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Science Nook: A Review of Curcumin and Health

by Jenna Koroly, MS, RD, CSOWM, CDN

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the science nook this month will highlight the below article on curcumin and health, as well as research on the anti-infective properties of curcumin. Although most of our lives have been altered drastically over the past month, we can focus on certain aspects that we can control: food, exercise, and mindset.


Curcumin: A Review of Its Effects on Human Health

Journal: Foods

In this review article, the authors explore the benefits and mechanisms of action of curcumin, which is the active compound in the popular spice turmeric. They delve into the research behind curcumin as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound, and outline its potential impact on arthritis and metabolic syndrome.


The authors found:

1. As an antioxidant, curcumin can scavenge reactive oxygen and nitrogen species and inhibit reactive oxygen species generating enzymes, among other mechanisms

2. As an anti-inflammatory compound, curcumin can block the activation of a transcription factor called nuclear factor (NF)-κB, which may be increased by various inflammatory stimuli

3. Curcumin may be recommended for improving symptoms of arthritis, as well as improving multiple aspects of metabolic syndrome, including insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, inflammation, oxidative stress, and adipogenesis (formation of adipocytes, or fat cells) suppression

4. Benefits of curcumin are best achieved when combined with piperine (the active component in black pepper). The piperine significantly increases the bioavailability of curcumin [i]

For the Patient and Caregiver

Through numerous mechanisms, curcumin may act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound. Inflammation plays a role in many chronic diseases including cancers, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. The bioavailability of curcumin may be enhanced by combining it with black pepper, as well as a food source of fat (such as oils) [ii], which allows curcumin to be directly absorbed into the bloodstream. In a research article on the anti-infective properties of curcumin, it was also found to act against pathogens including influenza virus, hepatitis C virus, HIV, and strains of StaphylococcusStreptococcus, and Pseudomonas. The authors conclude that curcumin may be “active against different viruses, bacteria and fungi, including even highly pathogenic…strains” [iii]. Thus, you may improve your health by mixing turmeric, black pepper, and fats into your recipes.

For the Healthcare Team

It may be appropriate to recommend the use of turmeric in daily cooking, particularly in combination with black pepper and a source of fat, to improve overall health, as well as currently during the COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, there is a wealth of research on curcumin and cancer patients, as shown in this research article by Kunnumakkara AB et al., 2017. During this particular time of uncertainty and high stress, it is also important to encourage an overall nutritious eating pattern rich in whole foods, a consistent exercise routine using the many available workout apps for at home workouts, and meditation and other stress-reducing practices.

[i] Hewlings SJ & Kalman DS (2017). Curcumin: a review of its effects on human health. Foods, 6(10):92. doi: 10.3390/foods6100092
[ii] Greger M (2015). Why pepper boosts turmeric blood levels. Retrieved from https://nutritionfacts.org/2015/02/05/why-pepper-boosts-turmeric-blood-levels/
[iii] Praditya D, Kirchhoff L, Bruning J, Rachmawati H, Steinmann J, Steinmann E (2019). Anti-infective properties of the golden spice curcumin. Fron Microbiol, (10):912. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.00912

  1. This article was quite informative. I’ve been on and off with my turmeric, but this reminds me to start taking it again. Now!!

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