Curcumin plus iron combination may boost levels of key brain health marker: RCT

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© metamorworks / Getty Images
© metamorworks / Getty Images

Related tags Curcumin Iron Brain health Cognition

A combination of curcumin and ferrous sulphate may boost levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which has been described as an important neurotrophic factor participating in memory and learning.

The effects were seen within six weeks of supplementation, according to results of a double blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study with 155 healthy participants.

Previous studies have reported that low or excessive levels of iron in the brain may reduce the expression of BDNF, while there is also data linking curcumin supplementation with higher BDNF levels in humans.

“The current study demonstrates for the first time that the co-administration of a bioavailable formulated curcumin supplement with ferrous sulphate containing 18 mg elemental iron for 42 days results in increased serum BDNF levels,”​ wrote researchers from the University of Westminster and Coventry University in the UK in the journal Antioxidants​.

“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.”

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The curcumin ingredient used in the study was HydroCurc, developed by Pharmako Biotechnologies using its LipiSperse technology to help increase the bioavailability of its curcuminoids. The ingredient is marketed by Pharmako’s sister company Gencor Pacific. Gencor funded the new study.

Chase Shryoc, Gencor's VP of Sales and Business Development, told NutraIngredients-USA that, while there are products on the market with HydroCurc, there isn't a product formulated with HydroCurc and ferrous sulphate on the market yet.

The company is working on the creation of a branded ingredient that combines both HydroCurc and iron, he added.

“We have not carried out a patent landscape analysis on the combination of these two ingredients as yet, we just completed the study, but Pharmako Biotechnologies is working on the development of the combination and since the combination will be utilizing the already patented LipiSperse technology developed by Pharmako, we will certainly investigate that possibility,” ​said Shyroc.

Jith Veeravalli, Gencor CEO, added: “Gencor is continuing lab and clinical work on the combination of Hydrocurc and Iron supplement to build a strong claims basis for cognition and brain health.”

Study details

The UK-based scientists recruited 155 healthy adults between 19 and 40 who were then randomized into five groups: 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.

The results indicated that participants supplemented with varied levels of both iron and HydroCurc experienced a statistically significant increase in BDNF levels between baseline and endpoint.

Specifically, people in the low dose iron plus curcumin group, mean BDNF increased from 30.3 ng/mL to 39.2 ng/mL after six weeks.

In addition, people who consumed the high dose iron plus curcumin experienced increases in BDNF from 30.85 ng/mL to 39.2 ng/mL, but these results were not statistically significant.

There was no curcumin-only group in the current study, which limited the researchers’ ability to elucidate if the observed BDNF increases were due to curcumin or the synergic effects of iron plus curcumin.

“The study results demonstrate for the first time that the co-administration of HydroCurc and iron resulted in an increase to BDNF levels,”​ commented Ramasamy Venkatesh, Managing Director of Gencor Pacific. “The findings have vast implications given the increasing concern of the general population with maintaining long-term cognitive function.

“We recognize that BDNF is critical for the maintenance of normal neurological function and energy homeostasis. Our findings go further in suggesting that the co-administration of iron and HydroCurc provide an additive effect on BDNF, thus aiding in improvement of cognitive functions such as learning and memory.”


Gencor’s Shyroc told us that Hydrocurc by itself is doing very well in the global market and is currently one of the top ten ingredients in the United States.

“It has won several international awards and received worldwide recognition,” ​he added. “Curcumin is poorly absorbed but HydroCurc overcomes this challenge giving products: Improved efficacy, faster onset of action, lower dosage, and improved user compliance.

“The potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of curcumin have led to HydroCurc’ s successful track record in products for joint health, cognitive health, sports recovery, healthy aging and liver support.”

Source: Antioxidants
2020, 9​(8), 645; doi: 10.3390/antiox9080645
“Co-Administration of Iron and a Bioavailable Curcumin Supplement Increases Serum BDNF Levels in Healthy Adults”
Authors: H. Tiekou Lorinczova et al.

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