September 2, 2014

Curcumin Update: Promising New Vehicle to Cross the Blood/Brain Barrier

Curcumin -- the active ingredient in the Indian curry spice turmeric -- is the only botanical whose efficacy has been clearly demonstrated by science. Almost 5,000 peer-reviewed studies now exist to support its beneficial effects. Most of the studies were small, and many involved mice and rats, not humans. There's no question: we need more large-scale, peer-reviewed, clinical studies involving people, and a number of them are underway.

Curcumin has powerful antioxidant properties, so it can fight inflammation. Many diseases are accompanied by inflammation and -- according to some research -- are triggered by it. Curcumin also appears to combat ongoing cellular damage. These dual attributes -- combating inflammation and cellular damage -- could affect virtually all tissues in the body, including those in the brain.

What's especially exciting to me (and millions of others) is curcumin's potential to fight Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other neurological disorders related to inflammation.

Over a year ago, I set up a Google "curcumin" alert so I'd get the latest news. I usually hear about another promising new study every week. Here are the two most recent:
  • Discovery shows that curcumin blocks the metastasis of colon cancer by a new method.
  • Curcumin supplements may help with depression.
Most human studies of curcumin have focused on people with existing health problems. But one recent study looked at a group of healthy middle-aged people and concluded that a low dose of curcumin "can produce a variety of potentially health-promoting effects" for them.

Why aren't we all popping curcumin pills or eating lots of turmeric-heavy curries?

Well, for one thing, curcumin hasn't been hawked as a miracle cure the way Dr. Mary Newport -- aided by Pat Robertson and Dr. Oz -- have promoted coconut oil as a cure for Alzheimer's. We'll have more to say about that later this week.

But the major difficulty with curcumin is the blood/brain barrier -- the highly selective permeability barrier that separates our circulating blood from brain fluid. This barrier is the main reason why substances that look great when tested on mice often don't work when tried on humans. In its neuroprotective role, the blood/brain barrier hinders the delivery of many potentially important diagnostic and therapeutic agents to the brain.

Recent research, however, is producing breakthroughs in enhancing the bioavailability of cucumin and other drugs. You'll find a bewildering array of curcumin supplements on your drugstore shelf or in an internet search, all claiming to offer the best way to cross the blood/brain barrier.

I narrowed the search by visiting ConsumerLab.com, which I use to check out drugs or supplements. Its report on curcumin stamped "disapproved" on about one third of the brands. But this still left a large number of products to choose from. I made a semi-educated guess and picked Jarrow Formula's Curcumin 95. But who knows?

Then a few weeks ago, I came across reports on a curcumin study underway at UCLA that narrowed the search further. Using a National Institutes of Health drug development grant, researchers at UCLA's Alzheimer's Translation Center came up with a formulation of curcumin that can penetrate the brain. It has been patented by the UC Regents and Veterans Affairs as Longvida.

The manufacturer is certified for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), which guarantees the absence of toxic metals. (Curcumin can chelate toxic metals like lead.) Sometimes it's difficult to determine if a manufacturer is a GMP company, because you purchase the product from the distributor, not the manufacturer.

The European Food Safety Commission, which has stricter food safety standards than the FDA, has designated curcumin as safe.

The ongoing UCLA clinical trial has determined that the Longvida formulation is effective in getting curcumin across the blood/brain barrier, and that its manufacturer is GMP certified. While the study continues, a commercial version of Longvida is available. You can buy it on Amazon.

Longvida for Me
In light of this background, I've switched to Longvida.

Each tablet is 500mg (125mg of curcumin). The suggested dose for general health is one or two tablets per day. The clinical trials have used several grams per day with no significant side effects reported.

The UCLA clinical trial is seeking to determine the best dosage for dealing with Alzheimer's. Separate trials will be needed to pinpoint the best dosage for Parkinson's and other diseases. But for now, I'm following the general recommendation of two tablets a day.

For best absorption, the recommendation is to take curcumin between meals. However, people with sensitive stomachs may prefer to take Longvida with meals.

Which Brand of Longvida? I'm adding this segment to what was published earlier thanks to the question asked in the first comment below. Frankly, I didn't pay much attention to brands or prices my first time around. I shop for almost everything on Amazon.com. So I just went there and picked a brand that had an easy Amazon one-click. I ended up with the Complementary Prescriptions brand.

I did a bit more research now and found on the Longvida.com site this where-to-buy information.     when it comes time to reorder, I'll probably pick Douglas Laboratories. In my post about ashwagandha. Dr. Rudy Tanzi, the leading Alzheimer's neurologist recommended only using their version of ashwagandha and said many other versions weren't acceptable.  Since then, I usually pick Douglas Laboratories when it's a choice. 

6 comments:

tgid said...

John, which brand are you using, the Pro Health or Vitamin Research Products? There is a substantial price difference.

John M said...

Interesting post John, as always. Can you say anything about pros/cons of tumeric vs. curcumin?

John Schappi said...

tgid-- Thanks to your question I did some more research and added at the end of the blog post a line to where-to-buy information on Longvida.

John -- Curcumin is the active agent in the turmeric spice. When researchers and/or reporters use either term they are referring to the same thing.

John Schappi said...

This just in. My Google alert for curcumin just picked up a study by the Beijing University of Chinese medicine suggesting that taking curcumin supplements might prevent Alzheimer's. Previous studies have indicated it might be a useful therapy in slowing down AD.See http://bit.ly/1quHTR2

John Schappi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa said...

Hello John
Thanks so much for your experiences! Ive been a turmeric believer (for inflammation) for many years. I was made wiser by a helpful person at Moms and found that turmeric works better with the pepper companion. I have recently switched to Vibrant Health brand Maximized Curcuminoids version 2.0. 1000 mg turmeric root extract, 5 mg black pepper fruit. I take one a day.

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