“High-intensity exercise causes oxidative stress, muscle soreness and muscle fatigue, leading to reduced exercise performance,” the researchers wrote. “Curcumin possesses antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties and thus alleviates postexercise damage.”
Published in the journal Frontiers, the study was funded by the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital Grants.
Curcumin and post-exercise recovery
Curcumin, the main natural bioactive polyphenol of turmeric, possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties used for thousands of years in traditional medicine. Among its multiple researched therapeutic benefits – ranging from pain management to brain health – is its influence on post-exercise recovery and performance.
“Many studies have indicated the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin,” the researchers noted. “Inflammatory mediators are released during immune system activation after exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD), and curcumin may lower inflammatory mediator levels through the regulation of signaling pathways.”
Specifically, they pointed to curcumin’s capacity to inhibit the formation of cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase to indirectly reduce free radical formation, as well as increase levels of antioxidant enzymes such as vitamin E and coenzyme Q10. Curcumin also reduces inflammation by preventing inducible nitric oxide synthase production and nitric oxide release and by limiting the activity of nuclear factor kappa B, cytokines and STAT3 signaling pathways.
The non-randomized prospective cohort study recruited 28 middle and high school athletes (21 men and 7 women with an average age of 17 years) who engaged in wrestling, soccer and soft tennis at least 20 hours a week for over a year.
During 12 weeks of daily training, the 15 participants in the test group (13 male and 2 female) consumed 1.5 g of a Chinese curcumin supplement Jiang Huang Powder a day provided by KO DA Pharmaceutical Co. Each 500 mg pack included 300 mg of curcumin, 190 mg of starch and 10 mg of sodium carboxymethyl cellulose.
Body composition, exercise performance, inflammatory factors, muscle fatigue and muscle soreness were assessed at the baseline and end of the study period.
“A significant decrease in muscle fatigue and muscle soreness scores was observed in the curcumin group after 12 weeks,” the researchers noted. “Moreover, a significant decrease in the 8-hydroxy-2 deoxyguanosine level and a significant increase in basic metabolic rate and fat-free mass were observed in the curcumin group.”
Limitations and further study
The study noted that although it is the first to investigate the effects of curcumin on post-exercise recovery in adolescent athletes over an extended 12-week intervention period, there were several limitations. These included selection and detection biases, reduced sample size and the fact that the scope of the investigation did not include other inflammatory markers such as IL-6, IL-8, nuclear factor kappa B, LDH and lactate.
For future research in this area, they also suggest serial assessments following the test period to evaluate efficacy, as well as standardization and monitoring of nutritional intake.
“12-week curcumin supplementation may relieve postexercise muscle fatigue in adolescent athletes”
Authors: Kai-Yuan Bai, et al.
Sports & Active Nutrition Summit
Industry thought leaders will be speaking at the Sports & Active Nutrition Summit about the state of the market, quality and certifications, regulatory challenges, CBD, eSports, personalized nutrition, and more. The 2023 summit will take place February 15-17 in San Diego. For more information and to register, please click HERE.