Supplementation with curcumin, the active substance in turmeric, may delay the speed with which hair turns grey. One effect that it definitely has is to cause a dramatic rise in the concentration of NO, which widens blood vessels. And there are more effects, according to research published by nutritional scientists from Ohio State University in Nutrition Journal. This is one of the first studies of the effects of curcumin supplementation on healthy people.
Curcumin [structural formula shown above] is an extremely interesting substance. It has an anti-catabolic effect, and possibly even an anabolic effect. It inhibits the conversion of amino acids into glucose, stimulates fat burning and protects men from prostate cancer. And those are just a few of the effects.
Despite such a promising outlook, there are very few studies on the effects of curcumin supplementation on healthy people. The researchers at Ohio State University found just one: a Thai study in which the experimental subjects took a daily dose of 500 mg or 6 g of curcuminoid compounds for a week. [Phytother Res. 2011 Nov; 25(11):1721-6.] The 500-mg dose led to an increase in the total amount of antioxidants in the blood, and reduced the concentration of triglycerides and cholesterol.
In their study, the Americans tested a supplement containing 400 mg and one containing only 80 mg of curcumin. The supplement went by the name of Longvida Optimized Curcumin [longvida.com]. The manufacturer was Verdure Sciences, the sponsor of the study [vs-corp.com].
Optimized Curcumin contains not only curcumin but also a proprietary blend of soya-lecithin and vitamin C, and the gelling agents stearic acid dextrin and hydroxypropylmethylcellulose. According to the manufacturer, this mixture enhances the body’s uptake of the curcumin.
The researchers gave curcumin or a placebo to two groups of 19 subjects, aged 40-60, daily for a period of four weeks. Despite the dose being modest, the researchers observed statistically significant positive health effects.
To start with the triglyceride concentration went down by 10 percent. Nothing happened to the subjects' cholesterol levels.
The NO concentration in the blood rose considerably. That suggests that curcumin can reduce blood pressure and keep blood vessel walls supple. But NO is also interesting for athletes, because some studies suggest that more NO boosts stamina and possibly muscle growth too.
The concentration of the soluble intercellular adhesion molecule [sICAM] went down, which may mean that curcumin inhibits hardening of the arteries.
In the subjects' saliva the amylase activity declined. Amylase is an enzyme that splits starchy substances up into glucose molecules. The total antioxidant activity rose.
And in the blood the activity of the endogenous antioxidant enzyme catalase rose too. Catalase converts hydrogen peroxide into water. Hair turns grey when the catalase activity decreases in the cells that make the hairs. Whether that means that you can delay the moment at which your hair starts to turn grey, the researchers don't say.
Lastly, the activity of the beta-amyloid protein decreased in the blood of the subjects. The effect was not large, but it is possible that high doses of curcumin may protect brain cells from diseases such as Alzheimer's.
"In summary, a low dose of a lipidated curcumin product produced a range of potentially health promoting actions in healthy middle aged people", the researchers write.
Nutr J. 2012 Sep 26;11:79.