Curcumin is a chemical compound isolated from Curcuma longa L. (turmeric) plants that is known in the nutrition community for its potential anti-inflammatory, anticancer and antimicrobial properties.1
Emerging studies are extending the reach of curcumin, opening doors to potential applications spanning areas such as cognition, immunity and skin health.
“Since the onset of the global pandemic, consumers have more frequently sought out natural solutions to cognitive well-being, mood, emotional and mental health, and many other subcategories in the brain and cognitive health space,” explained Kristen Marshall, digital marketing manager, Verdure Sciences. “In addition to increased interest driving demand for cognitive and brain solutions, there is increased demand from an aging population looking for natural solutions in a proactive approach to their health.”
Curcumin is answering the call, offering researched benefits to mood, memory, fatigue and overall cognitive function.
Supporting curcumin’s role in cognitive preservation and function is a new study showing curcumin (as HydroCurc, from Pharmako Biotechnologies) supplemented with iron increased serum brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), a protein found in the brain and key for maintenance of normal neuronal function and energy homeostasis.2 BDNF is also suggested to impact cognitive function, including learning and memory, according to Eric Meppem, commercial director, and George Kokkinis, technical director, Pharmako Biotechnologies.
In the six-week study of 155 participants, HydroCurc co-administered with iron demonstrated a 26% increase in BDNF in the low-dose iron arm (18 mg) and a 35% increase in BDNF in the high-dose iron arm (65 mg).
“There is significant impact for both people concerned with cognitive decline, and people looking to improve cognitive performance (for example students, executives and e-gamers),” the duo said of the results.
One study found curcumin (as Longvida, from Verdure Sciences) improved working memory, sustained attention, spatial memory and learning, and mood in healthy, older adults over a 28-day period.3 A later partial replication study sought to extend the findings of the earlier trial by including a 12-week assessment in addition to a 28-day testing session.4
“The primary objective of this new clinical trial was to evaluate whether the effects of the four-week trial could be replicated following 12 weeks supplementation,” Marshall explained.
Findings showed curcumin (as Longvida at 400 mg/d) improved measures of mood and cognition, such as decreased fatigue, lowered tension and anxiety, improved working memory, sustained attention, and improved spatial memory and learning.
“In conclusion, these data further support previous findings that Longvida curcumin improves working memory and mood as well as the possibility of learning in healthy individuals,” Marshall stated. “It is noteworthy that memory and fatigue are widely reported as the two more concerning non-physiological aspects of aging. This has potential promise to offset these effects and may also be relevant to conditions where mood and cognition are fragile.”
Immune health has been at the forefront of the ongoing global health crisis. Curcumin’s possible benefits to immunity are well-researched, with emerging evidence bolstering the compound’s reputation.
In a 2021 double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 40 healthy volunteers over the age of 60, 90 mg curcumin twice daily (as curcuRouge, from Robertet) for four weeks significantly decreased white blood cell count, neutrophil count and neutrophil ratio, and significantly increased lymphocyte ratio, resulting in a significant 11.3% decrease in neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio (NLR), compared to placebo.5
As noted in the study, “Elevated NLR has been reported as a sensitive marker for predicting poor prognosis in chronic inflammation-based diseases such as stroke, heart failure, colorectal cancer and diabetes, as well as acute inflammatory diseases such as bacterial and viral infections,” conveyed Laure Egoumenides, product manager at Robertet. “NLR is also known to increase with age and is considered to be an aging marker.”
As curcumin research evolves, new areas such as skin health come into view.
Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is characterized by red, itchy patches on the surface of the skin. According to the National Eczema Association, approximately 16.5 million U.S. adults have atopic dermatitis, with nearly 40% affected by moderate or severe disease. More than half (62.8%) of adults with moderate to severe disease report itching at least 12 hours per day.
Oral use of curcumin (as Meriva, from Indena) in subjects experiencing atopic dermatitis and treated with moisturizers and ceramide creams impacted skin reactions to internal and external stimulations.6 After 90 days, subjects using Meriva benefited from a more consistent control in skin discomforts and in the occurrence of skin breaks (from 100% to 63.6%). Individuals using Meriva also reported a greater reduction in oxidative stress, improvement in skin oxygenation and flux, and improvement of skin properties, such as oil and water content, hydration and elasticity.
Editor’s note: This article was excerpted from a longer feature, “The benefits and potential of curcumin” in the “Curcumin: Ancient botanical with modern results” digital magazine. Click the link and select it from the TOC to read the full feature.
Rachel Adams joined Informa’s Health & Nutrition Network in 2013. Her career in the natural products industry started with a food and beverage focus before transitioning into her role as managing editor of Natural Products INSIDER, where she covered the dietary supplement industry. Adams left Informa Markets in 2019.
1 Vollono L et al. “Potential of Curcumin in Skin Disorders.” Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2169.
2 Lorinczova TH et al. “Co-Administration of Iron and a Bioavailable Curcumin Supplement Increases Serum BDNF Levels in Healthy Adults.” Antioxidants (Basel). 2020;9(8):645.
3 Cox KH et al. “Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population.” J Psychopharmacol. 2015;29(5):642-651.
4 Cox KHM et al. “Further evidence of benefits to mood and working memory from lipidated curcumin [Longvida] in healthy older people: A 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled, partial replication study.” Nutrients. 2020;12(6):1678.
5 Kishimoto A et al. “Newly Developed Highly Bioavailable Curcumin Formulation, curcuRouge, Reduces Neutrophil/Lymphocyte Ratio in the Elderly: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.” J Nutr Sci. 2021;67(4):249-252.
6 Togni S et al. “Oral curcumin (Meriva) reduces symptoms and recurrence rates in subjects with atopic dermatitis.” Esper Dermatol. 2019;21(2-4):42-46.