Despite its clear ability to reduce markers of inflammation in laboratory studies, development of curcumin as a human nutraceutical has been hampered by one major obstacle. Curcumin in its natural state is not well absorbed from the human intestinal tract. In addition, it appears to be rapidly broken down both in the intestine and after absorption into the bloodstream.14,16,17
That has meant the need to deliver very large doses of the supplement, doses so large that in some cases people have balked at the size and number of capsules required to achieve a good effect.14,18,19 Doses as high as 12,000 mg (that's 12 grams, more than a third of an ounce) have been used in efforts to get significant amounts of curcumin into the bloodstream.18 At such high doses, even curcumin can produce uncomfortable symptoms such as abdominal fullness and bloating, though no true toxicity has been demonstrated.19
To improve effectiveness and reduce the dose size required, researchers in the rheumatoid arthritis study made use of a specialized curcumin complex that has increased bioavailability. Bioavailability is a measure of how much of a given dose of a drug or nutrient makes it into the bloodstream for delivery to target tissues.
Researchers showed in 2008 that curcumin's bioavailability could be enhanced through a very simple expedient process.14 Curcumin is first extracted from the turmeric root. Next, it is highly purified, and then reconstituted with certain other components of the original turmeric plant. Those constituents are thought to increase intestinal absorption and also reduce natural breakdown of curcumin in the body. The reconstituted curcumin mixture used by most Life Extension members today is called BCM-95®.14
Clinical studies of BCM-95® in human volunteers have shown that its bioavailability is nearly seven times greater than that of a standard extract of curcumin.14,15 BCM-95® was also more than six times as bioavailable as a leading mixture of curcumin with two other natural products, lecithin and piperine.14 BCM-95® is not only better absorbed than standard curcumin, it achieves significant blood levels and remains in the blood longer (See figure 1 above).15 This means that your body can reap the beneficial effects of curcumin for considerably longer. This advantage applies not only to rheumatoid arthritis, but to other conditions for which curcumin may be indicated.
Curcumin and Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis, long thought to be a purely "degenerative" disease, is now recognized to have multiple inflammatory components. Scientists are rapidly exploring curcumin's potential role in suppressing those inflammatory processes.
One of the key features of osteoarthritis is the breakdown of the slippery cartilage that lines joints, lubricating them and cushioning them from the impact of constant use.12 That cartilage breakdown is triggered by multiple pro-inflammatory signaling molecules, many of which are secreted from the membranes that line the joint.10
Studies now show that curcumin can protect this vital lubricating cartilage in several ways. Curcumin directly counteracts the effect of those inflammatory molecules, especially within cartilage cells themselves.12 In the joint-lining membranes, curcumin suppresses the growth of the inflammatory cells that are responsible for cartilage destruction.20 And curcumin even inhibits the "cartilage-eating" enzymes that carry out the destructive process itself.21,22
A pair of human studies showed that joint pain was reduced and joint function was improved, in patients taking a commercial curcumin complex that was formulated to improve absorption.23 Those studies, like the one detailed above, also demonstrated improvements in blood tests measuring inflammation.
Inflammation lies at the heart of virtually all diseases associated with aging. In fact, people with inflammatory conditions experience accelerated aging that affects every tissue and organ in their bodies.
Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most aggressive and destructive of the inflammatory conditions that afflict humans, and it is one that has proven resistant to all but the most dangerous forms of standard medical treatment.
Curcumin has held out great hope for management of all kinds of inflammatory diseases, but its benefits have been hampered by its poor absorption and availability to inflamed tissues. A superior-absorbing curcumin formulation( BCM-95®) has up to 7 times the bioavailability of commercial products.
A clinical trial of BCM-95® among sufferers of active rheumatoid arthritis demonstrated not only that the formula was safe, but also that the effectiveness of only 500 mg a day exceeded that of a standard anti-inflammatory drug.5
Additional new studies suggest that this curcumin formula can reduce obesity-associated inflammation as well.24 Together, these findings suggest that highly bioavailable curcumin represents an entirely new chapter in the management of some of humankind's most feared diseases.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.