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Curcumin may cut body fat and weight gain: Mouse study

By Stephen Daniells , 27-Apr-2009

Curcumin, the natural pigment that gives the spice turmeric its yellow colour, may prevent reduce body weight gain, and help in the fight against obesity, suggests new data from a study with mice.

Mice fed a high-fat diet and supplemented with curcumin were found to have reduced body weight gain, as well as lowering blood cholesterol levels, according to findings published in the Journal of Nutrition.

“The curcumin suppression of angiogenesis in adipose tissue together with its effect on lipid metabolism in adipocytes may contribute to lower body fat and body weight gain,” wrote the authors, led by Asma Ejaz from the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

“Our findings suggest that dietary curcumin may have a potential benefit in preventing obesity.”

If the study can be repeated in studies with humans, it could see curcumin added to the burgeoning weight loss and management market, estimated to already be worth $7bn (€5.2bn) globally.

With 50 per cent of Europeans and 62 per cent of Americans classed as overweight, the food industry is waking up to the potential of products for weight loss and management.

The slimming ingredients market can be divided into five groups based on the mechanisms of action - boosting fat burning/ thermogenesis, inhibiting protein breakdown, suppressing appetite/ boosting satiety (feeling of fullness), blocking fat absorption, and regulating mood (linked to food consumption).

Study details

Ejaz and her co-workers performed in vitro and in vivo experiments. The effects of different doses of curcumin on the growth (differentiation) of 3T3-L1 fat cells (adipocytes) showed a suppression of differentiation and an increase in programmed cell death (apoptosis).

The in vivo experiments involved feeding mice a high-fat diet (22 per cent) and supplementing the animals with 500 mg of curcumin per kg of diet for 12 weeks. The pigment was found to reduce body weight gain and fat mass, without affecting the levels of food intake, wrote the researchers.

Furthermore, a reduction was noted in the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), one of a number of genes associated with angiogenesis (blood vessel formation that is necessary for the growth of fat tissue).

Curcumin was also associated with significantly lower cholesterol levels and a reduction in the expression of peroxisome proliferators-activated receptor gamma (PPAR-gamma), a protein that plays a role in metabolic functions.

Source: Journal of Nutrition Volume 139, Pages 919-925, doi:10.3945/jn.108.100966“Curcumin Inhibits Adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes and Angiogenesis and Obesity in C57/BL Mice” Authors: A. Ejaz, D. Wu, P. Kwan, M. Meydani

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