By Dr. Sarah Zadek ND We’ve all seen media claims that supplements can be a “waste of money” while other reports illustrate the dangers of “natural products”. So how valid are these claims? It’s all in the fine print. A catchy fear-inducing headline is sure to make waves, but it’s time to break down the science – and the actual text – of this information. When are supplements actually not worth it, and when can they actually make a difference in your health? What outcomes are we looking for? The first thing you need to ask yourself is “What am I
It is now clear that poor bioavailability limits curcumin’s use. With respect to the whole food approach in particular, large quantities of turmeric powder can be consumed and may not result in beneficial concentrations of curcumin in the blood.
Trials have shown that low levels of curcumin are present in the blood samples of participants administered high doses of curcumin (Anand et al., 2007). Some estimates suggest that only about 2% of curcumin taken orally is transported via the blood to the tissues. Furthermore, Pan and colleagues showed that 99% of curcumin in the bloodstream is conjugated curcumin (Pan et al., 1999). Studies have shown that conjugated curcumin has significantly lower bioactivity as compared to Free Form Curcumin and is readily excreted by the kidneys (Ireson et al., 2001; Pal et al., 2014; Shoji et al., 2014; Choudhary et al., 2015). Moreover, conjugated curcumin is also bulkier since it has a glucuronide or sulphate group attached, so less able to cross the lining of blood vessels and the blood brain barrier (BBB) (Krishnakumar et al., 2015)
Factors for Poor Curcumin Bioavailability Are:
Insolubility / Instability
Turmeric is highly insoluble and has a very hard time dissolving in water, much like sand. Its curcuminoids are hydrophobic and lipophilic (i.e. water hating, fat loving), and as a result, have a high tendency to clump and then crystallize as the pH gradient shifts through the digestive process. This significantly inhibits absorption into the gut and bloodstream.
Unfortunately, what does manage to escape is readily broken down by the liver through biotransformation.
Rapid Elimination / Short Half-Life
The rapid elimination of curcuminoids through the bowel further reduces curcumin’s bioavailability since its half-life is less than two hours, with little curcumin previously absorbed into the bloodstream (Sharma et al., 2001). Half-life refers to the time at which half the amount (50%) of an ingested substance will have been eliminated.