Curcumin is widely used and well recognized as a highly valued component of the turmeric root. Used extensively in India for cooking and medicinal purposes, it boasts many health promoting chemicals and has been the subject of intense research over the last few years for a variety of health benefits.1 The health promoting properties of curcumin have been further investigated to determine how they affect exercise performance. Curcumin is not only a potent antioxidant that helps to protect cells when they are under stress, but it also has the ability to protect and strengthen the cardiovascular system and to boost
In more recent years, the anti-carcinogenic activity of curcumin both in prevention and treatment has been studied in colon, bone marrow, breast (Liu et al., 2013), prostate, and lung cancer (Sharma et al., 2001; Gomez-Bougie et al., 2015; Tieten et al., 2010; Tsai et al., 2015). While curcumin has been established as safe and nontoxic at high doses in humans (Krishnakumar et al., 2015), how curcumin has such a diverse range of medicinal effects is less understood.
The liver is the major organ responsible for metabolizing or breaking down substances. When something is ingested, it is normally absorbed into the bloodstream through the hepatic portal vein. The first stop for this “portal blood” is the liver. Here, these substances have phase II enzyme groups known as glucuronide or sulphate added to them. This process is known as conjugation or biotransformation (hepatic first pass metabolism) and makes a substance extremely soluble. These newly formed metabolites are then carried to our kidneys and bowel and ready for excretion.
When curcumin is able to avoid this rapid breakdown, it retains its activity. Furthermore, a true understanding of free form curcumin clarifies how bioavailability and absorbability are only one side of a very complex coin when it comes to curcumin. When the whole picture is in view, we are able to gain clarity into the present state of curcumin within our industry. What you might believe is a high quality, effective product, might not be, and products with superior formulation are often highly misunderstood. However, once the process of biotransformation is better understood, it becomes clear that all of curcumin’s benefits significantly increase when it retains its free form. Thus, resulting in a highly potent, bioactive product.