Curcumin Micelle Bioavailability Is “Unrivaled,” Study Researchers Say


Micelles are lipid molecules that act as a carrier for lipophilic ingredients like curcumin, making them more soluble.

Curcumin delivered in aqueous micelles achieved “unrivaled” bioavailability results in a new study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. The study compared the bioavailability of a native curcumin powder to the more bioavailable formats of a micronized curcumin powder or curcumin micelles.

Curcumin is lipophilic, making it poorly water soluble. Micronization and micelles are two approaches used in drug delivery to enhance bioavailability. Micronization is the reduction of particle size. Micelles are lipid molecules that act as a carrier for lipophilic ingredients like curcumin, making them more soluble.

The Molecular Nutrition & Food Research study was a 23-subject crossover trial comprising three study arms, each separated by a one-week washout period. Subjects were given a single, 500-mg dose of curcuminoids in either a native curcumin powder, micronized powder, or liquid micelles, mixed into 50 g of syrup.

Blood samples were taken throughout a 24-hour period. Researchers measured peak blood concentrations for total curcuminoids, including the time it took to reach peak concentration and the area under the curve (AUC). (The researchers said that AUC is the most reliable measure of the biological availability because it accounts for the entire response over time.)

The micelle format by far surpassed the other formats in bioavailability. Compared to native curcumin, the curcumin micelle had a 185-fold higher AUC. The micronized powder also performed well, with a 9-fold higher AUC than the native curcumin.
In their discussion, the researchers also compared their bioavailability results with those of other studies on other bioavailable curcumin forms, including the use of piperine (which had a 20-fold AUC increased bioavailability), turmeric essential oils (which had a 7-fold higher AUC bioavailability), and curcumin incorporated into lecithin (which has a 4-fold better absorption based on AUC). The researchers called micellar curcumin’s 185-fold AUC result “unrivaled.”

“[O]ur micellar delivery system, which enhanced curcumin bioavailability 185-fold (all subjects), appears to be superior to all hitherto tested formulations, while our micronisate (ninefold increase in AUC) is similarly effective as previously reported strategies,” they wrote.

The study also looked at the differences in bioavailability between the sexes. The study, which included 13 women and 10 men, found that women absorbed curcumin more efficiently. The researchers said that this angle warrants further study.

Curcumin’s bioavailability is often limited due to its poor solubility in the aqueous phase of the digestive tract and the fact that the body rapidly metabolizes and excretes it, explained ingredient supplier Frutarom (North Bergen, NJ) in a press release. The company supplies its NovaSOL brand of curcumin micelles and says that “using a small, single dose of NovaSOL curcumin is the bioavailable equivalent to high, multiple-gram doses of a standard extract.”

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