Curcumin supplements.. Are they really a medical miracle?

Curcumin has recently become one of the most popular health supplements on the market, and you will find talk about its health benefits everywhere from social networking sites to television screens. If you believe everything you hear, you will think that curcumin supplements are a medical and health “miracle,” but is this claim really true?

Wide use

Turmeric, a tall plant in the ginger family native to Asia that is made from the bright yellow spice often used in curries, mustards, and golden milk, has gained popularity as a superfood, and has been touted for its anti-inflammatory properties, a powerful antioxidant, and the ability to provide a defense against… Natural against cancer and Alzheimer’s disease (1).

Curcumin is a distinctive yellow-orange chemical extracted from turmeric roots, which is the reason for its yellow color. The activities and health benefits of turmeric are often attributed to curcuminoids (curcumin and closely related substances), to the point that there are thousands of publications and hundreds of patents based on the role of curcumin in preventing and treating many diseases.

In addition, curcumin is incorporated into beauty products that claim to help treat acne and eczema, and help prevent dry skin. Some reports predict that the global curcumin market size will reach $191 million by 2028.

Is curcumin really an effective treatment?

Well, let us tell you that talking about the benefits of curcumin is not completely absurd. Clinical trials show that curcumin may help fight arthritis and some other diseases, but there is a fundamental problem with curcumin: its bioavailability, or how it gets into the blood. In the mid-1990s, Jack Arbeiser and Nancy Demore, two young researchers at Harvard Medical School, were exploring new treatment options for cancer when they came across some research suggesting that curcumin could inhibit the growth of different types of cancer cells in a test tube. This greatly interested them, and after conducting several research, they discovered that curcumin can prevent the formation of new blood vessels, a process that all tumors need to maintain themselves (4).

Since then, there have been several studies using curcumin in clinical trials on patients with pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, and others. But researchers’ enthusiasm for this substance declined when curcumin began to be tested on humans, as it became clear that this substance has very poor bioavailability, meaning the rate at which the body absorbs a substance, which makes it almost impossible to obtain high enough concentrations of curcumin in the blood from… While taking oral supplements alone.

This has caused scientific interest in curcumin to diminish significantly. But in recent years, advances in drug delivery technologies have led to renewed interest, with nanoparticle systems being explored as a way to deliver high doses of curcumin to tumors. Also, some research has shown that combining curcumin and piperine, the main active ingredient in black pepper, in one compound, can increase the bioavailability of curcumin several-fold, although it remains to be proven whether this can help achieve benefit in humans ( 5).

While there are now a whole host of ready-to-use supplements that combine curcumin with piperine, challenges remain for scientists looking to use this compound medically. One of these challenges is that piperine inhibits a variety of enzymes that help metabolize drugs, which is why the use of these supplements requires more research to explore the extent to which the risk of side effects increases in patients taking other prescription medications.

A similar problem arises when curcumin is used as an anti-inflammatory. Experiments have shown that curcumin works to reduce joint pain and improve inflammation at a dose ranging between 500-1000 mg per day, which is equivalent to about 10 grams of turmeric. This means that the vast majority of turmeric supplements do not contain enough of the active ingredient to be effective (6), because the dose required to produce a therapeutic effect exceeds the tolerable barrier of the substance.

Also, while it is true that turmeric and curcumin have a variety of interesting biological activities, they are difficult to study because curcumin is unstable and easily transforms into other substances, which makes it difficult for studies to reach definitive results. In addition, curcumin products may differ in composition and contain different substances from each other, which makes the results of research related to these products difficult to understand and compare, and as a result, no conclusive conclusions have yet emerged about the therapeutic benefits of this substance.

Media exaggerations

The problems with curcumin do not stop there. When reviewers looked at recent clinical trials and epidemiological studies, they noticed that research results were often not translated correctly in the media, or were greatly exaggerated. A 2017 review of the scientific literature on curcumin notes that the compound has limited actual health benefits and “does not live up to the hype.” On the other hand, review co-author Michael Walters emphasized that many of the studies promoting the multiple benefits of curcumin were largely aimed at achieving some commercial and material “interests”, and were carried out by researchers who have relationships with nutritional supplement companies that would directly benefit from increased sales of the extract. Curcumin.

At the same time, media coverage often ignores studies on the harmful effects of curcumin (7). Research results indicate that taking turmeric supplements in large quantities leads to the appearance of some unwanted symptoms. For example, turmeric contains a percentage of oxalate, which is responsible for the formation of kidney stones. Additionally, not all commercial turmeric powders are pure, and some may be adulterated, meaning cheaper, potentially toxic ingredients are added and not listed on the label.

Some studies have revealed that commercial turmeric powders may contain fillers such as cassava starch or barley, wheat, or rye flour. Eating turmeric that contains wheat, barley, or rye flour can cause harmful symptoms in people with gluten intolerance or disease. digestion dysfunction. Also, research has found that some turmeric products are contaminated with heavy metals such as lead, which can have harmful effects on health (8).

Some turmeric powders may also contain food colorings of questionable authenticity, which are added to enhance the color. One food coloring frequently used in India is methanyl yellow. Animal studies show that methanyl yellow may cause cancer and neurological damage when consumed in large amounts.

Also, turmeric may interfere with the action of some medications that a person is taking. For example, taking curcumin can interfere with anticoagulant medications or blood thinners such as aspirin and lead to increased effects and excessive bleeding. Finally, very high doses of curcumin supplements of 2600 mg/kg body weight per day over an extended period have been shown to cause some serious side effects in rats. These effects include an increase in liver size, fur pigmentation, stomach ulcers, infections, and an increased risk of bowel or liver cancer.

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