Healthy Diet & Nutrition

A New and Improved Turmeric?

Researchers have figured out a way to better distribute the biological effects of curcumin, an anti-inflammatory, over-the-counter supplement that until now has metabolized too quickly to be of maximum effect.

Curcumin, a natural compound in the spice turmeric, has been used for centuries by practitioners of Ayurveda – a Hindu system of medicine – for ailments including allergies, diabetes and ulcers.

Evidence suggests that curcumin works by lowering inflammation, but it’s not well absorbed by the body. Most curcumin in food or supplements stays in the gastrointestinal tract, and any portion that is absorbed is metabolized quickly.

Now, though, scientists from the Ohio State University are investigating whether enabling the effects of curcumin to travel to the entire body might make it useful as a daily supplement to combat disease.

“There’s a reason why this compound has been used for hundreds of years in Eastern medicine. And this study suggests that we have identified a better and more effective way to deliver curcumin and know what diseases to use it for so that we can take advantage of its anti-inflammatory power,” said Nicholas Young, a postdoctoral researcher in rheumatology and immunology at Ohio State and lead author of the study.

The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The experts mixed curcumin powder with castor oil and polyethylene glycol, creating a fluid that allows the compound to dissolve and be more easily absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract so it can enter the enter the bloodstream and tissues.

When the investigators fed mice this fluid, it shut down an inflammatory reaction. Additionally, the researchers found that curcumin stops the “recruitment” of specific calls that when overactive are linked to heart disease and obesity.

Young and his colleagues, including co-senior authors Lai-Chu Wu and Wael Jarjour of the Division of Rheumatology and Immunology at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, want to explore whether curcumin in this form can counter chronic inflammation linked to sickness and age-related frailty. They have also begun testing whether the new form of curcumin could work to treat the autoimmune disease lupus.

“We envision that this…could be used one day both as a daily supplement to help prevent certain diseases and as a therapeutic drug to help combat the bad inflammation observed in many diseases,” Young said. “The distinction will then be in the amount given – perhaps a low dose for daily prevention and higher doses for disease suppression.”

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