- The coconut oil craze. I first became aware of this in February when I put up my first post about the reports I'd seen touting coconut oil as a remedy for Alzheimer's. That post took off like a skyrocket in terms of the hits it got and it kept on going. It has attracted five times as much traffic as any other post I've published. Yet all the research I've done on coconut oil has yet to turn up a valid study to substantiate the claims made for it.
- Curcumin -- the "unsung hero." Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, the curry spice that Indians call the "holy powder." I had never heard anything about curcumin until I began researching dietary supplements, and I was startled to find it has been the subject of over 500 scientific studies, almost all of which verify its potential for treating not just Alzheimer's but also other neurological disorders like Parkinson's and MS, as well as cancer, diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, depression... and the list goes on.
Most of the promising early research on this "holy spice" involved mice. An impediment to obtaining the same results with humans was the lack of product potency to cross the blood-brain barrier. Most commercial turmeric for culinary use contains only 2-8% active curcumin.
Recent research, however, has produced a curcumin derivative -- BCM-95 -- that has been shown in several studies to possess a bioavailability six times greater than conventionally prepared curcumin. So, a 400mg dose of BCM-95 delivers the same usable amount of curcumin as 2,700mg of the standard extract.
Although there is no RDA (Recommended Daily Allotment) for curcumin, a daily dose of 400-1,000mg is used in most studies. Up to ten times that amount has been used in some therapeutic studies.
One of the leading researchers on curcumin is Ajay Goel, PhD, director of epigenetics and cancer prevention at the Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Lab at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.
Goel says that pharmacology can’t really boast any great success in preventing or fighting cancer over the past four decades. So far, drugs kill not only tumors, but healthy cells, too. They typically target single molecules or genes, whereas curcumin targets multiple pathways or genes to suppress cancerous growth. Curcumin reduces inflammation and oxidative stress: conditions that abet the development of tumors.
Goel has been personally involved with more than 100 of the 5,000-plus studies done on curcumin. Turmeric is the only spice whose study has entered mainstream, clinical trials, over 40 of which have been made on humans only. He says that 80 new clinical trials involving humans are underway. He is convinced that this botanical has “passed muster,” moving well beyond in-vitro and animal studies, showing in all cases some very real efficacy.
Goel is especially excited about a recent study of curcumin’s potential for treating rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the first clinical trial involving humans. The positive outcome didn’t surprise him, since he understands curcumin’s anti-inflammatory power. The study found that curcumin was as effective as prescription pain medication. In addition, curcumin doesn't produce the toxic side effects of the prescription pain killers.
My experience is just that: MY experience. And, in any event, my encounter with curcumin hasn't been all that spectacular, or -- for all I know -- clearly based on cause and effect.
I want to emphasize a couple things:
- Most of those promising 5,000+ studies -- especially the initial ones -- involved mice, not people.
- The blood-brain barrier issue remains problematic with humans.
- Most reputable authorities urge more large-scale, peer-reviewed, controlled clinical trials before they could responsibly recommend curcumin.
It's recommended that curcumin be taken with meals, so I take one pill with each of my three meals (the easiest plan for this often-forgetful old man to remember). That's a total of 1,200mg every day. Most of the clinical trials I've seen involved administering between 500 and 2000mg a day. Much larger dosages have been tested without serious side effects.
So, what happened for me? Nothing dramatic. I did almost immediately feel an uptick in energy. The low back pain attributed to arthritis seemed to abate a bit, but persists. And I've wondered if my recent "libido revival" is somehow related to the new curcumin regimen.
But the main reason I decided to try curcumin was my hope that it might help ward off Alzheimer's or dementia, and slow down the progression of my Parkinson's and prostate cancer. There's no easy or clear way for me to know if curcumin is helping.
I mentioned before that I learned a lesson from my experience with the serotonin-booster 5-HTP. I began touting that supplement as a wonder-drug for dealing with depression and insomnia. Only later did I find that few -- if any -- others shared my favorable experience. But with curcumin, I'm beginning to hear some favorable reviews from friends who have tried it. Several people report feeling more energetic; others say it seems to reduce pain. My internet research has found other favorable anecdotal reviews. But those are not the same as scientific studies.
So, that's where I am. I'm not urging you to rush out and buy curcumin pills.