Most people recognize curcumin as the active compound in turmeric, the spice that gives Asian curry its distinctive color and flavor. For thousands of years, curcumin has been recognized for a multitude of health benefits and medicinal properties–ranging from cold and flu relief to anticancer activities. This month, researchers at the UCLA published a rigorous study proposing another potential benefit of curcumin: protection against neurodegenerative diseases. Using a curcumin supplement with an unusually high level of bioavailability, the researchers were able to provide convincing evidence that a regular curcumin supplement can stave off symptoms of dementia and change the brain in ways that are known to protect against those symptoms. Read on to learn more about the research and why you might want to consider adding a bioavailable curcumin supplement to your diet.
Understanding the New Study on Curcumin and Neurodegenerative Disease
The UCLA scientists’ study was published in The American Journal of General Psychiatry in March 2018, and it stood out from previous research on curcumin for several reasons. Most importantly, it was a long-term study (lasting a total of 18 months), and it was randomized, double-blinded, and placebo-controlled — which means that it met the most rigorous standards for clinical trials on dietary supplements. For the study, the researchers recruited 40 healthy people between the ages of 51 and 84 who did not show signs of dementia. About half of the participants were told to take a 90 mg supplement of curcumin twice a day for 18 months, while the other half continued with their normal diet. Before and after the study, the study participants took three memory/attention tests. Also, the scientists use PET scans to visualize amyloid plaque buildup in their brains — a well-known sign of the gradual onset of neurodegenerative disease.
Before the 18-month trial, the researchers did not find any statistically significant differences between the two groups — either on the memory/attention tests or the amount of amyloid plaque buildup in their brains, at least not after they had controlled for age and education level. However, the results they collected after the trial revealed several meaningful differences:
- The participants who took the curcumin supplements improved significantly only each of the three memory/attention tests, while those who did not take the supplement showed no change after 18 months.
- For the participants who took the curcumin supplements, there was a decrease in the amount of amyloid plaque buildup in the amygdala — a region of the brain that is associated with both mood and memory — while the amyloid plaque buildup levels remained the same in the participants who did not take the supplement.
- For the participants who did not take the curcumin supplements, there was an increase in the amount of amyloid plaque buildup in the hypothalamus — another region of the brain associated with mood and memory — while the amyloid plaque buildup levels remained the same in the participants who took the supplement.
Based on these results, it is clear that a daily curcumin supplement can truly make a difference in protecting against dementia-related symptoms and slowing the onset of neurodegenerative diseases. When you’re thinking about how to apply these results to your own diet, you need to remember that the researchers gave the participants a formulation of curcumin that was specifically designed to increase its bioavailability — that is, how well it is absorbed by the body. Researchers have long known that curcumin has a naturally low bioavailability, which is why new, more readily absorbable formulations have been developed. If you’re looking for a curcumin supplement to help protect against neurodegenerative disease — or to support your health in any other way — finding a bioavailable formulation is essential.
Strategically Adding Curcumin to Your Diet
Because curcumin has such a naturally-low level of bioavailability, sprinkling turmeric on all your food probably won’t do much to protect you from neurodegenerative disease. However, if you’re looking to derive benefits from the curcumin in your diet, there is one thing you can do to increase the amount your body absorbs when you eat it: add black pepper. Studies show that supplements that include a combination of curcumin and black pepper extract (known as piperine) can increase the bioavailability of curcumin by up to 2000 percent. There is also evidence that cooking with turmeric root (rather than turmeric powder) may also increase the bioavailability of curcumin because fresh turmeric retains curcuin-containing oils that are more easily absorbed in the GI-tract. Here’s a simple recipe for golden rice that optimizes curcumin bioavailability — and also serves as a great side dish for your next Asian-inspired meal:
- Boil or steam a small pot of rice (about one cup dry).
- Peel a one-inch chunk of turmeric root.
- Use a garlic press to squeeze the juices out of the turmeric root and into the rice pot. Alternatively, if you really love the turmeric flavor, you may also grate it into your rice, as you would fresh ginger.
- Stir in two teaspoons of black pepper — or more if you can handle the heat.
- Enjoy a delicious dish and the health benefits of curcumin!
Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness offers a curcumin supplement that is specifically formulated to maximize bioavailability. The supplement combines easily-absorbable curcuminoids with a patented version of black pepper extract that helps ensure you get the most out of the supplement. Our chiropractors also offer nutritional counseling that can help protect your long-term health and help you achieve your wellness goals. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!Share