Turmeric

Curcumin

  • Food & Drink
  • Updated July 17, 2016

Derived from the Curcuma long plant, curcumin is a major component of turmeric and has been used extensively in traditional Indian and Asian medicine. (Despite the similarity in name, curcumin is not related to cumin.) Although preclinical research suggests that curcumin may benefit the brain and even protect against dementia, the clinical evidence is weak. No trials have tested curcumin for dementia prevention and trials on cognition have not reported substantial benefits even with curcumin optimized for absorption.

Evidence

While several clinical studies have examined the impact of curcumin on cognition for healthy individuals and Alzheimer’s patients, no study has investigated whether curcumin supplements can prevent dementia. Our search identified:

• 0 meta-analyses or systematic reviews
• 4 randomized controlled trials (2 with healthy individuals, 2 with Alzheimer’s disease patients)
• 1 observational study
• Numerous preclinical studies

Potential Benefit

An observational study in healthy elderly Asian people suggest that those who eat more curcumin (in the form of curry) may have improved cognitive function [6]. In addition, two small clinical trials suggest that absorbable curcumin may improve some measures of cognition [7][8] in healthy older adults but the effects were miniscule and unlikely to be noticeable. No clinical studies suggest that curry, turmeric, or highly bioavailable curcumin supplements can prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Preclinical evidence suggests that curcumin might offer several cognitive benefits, including reduced damage from oxidative stress, inflammation, and brain levels of beta-amyloid [1][2][3], as well as extended lifespan and improved memory [4][5]. Very little clinical evidence shows whether those benefits extend to humans.

For Dementia Patients

Two very small randomized clinical trials have tested curcumin as a treatment for dementia and both failed to show any benefits [9][10]. Both trials, however, used forms of curcumin not easily absorbed by the human body.

Safety

Daily doses of 400 mg/day of Longvida™, a curcumin supplement, have shown to be safe for healthy elderly subjects [7], while doses up to 4 g daily of regular curcumin over 6 months appear safe for elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease [9][10]. Curcumin can interact with a variety of prescription and non-prescription drugs, including aspirin and other painkillers and some diabetic medications. Its potential to interact with other dietary supplements or natural products has not been fully evaluated. Nausea and upset stomach were the most common side effects reported in clinical trials, although some people had curcumin allergies. Most clinical trials have only tested short-term safety of curcumin supplements; there is less evidence regarding the safety of long-term use.

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive safety evaluation or complete list of potentially harmful drug interactions. It is important to discuss safety issues with your physician before taking any new supplement or medication.

How to Use

The major dietary source of curcumin is turmeric, which usually contains 3 to 5 percent curcumin and is common in curry dishes. The form of curcumin found in turmeric (and many supplements) is not readily absorbable by the human body, but cooking and consuming it with black pepper may make it more useful [11][12]. Curcumin supplements are widely available and often contain a substance called Bioperine™, a commercial form of piperine, a component of black pepper that makes ingested curcumin more available to our bodies [12].

Learn More

Information from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University

Drug Interaction Checker from Drugs.com

References

  1. Begum AN, Jones MR, Lim GP et al. (2008) Curcumin structure-function, bioavailability, and efficacy in models of neuroinflammation and Alzheimer's disease. The Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics 326, 196-208.
  2. Lim GP, Chu T, Yang F et al. (2001) The curry spice curcumin reduces oxidative damage and amyloid pathology in an Alzheimer transgenic mouse. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience 21, 8370-8377.
  3. Yang F, Lim GP, Begum AN et al. (2005) Curcumin inhibits formation of amyloid beta oligomers and fibrils, binds plaques, and reduces amyloid in vivo. The Journal of biological chemistry 280, 5892-5901.
  4. Frautschy SA, Hu W, Kim P et al. (2001) Phenolic anti-inflammatory antioxidant reversal of Abeta-induced cognitive deficits and neuropathology. Neurobiology of aging 22, 993-1005.
  5. Kitani K, Osawa T, Yokozawa T (2007) The effects of tetrahydrocurcumin and green tea polyphenol on the survival of male C57BL/6 mice. Biogerontology 8, 567-573.
  6. Ng TP, Chiam PC, Lee T et al. (2006) Curry consumption and cognitive function in the elderly. American journal of epidemiology 164, 898-906.
  7. Cox KH, Pipingas A, Scholey AB (2014) Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population. Journal of psychopharmacology.
  8. Rainey-Smith SR, Brown BM, Sohrabi HR et al. (2016) Curcumin and cognition: a randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind study of community-dwelling older adults. The British journal of nutrition 115, 2106-2113.
  9. Baum L, Lam CW, Cheung SK et al. (2008) Six-month randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, pilot clinical trial of curcumin in patients with Alzheimer disease. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology 28, 110-113.
  10. Ringman JM, Frautschy SA, Teng E et al. (2012) Oral curcumin for Alzheimer's disease: tolerability and efficacy in a 24-week randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study. Alzheimer's research & therapy 4, 43
  11. Kurien BT, Singh A, Matsumoto H et al. (2007) Improving the solubility and pharmacological efficacy of curcumin by heat treatment. Assay and drug development technologies 5, 567-576.
  12. Shoba G, Joy D, Joseph T et al. (1998) Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta media 64, 353-356.