The Evolution of Curcumin
In the past 15 years, knowledge of the many health benefits of curcumin increased dramatically, and so too did the research. It wasn’t long before standardized 95% curcumin extracts, or C95, started entering the health market. Although these products were a step above powdered turmeric in capsules, they still had very limited absorption, bioavailability, and benefit, and often caused indigestion or GI discomfort.
Although C95 was a step in the right direction, unfortunately, many factors are known to affect curcumin’s bioavailability:
• It has very poor solubility because it’s primarily fat soluble
• It rapidly degrades at physiological pH
• It is poorly absorbed in the gut
• It is rapidly metabolized
• It is rapidly eliminated
In addition to poor solubility and absorption, curcumin is highly conjugated in first-pass metabolism into metabolites of curcumin glucuronide and curcumin sulfate, which do not have the same bioactive properties of curcumin. This presystemic metabolism greatly reduces the amount of curcumin that can reach systemic circulation, necessitating very large doses to achieve any systemic presence.
However, black pepper contains an active compound that is a known inhibitor of hepatic and intestinal glucuronidation, and thus enhances curcumin’s bioavailability by preventing a significant portion of curcumin’s conversion to its metabolite. That’s why in India, black pepper is always combined with turmeric when cooking. Modern research has validated this ancient combination, which is highly effective in enhancing curcumin’s bioavailability. However, black pepper extract (piperine) as an adjuvant may be undesirable for certain patient populations, and it can also interact with a variety of drugs, in which case other alternatives may be more desirable.
Scientific efforts to enhance the absorbability and bioavailability of curcumin, both with and without black pepper, have led to an amazing new generation of curcumin products delivering measureable health benefits at smaller doses. That’s why it’s important to explain the difference to patients who may have tried turmeric or curcumin in the past. The new, high quality curcumin products are much better tolerated and highly efficacious. There are now a wide variety of high quality curcumin products to choose from, to meet the ever growing variety of needs.