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Sabinsa weighs into curcumin bioavailability debate

4 commentsBy Elaine Watson , 02-May-2011
Last updated on 02-May-2011 at 11:48 GMT

A leading expert on curcuminoids has weighed into the debate over curcumin and bioavailability following a spat between suppliers over rival supplement formulations.

Dr Muhammed Majeed is founder of Sabinsa Corporation, which has been researching curcumin – a potent anti-inflammatory agent from the spice turmeric - since the mid 1990s.

He was speaking to NutraIngredients-USA after an academic on the advisory board of EuroPharma accused some suppliers of “fuzzy math” when calculating curcumin absorption and others of talking about turmeric and curcumin interchangeably, even though curcumin is only a tiny percentage of turmeric and is itself poorly absorbed.

Comparing like with like

It was important to note that curcuminoids – Curcumin (C), demethoxycurcumin (DMC), bisdemethoxycurcumin (BDMC) - in their natural state were present in the ratio 76:19:5, said Majeed. However, not all supplement formulations replicated this ratio.

“The metabolic profile [in rival Indena’s Meriva phytosome curcumin formulation] is different from unmodified natural curcumin [it is higher in DMC metabolites]. Meriva, if at all, increases the bioavailability of curcuminoid metabolites only - the glucuronide and sulfated metabolites of curcuminoids - not curcuminoids per se.

“There is no published data on the clinical efficacy of curcuminoid metabolites yet whose concentrations are purported to be increased by Meriva… the safety and efficacy data for curcuminoids gathered over the years are not applicable to this composition.”

Meanwhile, the metabolites ratio in other supplement formulations was also “in discord with the original curcuminoids ratio, thus raising concern of untested and unknown compositional effects”, he claimed.

By contrast, Sabinsa’s Curcuminoids C3 Complex reflected “the natural, unmodified composition with a very long history of safe and efficacious use”, he argued.

Bioavailability just one factor

As for which approach was best to enhance bioavailability of curcuminoids, “there was never a comparative study made between these products in a cross over fashion to assess the advantages or disadvantages of one method versus the other”, he pointed out.

However, the approach adopted by Sabinsa using black pepper extract (piperine) conserved their natural profile/ratios, he claimed.

Claims by some rivals that piperine could interfere with prescription drugs and increase the absorption of unwanted toxins were misleading given the tiny amounts used, he added.

“The 5 mg dose of co-administered piperine needed to enhance the bioavailability of curcuminoids will not enhance the absorption of drugs and toxins. More than a 20mg dose of piperine is needed for enhancing the absorption of drugs.”

However, Majeed stressed that bioavailability was only one factor firms should consider when formulating supplements containing curcumin, adding: “The current understanding of bioavailability as the benchmark of efficacy of curcuminoids may not be the correct approach, as it is very probable that unmodified curcuminoids themselves have health benefits in the body.”

What happens to curcuminoids in the body?

As to the relationship between blood levels of curcuminoids and their clinical effects, more research was probably needed, said Majeed.

“Pharmacokinetics (blood levels) and Pharmacodynamics (clinical effects) cannot be correlated due to extensive bio transformation of curcuminoids in the intestine and liver. Perhaps it is the extensive biotransformations in the intestine that may be key to curcumin's biological effect?

“The Meriva pharmacokinetic study where one could find the metabolites of minor cucuminoids (DMC and BDMC) in abundance in the blood is a clear indication that the major component in curcuminoid, that is curcumin, has undergone extensive metabolism already.

“So whether it is the so-called highly bioavailable Meriva product or so-called poorly available normal curcumoinoids, the fate of oral curcumin is the same, it gets biotransformed in the intestine and liver.”

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4 comments (Comments are now closed)

Majeed overlooks piperine from other supplements

A number of supplements are being marketed these days that contain piperine to "enhance" absorption. (It would be more scientifically accurate to state that it inhibits the breakdown of those substances, thereby increasing their biological presence.) The problem is that you cannot argue that your 5 mg dosage of piperine is going to be of no consequence, since many consumers are taking other supplements containing that much or more of Bioperine, so you must look at the potential total intake, and, yes, when taken at the same time, it could easily add up to the 20 mg dosage that you admit could be of concern. So, yes, it is reasonable to be concerned about the presence of Bioperine.

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Posted by George A Butel
17 May 2011 | 02h59

What about Longvida's curcumin?

Conspicuously absent from this discussion is anything about the other major player in the bioavailable curcumin market, Longvida's product, which has been clinically studied. What you also overlook in the discussion about piperine is that consumers may be taking other piperine-containing products, such as one of the CoQ enhanced with piperine, so that their piperine intake may be enough to worry about enhancing absorption of other substances. The statement that 20 mg of piperine is "required" to enhance drug absorption makes it sound like there is some magic number below which it will have no effect, which I find hard to believe. I take one Longvida capsule in the a.m. and one Meriva capsule in the p.m. since I don't know which one is actually best. I do notice that if you open up a capsule of each and pour them out into identical solutions, say a soup, that the Meriva appears to dissolve better.

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Posted by George Butel
08 May 2011 | 08h07

Been around

This is a guy and company that has been around for years. Some new research pops up and addresses people on what they think they need to hear, suddenly there's plenty in this industry to follow, i.e. Meriva. Dr. Majeed says he knows Curcumin, I trust him. And I trust a company that knows more about curcumin than anyone else.

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Posted by C. Riley
03 May 2011 | 16h08

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