New Turmeric Studies: Liver Function, Memory, Cholesterol, and Sperm Quality
Updated: Feb 26
There are many traditional uses of turmeric, not only as food staple in Indian and Caribbean recipes, but also as a homeopathic ingredient in the nutraceutical industry. Recent studies are not only confirming its traditional health benefits, but illuminating new, and previously unexplored uses, of turmeric.
An article in the November 2019 issue of Nutritional Outlook recognizes turmeric for its support of liver function, memory and attention in aging adults, controlling high cholesterol, and enhanced sperm quality.
Supporting liver health is a traditional use of turmeric. The study highlighted in Nutritional Outlook confirmed its support from a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on liver function in chronic alcoholics. At the beginning of the study, all participants had elevated liver enzymes. After eight weeks, “liver function markers in the placebo group increased by about 9.5%. The curcumin-supplemented group saw significant improvements, including serum transaminases reduced by 31% from baseline and gamma-glutamyl transferase reduced by 29% from baseline.” Results show curcumin supplementation may improve liver health in individuals with chronic alcoholism.
A 2018 double-blind, placebo-controlled trial from the University of California studied the effect of curcumin supplementation on memory and attention in adults without dementia. Participants consisted of 40 adults aged 51 to 84, divided into groups, and given either a curcumin supplement or placebo for 18 months. During the study, verbal memory, visual memory, and attention were assessed, as well as brain amyloid and tau protein accumulation. The latter were assessed because “beta-amyloid protein accumulating in senile plaques and tau protein accumulating in neurofibrillary tangles” are both strong characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease. The study concluded that participants on curcumin supplementation showed significant improvement in verbal and visual memory, as well as attention compared to their counterparts only on placebo treatment.
In May 2018, a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was performed to investigate the benefits of phytosterols and curcumin supplementation for controlling high cholesterol levels. Upon conclusion of the study, participants in both the phytosterol group and the combination phytosterol + curcumin group saw significant decreases in baseline values of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and the total:HDL cholesterol ratio. Notably, in the combination group, the addition of curcumin to phytosterols reduced total cholesterol by an average of 11% and LDL cholesterol by 14.4%.
Because infertility is a common issue, a great deal of research is being done to determine the potential causes and solutions. More recently, research has been conducted on the effects of curcumin on reproductive health, specifically the effects of curcumin on male sperm quality. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial included 60 infertile men randomized to supplement with either curcumin or a placebo for 10 weeks. At the end of the trial, results showed that “curcumin supplementation led to a statistically significant improvement in total sperm count, sperm concentration, and sperm mobility compared to placebo.”