Herbal B.S 101 Curcumin:

Fact: Anti-oxidant properties Fiction: Neuro-protective in humans

ALL substances are chemicals... food, vitamins, medicine & even herbs. Too much of one thing is often the difficulty people run into, assuming that because it's off the shelf and essentially a food that it has to be good for you. Turmeric is a is a common condiment in cooking and has been used in traditional medicine for centuries.The thing about it however is it's poor bioavailability.

Why? Intravenous administration of drugs allow its active molecules to be almost 100% bioavailable, so a study to sell you a "supplement" of curcumin will often use lab data to promote efficacy. However oral administration of medicine and digestion of food through the GI tract reduces the accessibility of many phytonutrients and that data in reality is not always transferable to real life.

Curcumins' phenolic compounds have been marketed as a "superfood" and nutraceutical with potent anti-inflammatory effects due to it’s anti-oxidant properties. However, despite its beneficial properties the bioavailability is low due to the extensive metabolism and biotransformation after ingestion.

Everything we put in our body has an effect on it, be it a drug with high specificity or a spice from our pantry. For a substance to reach its destination and exhibit its effect, it has a lengthy journey to traverse and may need to metamorphose several times to become what it was destined to be. If the target is the brain it must pass the blood brain barrier in a non-glucoronated form to exhibit its neuroprotective effects. The enzyme responsible for glucorolodation is found in the small intestine, liver kidney and brain amongst other tissues. UDP Transferase unfortunately means the neuro-protective form of curcumin doesn't actually get to the brain barrier in an efficacious form.

Other variables that impact the therapeutic action of curcumin include; The pH in which it is administered can change the metabolism of the compound; In a pH less than 7 it takes a keto form, in greater than 7 an enol form; the acidity or alkalinity changes its effect on the body. The take home? Cook your curries with it... save your $ if you are buying it in pill form ;)


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Dei Cas M, Ghidoni R. Dietary Curcumin: Correlation between Bioavailability and Health Potential. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2147.

Metzler M, Pfeiffer E Fau - Schulz SI, Schulz Si Fau - Dempe JS, Dempe JS. Curcumin uptake and metabolism. (1872-8081 (Electronic)).

Cole GM, Teter B, Frautschy SA. Neuroprotective effects of curcumin. Advances in experimental medicine and biology. 2007;595:197-212.

Shangari N, Chan TS, O'Brien PJ. Sulfation and Glucuronidation of Phenols: Implications in Coenyzme Q Metabolism. Methods in Enzymology. 400: Academic Press; 2005. p. 342-59.

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