Curcumin is a very popular supplement used for joint pain inflammation and other potential health benefits, including cancer. Much of the information on curcumin’s positive effects comes from in vitro (test tube or petri dish) or animal experiments. Research studies in humans is more scarce and there is reasonable doubt as to whether curcumin is absorbed well enough in humans to make an impact on health.
For years, I have had several concerns about supplemental curcumin. The first is concern over curcumin extracts being frequently contaminated with toxic solvents. The second concern is about bioavailability. Do people actually absorb the curcumin supplement they are taking? Do the compounds that show so much promise in vitro actually get into the blood stream and tissues beyond the gastrointestinal tract?
To address this concern, supplement manufacturers have developed curcumin formulations designed to enhance absorption in humans. They include:
- Turmeric extract with a high concentration of free curcuminoids.
Curcumin has amazing therapeutic potential. But a careful look at the research and the data provided by manufacturers of specialized curcumin formulations often leaves me with more questions than answers. Based upon my own reading of the studies available, I have come to the conclusion the Longvida formulation of curcumin is most likely the best absorbed and effective. It is the formulation that shows the highest levels of free curcumin in the blood of humans and it is the only one with evidence that it crosses the blood-brain barrier in humans (it is being developed for Alzheimer’s Disease by researchers at UCLA). Over the years, as I have reviewed new studies on this topic I have not seen data to change my opinion.
Clinically, I have seen great results with the Longvida formulation of curcumin improving joint pain and reducing inflammation.
However, explaining the reasoning for this recommendation can be difficult and complicated. I have found a series of blog posts by Josh Trutt, MD that reviews the research and echoes my understanding of this curcumin issue. Conveniently, he comes to a similar conclusion as I do. 🙂 I thought that I would share them with all of you. He probably does a better job than I could of explaining the issues.
Please note that in the third link on Theracumin, he provides an important update in the comments section. The second link also provides a presentation that responds to the multivitamin safety issue that might be interesting for many of you. I don’t agree with everything that Dr. Trutt says, but his use of data is reasonable. And just so you know, I do not have any ties with either Longvida or Dr. Trutt. I have never communicated with Dr. Trutt. I have spoken with Longvida’s technical department, but do not work with or profit from them in any way.
This is not to say that other curcumin formulation are ineffective. Curcumin breakdown products in the bloodstream may work for arthritis, but there is no reason to suspect that curcumin breakdown products are preferable or more powerful than free curcumin.
Richard Malik, ND
Naturopathic Medicine in Connecticut and Vermont
Naturopathic Oncology in Connecticut and Vermont