Curcumin’s Effects on Human Health Reviewed
Updated: Jun 4
Turmeric has a long history of medicinal use. Curcuminoids, a family of active compounds within turmeric, have been widely studied for their potential advantages such as aiding in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, hyperlipidemia, and exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness.
The purpose of this review was to provide a brief overview of the extensive amount of research regarding the potential health benefits of curcumin. However, because such a large amount of literature is available, they chose to focus on the benefits associated with common health conditions. They further went on to review the effects of curcumin on healthy people because there is research that shows it benefits more than just those with health conditions (Hewlings et al., 2017).
Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory
The majority of the curcumin supplementation benefits discussed in this review can be attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. According to a 2015 study, curcumin has been shown to improve various oxidative stress markers including plasma activities of SOD and catalase, as well as serum concentrations of glutathione peroxidase (GSH), and lipid peroxides (Sahebkar et al., 2015). It is also known, through various studies, that taking curcumin by itself does not lead to the above-mentioned health benefits because of its bioavailability challenges – how it is absorbed in the body. Notably, all of the studies in this review some sort of formulation to overcome these challenges; four out of the six used piperine, a compound in black pepper.
Inflammation has been identified as a contributor in the development of various chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cerebral injury, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer, allergy, asthma, bronchitis, colitis, arthritis, renal ischemia, psoriasis, diabetes, obesity, depression, fatigue, and AIDS. Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) is a major mediator of inflammation in most diseases. This effect is regulated by the activation of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB), which is involved in inflammatory and immune responses. Curcumin has been shown to block NF-κB activation and suppress inflammation through many different mechanisms, thereby supporting its use as a potential anti-inflammatory agent (Panahi et al., 2016).
Two other diseases associated with inflammation are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), chronic joint conditions. Because there is no cure for either disease, several pharmaceutical treatment options are available. However, many pharmaceutical options are costly and come with undesirable side effects. This has led to increased interest in alternative treatments, like dietary supplements and other homeopathic remedies. Several studies have shown the anti-arthritic effects of curcumin in humans with OA and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial from 2014, 40 subjects with mild-to-moderate degree knee OA were randomly assigned to receive either a curcuminoid supplement (500 mg/day in three divided doses) or a placebo for six weeks. Results from the study showed significantly greater reductions in the Visual Analog Scale, Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index scores, and Lequesne’s Pain Functional Index scores in the treatment group compared with the placebo group (Panahi et al., 2014).
The metabolic syndrome (MetS) category includes several different health conditions. Insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, hypertension, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), elevated triglyceride levels, and obesity are all included. Curcumin has been shown to improve several aspects of MetS. One particular study looked at the cholesterol-lowering properties of curcuminoids and found that they were more effective than a placebo in reducing serum LDL-C, non-HDL-C, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoprotein a (Lp(a)), in addition to elevating HDL-C concentrations (Panahi et al., 2014).
Most curcumin studies have been done on people with existing health problems. This might be because it could be challenging to see immediate and measurable benefits on healthy people as opposed to those with health conditions. However there has been some research on curcumin supplementation in healthy individuals. One study on healthy adults aged 40–60 years used an 80 mg/day dose of a lipidated form of curcumin or a placebo for four weeks. Curcumin significantly lowered triglyceride levels but did not show a significant change in total cholesterol, LDL, or HDL levels. Inflammation-related neutrophil function increased. Neutrophils play a key role against invading pathogens in the body. Additionally, there was a decrease in beta amyloid plaque, a biomarker of brain aging, and in plasma alanine amino transferase activities, a biomarker of liver injury. This study indicates that curcumin can provide health benefits for people that do not have diagnosed health conditions (DiSilvestro et al., 2012).
Read the full review here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/
DiSilvestro, R. A., Joseph, E., Zhao, S., & Bomser, J. (2012). Diverse effects of a low dose supplement of lipidated curcumin in healthy middle-aged people. Nutrition journal, 11, 79. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-11-79
Hewlings, S. & Kalman, D. (2017). Curcumin: A Review of Its' Effects on Human Health. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 6(10), 92. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods6100092
Panahi, Y., Hosseini, M. S., Khalili, N., Naimi, E., Simental-Mendía, L. E., Majeed, M., & Sahebkar, A. (2016). Effects of curcumin on serum cytokine concentrations in subjects with metabolic syndrome: A post-hoc analysis of a randomized controlled trial. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie, 82, 578–582. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2016.05.037
Panahi, Y., Khalili, N., Hosseini, M. S., Abbasinazari, M., & Sahebkar, A. (2014). Lipid-modifying effects of adjunctive therapy with curcuminoids-piperine combination in patients with metabolic syndrome: results of a randomized controlled trial. Complementary therapies in medicine, 22(5), 851–857. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2014.07.006
Panahi, Y., Rahimnia, A. R., Sharafi, M., Alishiri, G., Saburi, A., & Sahebkar, A. (2014). Curcuminoid treatment for knee osteoarthritis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 28(11), 1625–1631. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5174