Turmeric Extract, The Next Miracle Antioxidant? Or Is Curcumin All It’s Hyped Up To Be?

By: Samantha Rangen

The turmeric root has been used traditionally in Ayervedic medicine and other Eastern folk remedies. Due to differences in certain diseases between Indian and Western populations, interest was raised in the scientific and medical communities regarding the possible pharmacological activity of turmeric. Turmeric is the yellow spice used to color curry powder. Many ethnic groups the world round use it for adding color to cooked or pickled foods.

When turmeric was examined in a laboratory, it was found that the active components were certain chemical compounds, known as curcuminoids. The major curcuminoids are curcumin, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. They are commonly referred to generally as curcumin, and are available commercially now as purified extracts of the turmeric root.

In the scientific literature there is a good deal of evidence for the antioxidant activity of curcumin. Curcumin has been shown in research to powerfully scavenge free radicals, a type of molecule with an extra electron which is very reactive and can cause oxidative damage to the body. Curcumin has also been shown to be a powerful scavenger of nitrous oxide (NO) based free radicals, another common biological oxidizer. What this means is that there are indeed results that support the claim that curcumin is an antioxidant.

Indeed, many of the health benefits of curcumin derive from the antioxidant effect. Antioxidants in general are helpful for supporting health in

  • the cardiovascular system
  • sugar balance in the blood
  • brain cells
  • stomach lining
  • wound healing
  • gall bladder
  • muscle growth.

Different antioxidants are more powerful in different reactions than another, and may have different side effects as well. Turmeric and its curcumin extracts have been shown over and over to have a very high safety level, and have been used in food for centuries. Clearly antioxidants are an important part of of our overall healthy diet. Can you have too many antioxidants in your diet? Certain popular antioxidants have known over dosages, such as vitamin A or vitamin E. No such overdose level has yet been found for turmeric, and curcumin, though normal dosages vary from 400 to 600 mg of Curcumin 3 times daily.

You will find available on the market a confusing number of curcumin supplements. Many of these have “bioperine” added to the curucmin. Bioperine is a trade name for the chemical piperine, an extract of black pepper. While it is touted as possibly aiding in absorption of curcumin, known as a bioavailability enhancer, there is little scientific evidence for this. In fact, there may be more problems with piperine than benefits, even as far as being carcinogenic or cytotoxic. Since the court is out on Bioperine, it may be advisable to choose a curcumin without bioperine.

Likewise you will find an array of purity in curcumin extracts. While it may seem more effective to purchase the most purified, you will increase your costs drastically. Consider that turmeric is extremely low prices, however curcuminoids only account for about 5% of the weight of turmeric. There are currently no studies showing whether bioavailability of the curcumin is higher in the purified curcumin vs. the curcumin naturally available in turmeric. Therefore, it may indeed pay off to purchase the cheaper curcumin products. Keep an eye on whether the curcumin is standardized and whether the source you choose is FDA approved.

To sum, there is ample evidence that turmeric and curcumin extract of turmeric are safe antioxidants that one can easily add to ones diet as supplements or as spices.

References:

source:http://www.pdrhealth.com/drug_info/nmdrugprofiles/nutsupdrugs/pip_0322.shtml — piperine

Source: Ital J Biochem. 2003 Dec;52(4):177-81. Nutritional antioxidants and the heme oxygenase pathway of stress tolerance: novel targets for neuroprotection in Alzheimer’s disease. Calabrese V, Butterfield DA, Stella AM.

Source: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Feb 28;103(9):3381-6. Epub 2006 Feb. 21. Amyloid-beta peptide binds with heme to form a peroxidase: relationship to the cytopathologies of Alzheimer’s disease. Atamna H, Boyle K.

Source: J Neurosci. 2001 Nov 1;21(21):8370-7. The curry spice curcumin reduces oxidative damage and amyloid pathology in an Alzheimer transgenic mouse. Lim GP, Chu T, Yang F, Beech W, Frautschy SA, Cole GM.

Samantha Rangen writes about home health issues. She has a BA in chemistry and has worked as a research technician for over 20 years in biochemistry, genetics, biochemistry, and cancer research. Her current research projects include curcumin usage against Alzheimer’s Disease, immunomagnetic cell separation, and natural killer cell actvity in cancer cases with and without depression.

Samantha markets discount home medical equipment, including insulin syringes at http://www.getinspec.com.



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