There are lots of supplements that can be beneficial and claim to have “super” powers but the issue may not be that people don’t take them, but how well it gets absorbed in the body. Curcumin is one such supplement I’ve learned more about.
Curcumin is familiar to many as the yellow pigment in turmeric which is a key ingredient in Indian cultures. This rhizome has been used for generations in traditional Chinese and Ayruvedic medicines in treating inflammatory conditions. What I found in my research was that Curcumin by itself was very unstable in the intestinal PH of the intestine and only had a half life (the time it takes for the concentration of the substance in the body to decrease by half) of 10 minutes!! So you obviously need very high doses to do anything in the body. Not only were the anti-inflammatory substances not reaching optimal levels in the bloodstream, but they were also not crossing the blood-brain barrier to benefit the brian. One strategy to increase the intestinal absorption of curcumin is to combine it with a type of fat, or phospholipid. This protects it form hydrolytic degradation and emphasizes the strong affinity of phospholipids for the cell membrane. A product called “Curcumin-Phosphatidylcholine Complex” has shown a much longer half life with 82% of the phytosome persisting after 240 minutes, so nearly a 20-fold greater absorption than curcumin alone. Studies have shown improvement in pain relief from arthritis, reduced use of pain medication, improved treadmill walking and decreased gastrointestinal complications.
I was also interested in whether Curcumin could be absorbed in the brain. I was introduced to some studies done at the Alzheimer’s Research Center at UCLA that found that in order to effect the brain, curcumin needed to reach the bloodstream as a free and unbound substance. Researchers tested over 170 different formulations in order to find the one that delivered the sufficient amount of free curcumin to reach a target level in the blood. The test included all the available blends in the marketplace, and results were disappointing until they found one formula that was the most bioavailable form that reached the levels they were looking for. This product uses lipid particle technology and is called “Longvida Optimized Curcumin”. One to two capsules is all that’s needed to reduce circulating amyloid-beta levels (associated with Alzheimer’s disease), reduce inflammatory cytokines, and triglyceride levels. It has been shown to increase antioxidant defense, increase vasodilator activity and improve liver enzymes. I especially recommend this product for my older patients who may have some aches and pains but whom also want to reduce the risk of dementia. It may also be beneficial for those with traumatic brain injury or those with concussive injury (although that has not been studied yet).
References: Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Dugall M, et al. Efficacy and Safety of meriva, a Curcumin-phosphatidylcholine Complex, during Extended Administration in Osteoarthritis Patients. Alt Med Review. 2010; 15(4): 337-344.
Enteles, Longvida Optimized Curcumin and SLCP trademarks Vedure Sciences. Nutrition Journal 2012.