Curcumin close to status where benefits implicitly understood by consumers, manufacturer says

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image: iStockPhoto
Image: iStockPhoto

Related tags: Inflammation, Major depressive disorder

Curcumin is becoming so well known among consumers that it has almost gotten to the point that the mere name on the label is enough to market its many benefits, said Cheryl Myers, of supplement manufacturer Europharma.

Myers, who is Europharma’s head of education and scientific affairs, sat down with NutraIngredients-USA at the recent Expo East trade show in Baltimore. She said it’s a good thing that curcumin has achieved such a high profile because the ingredient touches so many physiological processes, some of which might be tricky to craft a marketing message for in a dietary supplement setting.

“It does so many basic things in the body,”​ Myers said.

Inflammation fighter 

The main benefit that many in the field point to is curcumin’s effect on inflammation at the cellular level.  Curcumin has been shown to modulate the activity of NfKb, the signaling molecule that helps to switch on so to speak the inflammatory response in the nuclei of cells. While inflammation is a necessary response, chronic inflammation, where NfKb is active past the time the response is called for because of injury or infection, can be damaging. That’s where curcumin can help, Myers said.

“With curcumin you have the best natural support for inflammation,”​ Myers said.

Inflammation is thought to lie at the core of numerous diseases, from neurodegenerative disorders, cardiovascular disease on to arthritis and on the the big one, cancer. Myers said the evidence is strong for the effects of curcumin in all of these.

In the brain, for example, Myers said curcumin has shown benefits for stimulating cell growth. An anemic rate of cell replacement is a characteristic of a number of disorders, she said.

“We have found studies that show curcumin working as well as fluoxcetine in major depressive disorder​,” ​Myers said. “But the mechanism by which curcumin works is different.  Depression is far more complex than just a serotonin deficiency. The brains of people suffering from this disorder show a much higher level of inflammation, and individuals with depression have lower levels of neurogenesis. Curcumin is the most powerful natural compound studied thus far for stimulating neurogenesis.”

Water dispersible form

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A major issue with curcumin has always been the fat-soluble ingredient’s poor absorption profile. Myers said Europharma gets around this by employing BCM 95, a branded form of curcumin boasting better bioavailability. A new twist on this ingredient is that it has now been made water dispersible, enabling Europharma to feature it in a product that the company was highlighting at the show, its Curamed Effervescent Tablets.

“Our main group of consumers for this product are people who have trouble swallowing pills,” ​Myers said. “Our research shows up to 30% of people have trouble swallowing for one reason or another.  Some people have scar tissue from years of acid reflux disease.  Other people are living with neurological damage that can make swallowing difficult.”

Myers said BCM-95 has the additional advantage over some other curcumin ingredients in that it includes turmeric essential oils, which supply important molecules called turmerones. In addition, the Curamed product contains a ginger extract standardized for 6% gingerol content, she said.

Works too well?

Myers said the tricky thing about curcumin is that the research is powerful and the consumers are starting to realize it. The only claim the company makes on the front of the package is “healthy inflammation response.”

“The majority of people seeking information about curcumin are seriously concerned about a major health challenge they are facing. I don’t think there is any doubt in the medical community that curcumin is highly effective in reducing inflammation,”​ she said.

“St John’s Wort is now so well known that you don’t have to say anything about what it does on the package. I think curcumin could get to the same point,”​ Myers said.

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