Also see commercial Turmeric Curcumin
Curcumin is the active ingredients of turmeric. Curcumin has shown to
be able to block inflammation, stop cancer, kill infectious microbes, and
improve heart health. Below are some of the documented curcumin researches.
Curcumin Research Summary
Although few large-scale human trials have been completed, hundreds of
curcumin research and experiments conducted by researchers around the globe
have demonstrated curcumin’s ability to halt or prevent certain types of
cancer,1-20 stop inflammation,21-26 improve cardiovascular health,27-31
prevent cataracts,32 kill or inhibit the toxic effects of certain microbes
including fungi33 and dangerous parasites,34,35 and protect, at least in the
laboratory, against the damaging effects of heterocyclic amines (potentially
carcinogenic compounds found in some cooked foods).36 As one investigative
team declared: “[Curcumin] has been proven to exhibit remarkable
anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.”37
As if that were not enough, curcumin research shows promise as a potential
treatment for multiple sclerosis,38 and may ameliorate the damaging effects
of long-term diabetes.39 It is even being investigated as a topical
treatment to speed diabetic wound healing.37 Some researchers also have
noted an exciting link between turmeric consumption and a dramatically
decreased incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, an effect that may well be
related to curcumin’s ability to block signaling pathways that lead to
Curcumin Research on Cancer Documented
Numerous curcumin researches published in peer-reviewed medical journals
detail curcumin’s ability to protect against cancer. In addition to its
capacity to intervene in the initiation and growth of cancer cells and
tumors—and to prevent their subsequent spread throughout the body by
metastasis—curcumin also has been shown to increase cancer cells’
sensitivity to certain drugs commonly used to combat cancer, rendering
chemotherapy more effective in some cases.1-20 Much research has focused on
curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties, and some new curcumin research
suggests that curcumin may protect the heart and circulatory system,21-31
and prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.40,41 Still other studies have
examined curcumin’s potential ability to counteract the effects of fungal
toxins in the food supply,33 and to protect the eyes from cataracts32 and
uveitis,42 an inflammation of a portion of the eye that may result in
As an anticancer agent, curcumin is promising enough to warrant serious
attention from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). In its 2002 annual
report, the Chemopreventive Agent Development Research Group, a subset of
the NCI’s Division of Cancer Prevention, details its efforts to encourage
and support research on curcumin’s utility in cancer prevention and
treatment. Because curcumin is a non-patentable product, such support is
crucial, especially for curcumin research involving all-important human
trials, as other sources of funding are virtually nonexistent. At least one
human trial, focusing on dosing, bioavailability, and pharmacokinetics (how
curcumin is used, metabolized, and eliminated by the body), is under way at
the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Other curcumin
studies have been proposed to the NIC and are awaiting approval.
Test-tube and animal-model studies have demonstrated that curcumin exhibits
significant anti-cancer activity. Numerous experiments have shown that
curcumin inhibits the progression of chemically induced colon and skin
cancers. In colon cancer, in particular, curcumin seems to significantly
inhibit both the promotional and progression stages of the disease. Various
studies have reported that curcumin reduces the number and size of existing
tumors, and decreases the incidence of new tumor formation.
Additionally, other studies using cancer cells grown in the laboratory in
vitro have demonstrated curcumin’s ability to prompt apoptosis, or
programmed cell death, among leukemia, B lymphoma, and other cancerous
cells. Curcumin has been used as a topical application to successfully
induce apoptosis in skin cancer cells both in vitro and in animal models.
Curcumin is under investigation as a preventive agent for increasingly
common non-melanoma skin cancers, and as a potential preventive or treatment
agent in breast, prostate, oral, pancreatic, and gastric cancers, among
others.1-21 One researcher understated the matter, noting, “…curcumin…should
be considered for further development as [a] cancer preventive agent.”43
Curcumin also has been shown to enhance the effectiveness of certain
anti-cancer drugs, and, amazingly, to potentially improve the effectiveness
of anti-cancer radiation treatment by preventing tumor cells from developing
radiation resistance.33 Protein kinase C (PKC) has been suggested as a
possible mechanism by which tumor cells develop resistance to radiation
therapy. Curcumin’s helpful effect may be due to its ability to inhibit
radiation-induced PKC activity. Additionally, one curcumin research found
that curcumin protected study animals from the tumor-producing effects of
deadly gamma radiation,44 while another found that it protects against
damaging ultraviolet light, which is known to play a role in the development
of skin cancer.8
Researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center declared:
“…curcumin has enormous potential in the prevention and treatment of
cancer.” They noted that curcumin has been found to be safe for human
consumption, even in doses ranging as high as 10 grams per day.10 But other
researchers have observed that more is not necessarily better. A recently
published study out of India found that among rats fed a diet causing high
blood sugar, those given low doses of curcumin did not develop
experimentally induced cataracts as often as control subjects. But rats
receiving high doses of curcumin actually developed cataracts somewhat
faster, possibly due to increased oxidative stress.32 The difference in
dosing was extreme, but these findings underscore the importance of further
inquiry into the uses of curcumin in humans for a variety of diseases and
under a variety of conditions.
Contrary to the many remarkably encouraging reports on curcumin’s
anti-cancer benefits, at least one study reported that curcumin interfered
with, rather than potentiated, the effects of anti-cancer chemotherapy.19
Another study found no significant therapeutic effect against prostate
cancer,20 a finding that stands in stark contrast to numerous other studies
that have noted significant anti-prostate cancer activity by curcumin.12,13
This lack of consensus has led some experts to caution against taking
curcumin during chemotherapy, except under an oncologist’s supervision.
Curcumin Research - Heart Health Benefits
Some of the most intriguing new research on curcumin’s potential benefits
involves its apparent ability to improve cardiovascular health. As with many
of curcumin’s protective actions, this ability to improve circulatory system
function may be due to its powerful antioxidant activity. Late last year,
several reports detailed curcumin’s ability to protect test animals against
a variety of conditions that model heart disease in humans.
Researchers in Egypt noted that curcumin protected rats from oxidative
stress injury following experimentally induced stroke.46 Stroke is a common
result of thrombosis and/or atherosclerosis, which leads to clogging of the
arteries that supply the brain with vital oxygen and nutrients. It is
believed that such injury, known as ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) insult, is
responsible for many of the deficits seen in stroke victims. Researchers
concluded that curcumin protected the rats from I/R damage. They noted that
when curcumin was administered at the highest levels, injury-related
oxidants, believed to be responsible for the majority of I/R damage, were
Among the Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) whose levels or activities were
reduced by curcumin were xanthine oxidase, superoxide anion, malondialdehyde,
glutathionine peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, and lactate dehydrogenase.
As most readers of Life Extension already know, scientists attribute many of
the undesirable effects of aging to the rogue activities of damaging free
radicals, and antioxidants are crucial for their control. As noted
previously, curcumin is a powerful antioxidant and many of its beneficial
effects may be directly related to its ability to scavenge and neutralize
Curcumin Research - Positive Effects on Cholesterol
In laboratory tests on animals and in vitro, scientists have shown that
curcumin prevents lipid peroxidation and the oxidation of cellular and
subcellular membranes that are associated with
atherosclerosis.27,28,30,31,47 Moreover, curcumin acts to lower total
cholesterol levels. Perhaps even more important, it prevents peroxidation of
LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. LDL peroxidation plays a key role in the
development of atherosclerosis, so it follows that a substance that inhibits
peroxidation should benefit cardiovascular health.
Atherosclerosis is a common disorder associated with aging, diabetes,
obesity, and a diet high in saturated fat. It begins gradually, as
cholesterol and other lipids deposit on arterial walls and form damaging
plaques. Oxidized lipids are suspected of playing a particularly damaging
role in the progression of atherosclerosis. As plaques grow, vessel walls
may eventually thicken and stiffen, restricting blood flow to target organs
and tissues. Atherosclerosis is a major cause of heart disease and may also
lead to stroke. When atherosclerotic plaques restrict blood flow to the
heart, depriving cardiac muscle of vital oxygen and nutrients, coronary
tissue dies. Angina and heart attack are the result. Since curcumin is a
naturally occurring, well-tolerated antioxidant that is capable of
destroying the dangerous free radicals that lead to lipid peroxidation, it
would appear that it holds enormous potential in the fight against heart
Still more intriguing than its ability to limit peroxidation is the finding
that curcumin raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, even as it reduces LDL
levels. In a small study of human volunteers, researchers reported a highly
significant 29% increase in HDL among subjects who consumed one-half gram
(500 mg) of curcumin per day for seven days. Subjects also experienced a
decrease in total serum cholesterol of more than 11%, and a decrease in
serum lipid peroxides of 33%.48 Further human studies are needed, but these
preliminary findings are promising. As one research team noted:
“Administration of a nutritional dose of C. longa extracts [curcumin]…may
contribute to the prevention of effects caused by a diet high in fat and
cholesterol in blood and liver during the development of atherosclerosis.”27
Although scientific investigation into the therapeutic properties of
curcumin is ongoing, it seems clear that this plant pigment from a humble
tuber has powerful healing potential. The data are occasionally conflicting,
but it seems likely that adding curcumin to one’s diet makes exceptionally
good sense. Curcumin appears to prevent certain cancers, inhibit
cardiovascular disease, and quell inflammation, and may even offer
protection against Alzheimer’s disease. Because it has been consumed safely
by millions of people literally for millennia, the choice to supplement
one’s diet regularly with curcumin would seem to be a no-brainer. One word
of caution, however: curcumin is poorly absorbed by the gut. Its absorption
and bioavailability are significantly enhanced by the addition of an agent
such as piperine, a natural alkaloid derived from black pepper.49
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