For proof that turmeric’s (Curcuma longa) fan base is growing, for the very first time (in 2013) turmeric become the top-selling herbal supplement in the U.S natural health channel, according to the American Botanical Council’s (Austin, TX) annual HerbalGram report. During that same year, turmeric also registered on the list of top-40 U.S. mainstream herbal supplements (at number 30).
Why? Quite simply, the science. Published research continues to support turmeric’s benefits for everything from arthritis to cancer prevention. New evidence points to potential effects on knee osteoarthritis, muscle soreness, metabolic syndrome, and even depression. Here’s a rundown of some of the latest branded ingredient studies:
A 56-subject human study on 500 mg of EuroPharma’s (Green Bay, WI) BCM-95 found that the curcumin ingredient may help relieve symptoms of atypical depression, a condition linked to high levels of inflammation and resulting in insomnia, increased appetite or weight gain, and fatigue.
Australian researchers studying Verdure Sciences’ (Noblesville, IN) Longvida curcumin found that 400 mg daily resulted in improvements in attention and working memory, as well as calmness, contentedness, and fatigue. Researchers claim the study as the first “to examine the effects of curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population or to examine any acute behavioral effects in humans.”
A 53-subject study published last year on Sabinsa’s (East Windsor, NJ) Curcumin C3 Complex, combined with the company’s BioPerine bioavailability enhancer (Piper nigrum), showed better results over several previous trials on other bioavailable curcuminoids at more quickly improving arthritic indices in those with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis. An observational study suggests that Indena’s (Milan) Meriva curcumin, plus glucosamine, may outperform the combination of chondroitin plus glucosamine in patients with knee arthritis.
A 20-subject study also suggests that Meriva may help decrease muscle soreness during athletic activities during which muscles are made to lengthen at the same time they are contracting, such as during downhill running.
Research in the area of digestion has been inconclusive, but a group of Canadian researchers last summer announced plans for a meta-analysis testing curcumin on potentially inflammation-related conditions like peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and gasteroesophageal gut syndrome (GERD).
Metabolic syndrome is a newer interest area. Sabinsa completed its first study on the effects of the curcuminoids in its Curcumin C3 Complex on metabolic syndrome–associated parameters. Patients receiving standard care for metabolic syndrome were given either a placebo or Curcumin C3 Complex (1000 mg/day) plus BioPerine. Compared to placebo, the curcumin intervention more effectively and significantly reduced markers such as LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoprotein(a), and significantly raised HDL cholesterol.
Bioavailability comparison studies also persist. Boston BioPharm (Boston) says it has a randomized controlled trial going on comparing its BioCurc 750P ingredient to a comparator curcumin product. The study will complete in March.
OmniActive Health Technologies (Morristown, NJ) completed its first human study (12 subjects) on its bioavailable CurcuWin ingredient comparing it to curcumin ingredients from other suppliers, including Sabinsa, DolCas Biotech (Landing, NJ), and Indena, with CurcuWin outperforming, according to the study researchers. Although Sabinsa’s Majeed contends that this is not an apples-to-apples study because the Sabinsa material used in the study was primarily 95% standard curcuminoid material, not a modified curcumin like CurcuWin or Curcumin C3 Complex with BioPerine, OmniActive says that with the data from this first human bioavailability study in hand, it will now pursue other human studies on CurcuWin to “support new positioning and substantiated claims.”
Turmeric may not be seeing the same level of growth in food yet, but turmeric is beginning to feature in some beverages. Drink marketers seem to be embracing turmeric’s yellow color. “U.S. food companies focus a lot on taste, and therefore that’s what the focus will be with curcumin, so [curcumin’s yellow color] stays the same throughout most [existing] turmeric formulations,” Majeed says. “Success in the United States will hinge more on taste than anything else.”
Still, he says, “The potential for the food side has yet to gain from the true functional side of curcumin’s use. Right now, it’s all been on the supplement side.”
Other species beyond Curcuma longa, such as Curcuma xanthorrhiza, may hold additional health opportunities, says Nutritional Outlook editorial advisory board member Dallas Clouatre, consultant for Jarrow Formulas.
2015 Ingredients to Watch
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