin. A low dose study found slight reductions in triglyceride levels, increases in NO levels, and decreases in some salivary stress markers. Additionally, it decreases in beta amyloid plaques a marker of Alzheimer’s disease.[iii] In small studies curcumin has also been shown to improve performance on sustained attention and working memory tasks.[iv]
Curcumin has even been associated with reduction physiological markers of muscle soreness after an intense workout in elite rugby players, suggesting its possible use as a post work out aid. Perhaps most interesting Curcumin supplementation was found to significantly reduce a score for anxiety in obese but otherwise healthy people.[v] This opens the door to exploration of using the supplement as a less dangerous anti-anxiety medicine than pharmaceutical alternatives.
As with all areas of scientific inquiry we only can state what we have tested. Different groups of scientists have come to different conclusions using similar experiments. While it is impossible to know the truth, there is substantial evidence that Curcumin is an exciting compound that has the potential to help people.
To ensure that the curcuminoids are absorbed most efficiently it is paired with Bioperine, an isolate from black pepper that has been shown to increase the bioavailability of curcumin by 2000%.[vi] BioPerine has been licensed from Sabinsa for use in this blend to further enhance its mental energy production. While the exact mechanisms causing it to enhance absorption are still under investigation it is currently thought that by inhibiting glucuronidation enzymes that it prevents compounds from being metabolized for a longer time. You can read more about BioPerine at the manufacturers website http://www.bioperine.com/index.php/mechanismsofactions
[i] Nelson KM, Dahlin JL, Bisson J, Graham J, Pauli GF, Walters MA. The Essential Medicinal Chemistry of Curcumin: Miniperspective. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 2017.
[ii] Sahebkar A., Serbanc M.C., Ursoniuc S., Banach M. Effect of curcuminoids on oxidative stress: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J. Funct. Foods. 2015
[iii] DiSilvestro R.A., Joseph E., Zhao S., Bomser J. Diverse effects of a low dose supplement of lipidated curcumin in healthy middle-aged people. Nutr. J. 2012
[iv] Cox K.H., Pipingas A., Scholey A.B. Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population. J. Psychopharmacol.
[v] smaily H., Sahebkar A., Iranshahi M., Ganjali S., Mohammadi A., Ferns G., Ghayour-Mobarhan M. An investigation of the effects of curcumin on anxiety and depression in obese individuals: A randomized controlled trial. Chin. J. Integr. Med. 2015
[vi] Shoba G., Joy D., Joseph T., Majeed M., Rajendran R., Srinivas P.S. Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Med. 1998