Cognition boost: Curcumin and iron combination raises neuro growth factor BDNF in six-week study

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

A six-week study has shown that the supplementation of curcumin and iron can increase the amount of neuro growth factor BDNF. ©Getty Images
A six-week study has shown that the supplementation of curcumin and iron can increase the amount of neuro growth factor BDNF. ©Getty Images

Related tags Curcumin Iron Brain

Consuming a curcumin-enriched iron supplement for six weeks is able to significantly raise the level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is essential for normal neuronal function and energy homeostasis, as well as being linked to improved cognitive function.

Existing studies have shown that low or excessive levels of iron in the brain will reduce the expression of BDNF. There are also studies which suggest that curcumin supplementation can increase BDNF levels in humans​.

To find out if iron and curcumin combined could amplify the benefits, researchers from the University of Westminster and Coventry University conducted a six-week trial, with the findings published in Antioxidants ​recently.

Funded by Gencor Pacific, the trial recruited 155 healthy subjects between 19 and 40 who were then randomised into five groups.

The experiment matrix consisted of subjects who took 1) low dose iron (18mg) with no curcumin or 2) low dose iron (18mg) with 500mg curcumin or 3) high dose iron (65mg) with no curcumin or 4) high dose iron (65mg) with 500mg curcumin, or 5) placebo.

A highly bioavailable curcumin commercially available as HydroCurc was used in the trial. It is a proprietary formula developed by Pharmako Biotechnologies – the sister company of Gencor Pacific.  

Findings showed that subjects who have taken both iron and HydroCurc saw a steady increase in terms of mean BDNF levels.

In subjects who took low dose iron and curcumin, mean BDNF had increased from 30.28 ± 1.54 ng/mL to 31.42 ± 1.02 ng/mL halfway through the study. By the end of the study, their mean BDNF had reached 39.17 ± 4.96ng/mL.

In those who took high dose iron and curcumin, mean BDNF grew from 30.85 ± 1.99 ng/mL to 32.00 ± 1.29ng/mL to 39.16 ± 4.96 by the end of the study, but the results were not statistically significant.

No significant increase in BDNF was seen in the group which took only low dose iron, while a slight increase was seen in the group which took only high dose iron.

“The addition of curcumin may therefore provide a novel approach to iron supplementation and possibly enhance the iron-associated cognitive benefits linked to increased serum BDNF levels,”​ the researchers said, adding that the findings were supportive of previous studies.

However, as there was an absence of a curcumin-only group in the current study, they could not confirm if the increase in serum BDNF was solely due to curcumin or the synergic effects of both iron and curcumin.

Baseline matters

In addition, the researchers pointed out it was subjects with a lower ferritin (the protein that contains iron) levels that had a greater increase in BDNF after supplementing iron and Hydrocurc.

This was evident when the participants were sub-grouped according to their baseline ferritin values.

As compared to subjects with normal baseline ferritin values, those with low ferritin values showed a greater increase in BDNF.

“This suggests that the addition of curcumin to 18 mg iron supplementation, in particular, may be most effective at enhancing serum BDNF levels in individuals with low ferritin levels,”​ the researchers said.


This is the Gencor Pacific’s first scientific study on the effects of iron and Hydrocurc combined.

It is expected to publish two more studies on Hydrocurc and its effects on iron metabolism, as well as how the formulation could impact the quality of life.

“Today, cognition is a huge area and is one of the hottest areas in our field. Our study with Hydrocurc is a pathbreaker for proving cognitive health benefits of Hydrocurc when co-administered with normal dietary intake of 18 mg iron, as the two combined can increase BDNF levels,” ​CEO Ramasamy Venkatesh told NutraIngredients-Asia. ​ 

He added that the company hoped to strengthen the science and function of curcumin via its research on the highly bioavailable curcumin formulation.

“People are confused between the terms turmeric, curcumin, and what do they do because the number of market players is high, the messaging has been all over the place, that is why we are very focused on dealing with the science,”​ he said.

At present, Hydrocurc is used in beverages for promoting calm and focus as seen in GNC’s Moji. It can also be applied to powder, capsule, tablet, RTD mix and shakes products.


Source: Antioxidants

Co-Administration of Iron and a Bioavailable Curcumin Supplement Increases Serum BDNF Levels in Healthy Adults

DOI: 10.3390/antiox9080645

Authors: Mohammed Gulrez Zariwala and et al

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