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Curcumin: New studies support brain and cardiovascular benefits

By Stephen DANIELLS , 11-Jun-2013

Daily supplements of curcumin – the natural pigment that gives the spice turmeric its yellow color – may support healthy aging, with two new studies indicating benefits for arterial aging and cognition.

Curcumin has increasingly come under the scientific spotlight in recent years, with studies investigating its potential health benefits.

As a result, curcumin has been linked to a range of health benefits, including potential protection against prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s, protection against heart failure, diabetes, and arthritis.

The first of the news studies, published in Experimental Gerontology and performed by scientists from the University of Colorado, found that curcumin was associated with improved vascular health in aging lab mice.

Supplementing the chow of aged mice with 0.2% curcumin “ameliorates age-associated large elastic artery stiffening, NO-mediated vascular endothelial dysfunction, oxidative stress and increases in collagen […] in mice”, wrote the researchers, led by Bradley Fleenor.

Study details

Fleenor and his co-workers gave old mice the equivalent of 14 grams per day of curcumin when compared with a 60 kg person.

“Because of curcumin's poor absorption and rapid metabolism, clinical trials in humans also have used high doses of curcumin (8 to 12 g) similar to the amount our old mice consumed, while observing only infrequent, minor side effects,” they explained.

“Our results provide the first evidence that dietary curcumin supplementation ameliorates two clinically important markers of arterial dysfunction with aging: large elastic artery stiffening and endothelial dysfunction.

“Given its accessibility and safety, these pre-clinical findings provide the experimental basis for future translational studies assessing the potential for curcumin to treat arterial dysfunction with aging and reduce CVD risk in humans,” they concluded.

Healthy brain aging

The second curcumin study, published in Biogerontology and performed by researchers from Selcuk University in Turkey, examined the effects of curcumin on cognitive functions in old female rats.

Lab animals were given either curcumin or corn oil (control) for seven days, and a further five days when they were tested using the Morris water maze.

Results showed that curcumin supplementation decreased the time needed by the animals to reach the platform, and also decreased the total distance traveled by the rats.

“In addition to the behavioral testing, biochemical results showed that MDA levels decreased in brain tissue by curcumin supplementation,” they said. MDA (malondialdehyde) is a marker of oxidative stress.

“It may be concluded that, curcumin supplementation improves cognitive functions by decreasing the lipid peroxidation in brain tissue of aged female rats.”

Sources:
1. Biogerontology
Volume 14, Number 2, Pages 187-196. doi: 10.1007/s10522-013-9422-y
“Curcumin improves spatial memory and decreases oxidative damage in aged female rats”
Authors: Belviranli M, Okudan N, Atalık KE, Oz M.
2. Experimental Gerontology
Volume 48, Number 2, Pages 269-276, doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2012.10.008
“Curcumin ameliorates arterial dysfunction and oxidative stress with aging”
Authors: BFleenor BS, Sindler AL, Marvi NK, Howell KL, Zigler ML, Yoshizawa M, Seals DR.

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