May 10, 2012

Curcumin: A Cure All?

Lately, I've been researching and writing about dietary supplements frequently. My research has convinced me that we're wasting billions of dollars on vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements, since there is so little scientific evidence to support their efficacy.

I'm now surprised to find myself writing about the promise of curcumin (the active ingredient in the "spice of life" turmeric) as a remedy for a variety of ailments. I reported last week on curcumin's potential for treating:
  • Alzheimer's, MS, Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Type 2 diabetes
As I noted, most of the studies on curcumin's potential involved mice, not people. But natural curcumin, it turns out, is poorly absorbed in the human body. Efforts are underway to combine curcumin with other compounds to increase its "bioavailability" -- the scientific term for the rate at which our bodies absorb substances. Piperine, derived from black pepper, is particularly promising. Some studies suggest it can enhance curcumin's bioavailability by as much as 2000%.

New Reports on Curcumin's Potential
Now, there are new curcumin studies. Here are the latest:

  • Curcumin may significantly reduce the side effects for bowel cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy  and help them tolerate the treatment longer, according to cancer researchers at the University of Leicester. Normally between 40 to 60 percent of bowel cancer patients do not benefit from chemotherapy medications. Those who do benefit report painful side effects and can only tolerate reduced chemotherapy cycles. Previous studies supported the idea that curcumin strengthens chemotherapy's ability to eliminate bowel cancer cells in the lab. Now, the Leicester researchers are launching a trial involving 40 patients to test the effects of giving curcumin pills seven days before starting standard chemotherapy treatment. The study's leader, Prof. William Steward, said, "The prospect that curcumin might increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy is exciting because it could mean giving lower doses, so patients have fewer side effects and can keep having treatment longer."
  • Curcumin's potential for treating erectile dysfunction (ED), established in earlier studies, was explored further in a study reported in the April issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine. That article confirmed the success of treating ED by administering water-soluble curcumin. That finding was a follow-up on an earlier study that showed curcumin as effective as Viagra. Unfortunately, these studies involved rats, not humans.
Additional Research Findings
As I'm sure you can tell, I'm intrigued by all these hopeful studies and reports on curcumin, something I knew nothing about until a month ago. So I've been searching the web for additional information.  Here's some of what I found:
  • Way back in 1978, a PubMed literature search found almost 1,500 papers dealing with curcumin. After looking at all of the abstracts and reviewing 300 full papers, the researchers concluded:
"Turmeric, an approved food additive, or its component curcumin, has shown surprisingly beneficial effects in experimental studies of acute and chronic diseases characterized by an exaggerated inflammatory reaction. There is ample evidence to support its clinical use, both as a prevention and a treatment."
  • Turmeric/curcumin  can suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells, according to a 2008 study. Additionally, a subsequent study, found that curcumin blocked the invasiveness of prostate cancer cells. Since I have prostate cancer, this claim reinforces my decision to try curcumin.
  • Curcumin shows promise in attacking Parkinson's Disease by preventing the clumping of a protein involved in the disease, according to a March 2012 report by Michigan State University researchers. And this finding may have even broader ramifications. "Our research show that curcumin can rescue proteins from aggragation, the first steps in many debilitating diseases," Prof. Lisa Lapidus, a co-author of the report, said. 
So, given my Parkinson's Disease and my prostate cancer, I'm willing to ignore my prior warnings about wasting money on supplements and give curcumin a try.  I'll report on this trial next week.
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See the three-part supplement series I did on this back in  February. Here's the link to the first piece --http://bit.ly/wFe3yi. I later posted about the claims being made for coconut oil as a treatment for Alzheimer's and subsequently had to warn about the reports discrediting those claims:  http://bit.ly/IzAR7z and http://bit.ly/L56jML.



1 comment:

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