Eight weeks of 1 gram per day of the patented curcumin ingredient BCM-95 provided the same reductions in swelling and pain as 100 milligrams per day of the prescription drug diclofenac sodium, according to findings published in Phytotherapy Research.
In addition, Dr Ajay Goel from Baylor University Medical Center (USA) and Dr Binu Chandran from the Nirmala Medical Centre (India) report that there were no drop outs due to adverse effects in the curcumin group, but 14% of participants in the diclofenac sodium group withdrew due to adverse effects.
“The drugs used for people with rheumatoid arthritis can have severe adverse effects,” explained Goel. “Our study is the first to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis, and highlights the need for future large-scale trials to further validate these findings in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and other arthritic conditions.”
Joint health market
The joint health market is dominated by glucosamine. Euromonitor International puts the value of the global market for glucosamine supplements at $2bn, and cites an annual growth rate of 7% from 2004 to 2009.
Clinical trials using glucosamine alone or in combination with chondroitin have yielded conflicting results, leading some medical professionals to question the efficacy of such supplements.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the US, affecting some 21 million adults.
This number is predicted to rise to 67 million adults aged over 18 by the year 2030, according to data from the 2003 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).
Since curcumin is reported to confer anti-inflammatory effects, the researchers sought to test the effectiveness of the ingredient to reduce swelling and pain in 45 people with rheumatoid arthritis.
“We were concerned that plain curcumin would not be well absorbed and so we chose a specific type called BCM-95 curcumin, because it has published human data showing it is absorbed between 7 and 10 times better than plain curcumin,” said Chandran. The BCM-95 was provided by Arjuna Natural Extracts Limited.
The participants were randomly assigned to receive the curcumin supplement (1,000 mg per day), diclofenac sodium (100 mg per day), or a combination of both for eight weeks.
Using the Disease Activity Score (DAS) assessment, the researchers note that all groups displayed improvements in various joint health measures, and there was a trend towards BCM-95 reducing symptoms the most. However, there were no statistically significant differences between the groups.
Markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), were also reduced in the curcumin group, added Chandran and Goel.
“Our observations that curcumin alone was able to alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in this study are quite encouraging, and these results provide an ideal springboard for investigating the potential of curcumin in other chronic diseases arising in the setting of dysregulated chronic inflammation,” they wrote.
Source: Phytotherapy Research
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1002/ptr.4639
“A Randomized, Pilot Study to Assess the Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Patients with Active Rheumatoid Arthritis”
Authors: B. Chandran, A. Goel