Curcumin-the best kept secret that does so much and costs so little!
Curcumin is a must for everyone, as much as the AWS reds/greens to get rid of oxidative stress. In fact, if you were to go to a deserted island and could take only three supplements with you, this would most certainly be one, and I’ll tell you exactly why!
How about some curcumin “history?”
Curcumin is thought to be the most beneficial compound derived from the spice, turmeric. It’s medicinal use dates back about 5,000 years. It was a principal healing agent in Ayurvedic medicine, long before it became popular as a supplement.
The bright yellow-orange pigment of turmeric is the primary source curcumin. There are sub-compounds or “fractions” of curcumin called “curcuminoids.”
Turmeric contains demothoxy-curcumin, bisdemethooxy- curcumin and cyclo-curcumin. These compounds make up about three-five percent of turmeric, although some turmeric actually contains higher levels because of locally favorable growing conditions.
After the roots are harvested, they are cleaned in water, then cured and dried. Then, after drying, the root is ground for use as a spice, or the cur-cumin is extracted to be used for its health benefits.
A good cur-cumin supplement contains a mixture of 3 curcuminoids and something to increase absorption (such as lethicin derived from sunflower).
Overall Health benefit of curcumin-lowers inflammation:
Inflammation is a large contributing factor for many diseases as you can see in this diagram. First, we know it adds to obesity which then increases inflammation and the risk of diabetes. We know it also increases the chance of cancer.
We know BIG time it increases the chances of Alzheimer’s and this is where the really exciting benefits of curcumin might lie.
I’ll talk about this brain health topic at great length. I’ll also cover more benefits and the mechanism of actions of this amazing spice-derivative. As an aside, we know total body inflammation increases skin inflammation so taking curcumin is great inside out skincare.
Know the three primary ‘markers’ of inflammation you should ask your doctor to test are insulin (total body inflammation), CRP (coronary and auto-immune inflammation) and fibrinogen (inflammation and clotting propensity). Curcumin is indeed quite helpful to normalize those biomarkers.
To continue, think about weight and all of the diseases associated with being overweight. For example, diabetes, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s. If you think about it, curcumin has a role in any well-run weight loss program.
Why? Again, think about it! If being overweight makes you have more inflammation (it does), and inflammation interferes with losing weight (it does), then you’ll lose weight more easily if you take curcumin!
And while we’re talking about weight loss:
Most people who contact me for an email exchange or a chat have “desire to lose bodyfat” on their “to-do list.” First I’ll analyze why it is that someone is not in the shape they wish to be. Next, I’ll correct brain chemistry via supplements so that people will stop emotionally based eating. Then I’ll add a few tricks up my sleeve to help them increase lean body mass while losing fat mass.
These things include making sure they are following my anti-inflammatory diet. They include adding more branched chain amino foods like eggs, chicken, turkey, and salmon to their diet. They include adding bcaa powder which also contains l-glutamine to their pre-workout and daily regimen. Lastly, I’ll add in the supplement acetyl l carnitine, and everyone sees magic results. That being said, I still start with the basics of supplements for weight loss meaning curcumin, each and every time. However, that was a big digression for the weight loss crowd so NOW back to the benefits of curcumin.
Potential Anti-Cancer effects of curcumin:
Curcumin may help prevent and possibly even treat cancer by different mechanisms. Angiogenesis is the process which a tumor uses to promote blood vessels growing into a tumor. Cur-cumin has been found to inhibit angiogenesis in numerous studies. The combination of curcumin with green tea extracts has prevented experimentally induced colon cancer in rats. Laboratory studies have also shown that cur-cumin induces programmed death of colon cancer cells. Curcumin also suppresses colon cancer when combined with other polyphenols such as resveratrol.
Curcumin has been found to inhibit the activity of several matrix metalloproteinases (protein eating enzymes) in cell culture studies. This is postulated to slow or even stop the spread of cancer. Prostate cancer is often dependent on sex hormones for its growth. Curcumin reduces expression of sex hormone receptors in the prostate. This then impairs cancer cells’ ability to respond to the effects of testosterone.
A study published in 2009 reported that laboratory tests of curcumin found that it activates substances that kill both brain and lung cancer tumors. Research determined that curcumin both prevents brain tumor formation and kills brain tumor cells.
Curcumin also appears to reduce the risk of lung cancer associated with smoking. (But don’t smoke and take curcumin please!) Studies on curcumin and nicotine demonstrated that curcumin reduced the effects of nicotine as a carcinogen by 50 %. Published in June 2010, the study documented curcumin’s mechanisms of action in regards to lung cancer. The researchers, concluded that curcumin is effective in stopping the spread of cancer cells through apoptosis, or cell death. Indeed there are lots of great studies, but isn’t this already enough to make you want to take curcumin? By the way, there are a lot more studies on the way!
Curcumin for arthritis:
The Arthritis Foundation says that curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce joint pain, inflammation and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
The yellow powder from the root of the turmeric plant is thought to treat arthritis by blocking cytokines and enzymes that cause inflammation.
The Arthritis Foundation has noted several well done studies on the effectiveness of cur-cumin for the treatment both degenerative arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
A 2006 study suggested turmeric had a better effect in preventing joint inflammation than reducing inflammation.
Research in 2010 showed long-term improvement in pain and functioning for 100 patients with degenerative arthritis in the knee after taking a curcumin supplement. A small study in 2012 indicated that curcumin worked better at reducing joint pain and swelling for patients than a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID. (Example=motrin, alleve).
A double-blind crossover study in patients with “definite” rheumatoid arthritis compared the antirheumatic activity of curcumin (1200 mg/day) with phenylbutazone, a steroid drug (300 mg/day). The curcumin therapy resulted in “significant” improvements over the corticosteroids. Curcumin better relieved morning stiffness and joint swelling, and improved walking time. Best of all, curcumin was well-tolerated and produced no side-effects.
How does curcumin work to help arthritis?
Without getting TOO technical, I thought you would want to know the basics of this. I think it’s pretty cool because traditional arthritis drugs harm the kidneys, liver and colon.
Curcumin is a safe COX- and COX-2 Inhibitor:
Research shows curcumin inhibits COX-2, a pro-inflammatory substance. Curcumin has worked as well as cortisone or phenylbutazone for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and post-operative inflammation in a major clinical study.
Via the arachidonic acid cascade which is the COX pathway:
Curcumin inhibits pain and inflammation by selectively inhibiting the arachidonic acid cascade through the cyclooxygenase (COX) pathway.
Curcumin has similar anti-inflammatory action as NSAIDS, but without side effects. Unlike aspirin and other classical COX-inhibitors like non-steroidals (NSAIDS), curcumin selectively inhibits synthesis of inflammatory substances called prostaglandins.
COX-inhibitors and NSAIDS have dangerous side-effects; COX-2 inhibitors are required to include black-box warnings.
Curcumin is safe, even at doses up to 8,000 mg per day.
Curcumin for brain health intro:
Now, I don’t care if you are 30 years old, reading this. We all lose 3-5 IQ points per decade after 30. The incidence of Alzheimer’s is growing rapidly. What on earth would you do without a functioning brain? Think about it for just a minute. It doesn’t matter that I’m one of the country’s experts on brain health or that it is something that really interests me.
What matters is that you need to see how important it is to prevent yourself from getting this truly dreadful disease. I know how dreadful this is because my darling mother, diagnosed 15 years ago, before my wealth of knowlege, has it. Let me tell you this is a disease you never want you or any loved ones to get. So if for no other reason, you want to take curcumin to prevent short term memory loss which we now know is a precursor to Alzheimer’s. Now let me tell you why curcumin is one of the absolutely best brain supplements you can take. It has a wide range of effects as one of the best supplements for memory and cognition, as you will read about next.
So, how wonderful is curcumin for brain health?
Let’s talk about BDNF:
BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) is an important protein that influences both peripheral nervous system and brain health in many ways.
BDNF influences a variety of essential brain functions. For example, these include the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis) and synapses, preventing death of existing brain cells, and supporting cognitive (thinking) function.
Low levels of BDNF have been linked to Alzheimer’s, accelerated aging, depression, obesity, and more! (Yes low BDNF can make you fat!)
There are other brain neurotrophins, but BDNF is by far the most important.
Curcumin and BDNF:
You guessed it. It raises it! Curcumin has shown in various studies to promote BDNF production within the hippocampus. (the hippocampus is where memories are stored). In rodent studies, the results showed an improvement in cognitive functioning as well as anti-depressant effects.
Curcumin protects your brain!
Curcumin can inhibit both the activity and the inflammatory metabolic byproducts of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2) and 5-lipooxygenase (5-LOX) enzymes, as well as other enzymes and hormones that modulate inflammation in the body and brain. This is similar to what I was telling you about arthritis but isn’t it great to know it prevents brain inflammation?
Curcumin has been used in research to study how its wonderful ability to cross the blood-brain barrier can improve stroke damage, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. It has also been shown to facilitate and increase in overall brain health due to it’s powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
It stimulates neural stem cells to sprout and connect:
Curcumin increases neural stem cell growth within the brain by 80% in various concentrations. It can possibly help those that are experiencing a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s improve. We know this is one product that helps us get those IQ points back.
Curcumin dissolves brain plaques!
We don’t know if it is chicken or egg, but we do know that Alzheimer’s patients have tau and beta-amyloid (both tangled proteins) plaques in their brains. We also know that these plaques start to develop as much as 25-30 years prior to diagnosis. Again, it isn’t clear if the “tangles” cause the disease or are a result of the disease but WHY TAKE CHANCES with a supplement that does so much?
Several comprehensive research studies have shown curcumin may help inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta-amyloid and tau protein in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as break up existing plaques.
Type of curcumin and doseage:
As you read previously you want a curcumin with curcumin, bisdemethoxy curcumin, and demethoxy curcumin. In fact, these are the strongest, most protective and best-researched constituents of the herb turmeric.
A “normal dose” for mild-moderate inflammation is one 1000 mg cap 2x/daily. For Moderate-severe, the dose is 2-3 caps 2x/daily. Treatment of arthritis or mild cognitive impairment or use in cancer (that one is still quite controversial) is 4 caps 2x/day. Take it with food and the only “contraindication” is an active ulcer.
I hope you always buy “pharmaceutical” grade because if not, you are wasting your money. For the record; I take our Cumetra and to keep the boogeymen at bay I take 4000 mg (4 caps) 2x/day.
That is the maximal dose and is the dose I treat my Alzheimer’s patients with. Most people are fine with 2 caps 2x/day or if you’re young just 1 cap 2x/day. You can also find me on chat and ask me or email me if you want me to guesstimate your dose for you.