First Do No Harm

Curcumin, There’s More To Tell

We published a very thorough and complex article on curcumin written by a guest writer. A few people wrote to me telling me how they had a hard time getting through it. Well, now you know why I was taught to write (and I taught others to write) using our own voice. Writing is communicating. If you’re not in touch with the reader, it doesn’t matter what you have to say, nobody’s listening.

So, there is SO much more to tell you about curcumin, so hang on.

The guest’s article was about cancer and curcumin. One very salient point concerning curcumin and cancer is that there are probably more studies on curcumin and cancer than on any other supplement and cancer, but still there has never been a study in which curcumin was actually used to treat cancer. Sure, we hear a lot about vitamin D these days, but that’s because scientists are quickly realizing that vitamin D might just be a hormone (like substance) that affects a lot more processes in the body than anyone had ever previously dreamed, but curcumin has been around for centuries, and has been used in a lot of folk medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. 

Curcumin works its magic against cancer in the following ways.

  1. Decreases inflammation

  2. Is antiangiogenetic (stops blood vessels from growing and feeding the tumor)

  3. Inhibits the synthesis of proteins responsible for tumor formation

  4. Inhibits the transformation of healthy cells into tumor cells

  5. Inhibits proliferation of tumor cells

  6. And inhibits the spread of cancer by destroying free (circulating) cancer cells

And as much as I recommend cooking with turmeric (curcumin is one of turmeric’s constituents), turmeric cannot and will not do what curcumin does because the amount you get from turmeric is very little. Yes, you can get a bit of curcumin’s anti-inflammation properties cooking with turmeric, but that’s it. It’s all about bioavailability.

Good ol’ Dr Mercola has a pretty interesting article on curcumin and cancer, and interestingly enough he brings up the fact that people who are overweight with type two diabetes have higher rates of cancer than those who are slimmer and not insensitive to insulin, but he leaves it there.

Curcumin is hypoglycemic, meaning it helps to control your blood sugar. This might just be one of curcumin’s pathways to controlling inflammation. First it inhibits activation of NF-kB and secondly it lowers blood sugar which is inflammatory. And thirdly, curcumin reduces fat in the blood (a condition called hypertriglyceridemia) resulting in an increase in insulin sensitivity.

NF-kB is a protein that acts as a sort of switch, turning on inflammation by activating genes involved in the production of inflammatory compounds. As NF-kB activation has been implicated in all the stages of carcinogenesis, this transcription factor is a potential target in cancer chemoprevention and is the subject of intensive research. Novel Turmeric Compound Delivers Much More Curcumin to the Blood

In one study, it was concluded that turmeric reduces triglycerides in the blood by promoting “utilization” of them. What the means is that instead of the body storing the fats, it burns them for energy directly due to the presence of curcumin. [Mol Nutr Food Research. 29 AUG 2012L-X. NA. doi: 10.1002/mnfr. ]

The overall result of the study was improved markers for diabetes. This is great news.

And since chronic inflammation (and hidden inflammation) is an epidemic in our population, curcumin is one supplement worth checking into. Use Google and you’ll find studies on curcumin for everything from Alzheimer’s to rheumatoid arthritis.

But again, the problem is bioavailability. You see, curcumin is just 3.14% of pure turmeric. And of that small amount, the bioavailability is also miniscule due to poor absorption, rapid metabolism, and quick elimination. And when you go shopping for curcumin online, you get caught up in a number chase. Remember statistics never lie, but liars use statistics.

I found one site where a Michael Greger MD claims: “Dietary strategies, including the use of black pepper (piperine), can boost blood levels of curcumin from the spice turmeric by up to 2,000%.”

And I love how a simple thing as “black pepper” can suddenly get a world class name: BioPerine! Click on that link and you’ll see that you need a degree in higher math and statistical analysis to understand the page. (And nobody studies higher math today because the first day of class, the professor writes a huge complicated equation on the board and everyone gets up and leaves to go change their majors.)

Then I found this site that claims, OmniActive’s Curcumin shows 46-fold bioavailability increase compared to standard curcumin: Study. I love this page because of their gratuitous use of gobbledygook:

The new study, published in Nutrition Journal, indicated that formulating curcumin with a combination of hydrophilic charier, cellulosic derivatives and natural antioxidants (CurcuWin from OmniActive) increased serum curcuminoid levels 46 times over standard curcumin.

Hydrophilic simply means it dissolves in water and cellulosic means it came from cellulose, or a plant’s cell wall.

And Life Extension (lef.org) has one called Super Bio Curcumin® and they claim that each 400mg capsule is equal to 2772mg of a typical 95% curcumin extract.

Now my “simple” math says that Life Extension’s product is 6.93 times better than regular curcumin, and OmniActive’s bioavailability is "46-fold" greater than regular curcumin, but with black pepper you get a 2000% increased bioavailability.

Do you see what’s happening here? Everyone is using different means of portraying their “results” that are as mixed as apples and oranges. I could show you more, but you’d just shake your head and give up.

So First Let Us Summarize

The benefits of curcumin are (including some we've not covered):

  1. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory, powerful enough to treat (and improve) a number of conditions, including: Alzheimer's, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, and more.

  2. It is a powerful antioxidant.

  3. It boosts Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (a type of growth hormone that works only in the brain), which improves brain function while lowering your risk of brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's.

  4. Improves a variety of cardiovascular conditions, including: endothelial function (the layer of cells lining blood vessels that control blood pressure, clotting, nitric oxide, the flow of white blood cells, and more).

  5. Prevents cancer. (It has never been fully tested in treating cancer, though it should be.)

  6. Fights depression.

  7. Aids in any weight loss program.

So, what to do? First, I found you NOW Food’s formula.

This is the lowest price I found. I’ve always trusted NOW Foods, and they have a one of the more bioavailable forms I’ve found in my research.

Next, did you know that not only does black pepper increase bioavailability of curcumin, but so does combining it with oil and, get this, cooking?

For you who truly want to cut your inflammation, end diabetes, lose weight, and stave off a good number is chronic degenerative illnesses, then it’s time to let your food be your medicine.

Do you have any idea how difficult it was to find a powdered curcumin? Try it. (I double dare you!) You’ll find a ton of turmeric. It took me three days of going over Google’s results to actually find a 95% curcumin (in powdered form).

You can do the math and you’ll see that it’s just about the same price as the curcumin in the NOW foods product. Getting it in bulk allows you to determine how much you want to use in your cooking. You can still add turmeric to your stir-fries, but this time you can add just a half a teaspoon of this curcumin and you’ll be getting nearly 1500 mgs of turmeric. Add pepper and coconut oil, and you’ll be getting the best absorption at the best price. And it’s not a supplement, it’s your food.

Further Reading

Mercola’s Site

Curcumin: The story so far

A phase I study investigating the safety and pharmacokinetics of highly bioavailable curcumin (Theracurmin) in cancer patients


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