Press attention on curcumin creates apprehensive consumers but long-term benefits

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

getty | microgen
getty | microgen

Related tags Curcumin Joint health

“Consumers’ perception of curcumin supplements has evolved from accepting, to apprehensive” due to highly publicised liver damage cases but this will be good for the industry in the long-run, according to an industry expert.

The microscope on supplement safety has focused on botanicals such as turmeric after the ingredient was implicated in highly publicised incidences of liver injury, leading to the need for formulations to be thoroughly evaluated.

But Dolcas Biotech argues that its safety and clinical assessments will be instrumental in turning the tide of the European consumers back to being “accepting” and “welcoming”.

Discussing the tide change in this market, Dr. Shavon Jackson-Michel, Director of Medical & Scientific Affairs of Dolcas Biotech, says: "I think the European consumers’ perception of curcumin over the last decade has evolved from accepting to apprehensive, with concerns arising out of a handful of highly publicized, alarming - yet reversible cases of liver damage associated with curcumin intake.

"Although the air is starting to clear on the matter, finding connections to the concomitant intake of the black pepper derived liver-enzyme inhibiting extract piperine and/or other medications – and less so for the direct impact of curcuminoids alone – the conversations that have been a long-time coming are finally happening.

"In fact, conversations around supplement safety have concluded on the need for formulated ingredients to be thoroughly evaluated according to international standards and stand the test of scrutiny by the scientific community.

"For ingredients like curcuminoid extracts, wherein pharmaceutical technologies and adjuvants help to overcome bioavailability and efficacy concerns, the rigor of a full safety evaluation should not be optional – but standard."

Retaining inherent co-actives

Discussing what makes Dolcas Biotech's Curcugen ingredient stand out from the crowd, Dr. Shavon Jackson-Michel says: "Curcugen, while not using any pharmaceutical manipulations or additions, enhances the bioavailability of curcuminoids by retaining inherent turmeric coactives that would be removed and discarded by traditional extraction processes.

"The employed benefits of coexisting curcuminoid actives, like polar-resins, polysaccharides, essential oils and other unnamed constituents enhance the absorption and bioactivity profile of Curcugen."

Dr Jackson-Michel goes on to discuss the company's extensive testing regimen: "Not merely satisfied by the purity and fidelity of Curcugen to the food spice turmeric, DolCas has taken on the burden of proof to establish that its formulation and the bioavailability-enhancement that it avails, is safe. DolCas submitted the validity of its OECD-compliant safety evaluation of Curcugen as a 52-times bioavailability enhanced curcuminoids formulation to peer review, successfully culminating in the publication of its broad safety margins.

"Voluntary safety and clinical assessment of curcuminoids actives, to the extent that DolCas has commenced on Curcugen, will be instrumental in turning the tide of the European consumers back to being “accepting” and “welcoming” of curcumin ingredients soon."

Scientific studies with feeling

Curcugen was clinically studied for its impact on pain and functional use in aging adults with moderate knee pain in 2021. The published​ results in reducing pain were not only statistically significant but Curcugen’s pain-relieving benefit as assessed by the Knee Injury Osteoarthritis Outcomes Score (KOOS) inventory would be considered “worthwhile”​ to the subject - 10-point reduction in pain was gained from baseline to the end of the 8-week study.

"This game-changing endpoint contextualizes the pain benefit in subjects, wherein the results are considered perceptible and not merely a matter of calculated difference.

"Of all the pain studies conducted on curcumin extracts, Curcugen is the first oral preparation to establish this important benefit. As formulators seek out actives that will result in satisfied customers and repeat sales, this marketable benefit is both differentiating and powerful."

Challenges of curcumin

One of this ingredient's biggest challenges is that it stains. Dr Jackson-Michel says while the non-staining production feature for curcuminoids has garnered interest lately, it still often comes with bioavailability and clinical and safety aspects that are underevaluated, or unknown altogether.

"While Curcugen still stains, it does seem to stain less than traditionally extracted curcuminoids. Retaining a spectrum of native, non-pigmented turmeric actives that share space with the curcuminoids in formulation may be responsible for the reduced staining attribute.

"Beadlette technology – which is known to reduce the loading of actives – has been seamlessly applied to Curcugen to wholly eliminate the staining issue. DolCas also offers Curcugen beadlettes as a raw material and in formulation. Beyond the generally anticipated matter of staining Curcugen is not really challenged by any other manufacturing hurdle. If anything, its dispersibility benefit make it easy to work with for tableting, encapsulation and various other formatting." 

The joint health market

The joint health consumer demographic continues to be clustered around the aging population, which according to the Census is expected to nearly double by 2060. Aging adults are more active than ever and joint support ingredients that are proven safe and effective will be of value in speaking to the needs of this more medically managed group, says Dr Jackson-Michel.

"The joint health category is not a niche market," ​she argues, "In fact, while a small amount of momentum was lost during the pandemic as the market moved to immune support innovations, HerbalGram​ described it as taking the least hit of all ingredients losing sales in 2021. It was also projected not only to recover as an ingredient category, but to grow exponentially in the years ahead."

She adds that the market will continue to grow as the aging consumer audience grows, but it will also take a boost from the post-Covid increase in health enthusiasts and those trying to mitigate the effects of chronic stress with being in nature and increasing endorphin-producing physical activity as they cope and participate in self-care.

Precedence Research​ lists turmeric ingredients as one of the fastest growing segments into 2030 and as a leading joint active overall. A 2022 Global Market​ insights report notes collagen as an ingredient with the potential for explosive growth through 2032, with bone and joint support as a major driver fuelled by “rising arthritis prevalence”.



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