Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Curcumin Supplements Fail Lab Testing

Consumer Labs recently reported that 2 of the 10 Turmeric (curcumin) supplements they tested failed.  The results for the two supplements were not just a little low in the promised ingredient, but nearly devoid of curcumin when tested.  Moreover, the two failed supplements had additives designed to enhance the power of the little bit of curcumin they contained (7.7% and 14.7%).  Some of the supplements tested had bioavailability enhancers as curcumin is very poorly absorbed.

Which supplements failed?

*Advanced Physician Formula Curcumin Capsules
*Paradise Herbs and Essentials Turmeric vegetarian capsules

What is Tumeric?

Turmeric/curcumin is a spice used for flavoring and giving a bright yellow color to foods.  You might know it by it's common name - curry.  Rhizomes (roots) of the Curcuma Longa plant are dried and ground into a fine powder.  Research has found that curcumin is a powerful fat soluble anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.  In the past it was used primarily in Ayervedic medicine, but doctors all over the world are now telling their patients to take it for it's amazing qualities.

How does it work?

It is believed that Curcumin acts by easily crossing the blood brain barrier (not a small feat) and by blocking Cox-2.  Cox-2 is the target of NSAID medications such as ibuprofen, ketorolac, indomethacin etc.  It also is effective in autoimmune disease because it regulates inflammatory cytokines such as IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-12, TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma and associated JAK-STAT, AP-1, and NF-kappaB signaling pathways in immune cells.  This means it is actually working on the immune system itself as well as the symptoms of the disease. Curcumin's lack of side effects is its primary advantage over NSAIDs and corticosteroids.  Curcumin may also act by its ability to trigger a release of our body's most important anti-inflammatory hormone - cortisone.

How is it absorbed?

Because curcumin is not easily absorbed, this may pose problems for some people, necessitating they take large numbers of capsules.  Because curcumin is fat soluble, taking them with fat is thought to help the bioavailability.  Interesting to note, is that I've seen some people discuss mixing their curcumin with cream (milk fat) to help with absorption.

Some conditions that may benefit from Curcumin include:

*Migraine especially if triggered by inflammatory response
*Autoimmune diseases including Lupus, Sjogren's, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Multiple Sclerosis
*Ulcerative Colitis

Unfortunately, although there is anecdotal evidence that the use of curcumin helps Alzheimer's patients, research of the use of curcumin alone did not reveal this, which is disappointing.  No one is sure why the research didn't match the evidence, but it's suggested that absorption may have been an issue, or that it is the use of curcumin in concert with something else like a specific type of diet that may make the difference in those patients who responded.

Do your communities talk about the benefits of curcumin?  I'm especially interested in the benefits to Migraine, autoimmune and MS patients.
Comment by Denis Van Loan D.D.S. on May 30, 2011 at 8:39pm
The curcumins in turmeric are one of my favorite supplements.  As pointed out in the previous article, the availability of curcumin is not always what is advertized.  Not only is content deficient but the assimilation can be poor.
Nonetheless, the research I follow finds the population of India, which cosummes large amounts of the spice turmeric, has one tenth the incidence of Alzheimer's that U.S. residents have.  Indeed India has one of the lowest incidences of Alzheimer's in the world. They are also way ahead of most countries with the low incidence of heart disease and cancer. (I'm sure the drug companies would not like you to know this.)
Good research has shown curcumin is effective.  In 2009 the U.S. National Library of Medicine reported 250 papers on curcumin were already published.
Curcumins are effective as pain relievers, as anti-oxidants, immune enhancers against fungi and viruses, and protective of DNA.  In regards to cancer and viruses, they are believed effective because of their DNA protection.
Researcher Dr. Badmaev says this:  "The anti-carcinogenic activity of turmeric extract and curcuminoids may be in part explained by their well researched ability to prevent genetic mutation or mutagenesis."  I find considerably more curcumin needs to be taken in mg's; but the good news is curcumins are well tolerated and appears quite safe...Denis Van Loan D.D.S.
Comment by Andy on June 6, 2011 at 7:39pm
The absorbtion of the active components in tumeric are enhanced by the addition of black pepper to the dish being prepared.  Capsules are silly in my estimation as  the best is available in the spice counter and if you look carefully you may find a coop grocery that stocks fresh root. Andy Lininger, Licensed Acupuncturist.
Comment by Ellen S on June 7, 2011 at 12:33pm

I wish it were possible for all of us to simplyl eat the spice and get enough of it in us to benefit us.  However, some of us don't tolerate the taste well, absorb nutrients sufficiently, or are able to eat suffucient amounts of food to make eating large amounts of the spice on a daily basis doable consistently.  This makes capsules a good choice for those who choose to circumvent these issues.  Sometimes it is the only choice.

As Health Activists, we often deal with patients that have tried "everything".  They aren't your normal patients because they have already tried the usual routes and treatments.  Some have even been told their cases are "hopeless" and they are desperate.  They are looking for something to help them in their specific situation.  Patients who are easily treated do come and go as it were, but they seldom stay long.  They find what they need and move on.  The real challenges to educating and advocating for patients are those who do not fit into the neat mold "patient". 

I agree, I wish we could get all the nutrients etc we need by eating, but the fact is that curcumin capsules may sometimes be the only way to utilize this important food - yes?  For those with these issues, capsules could be a lifesaver.   I hope others who help patients, will keep this important tool in their back pockets despite the questionable lab findings reported here...

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