The New York Times on turmeric (curcumin) for joint pain

Our hometown newspaper, The New York Times, has featured a report on turmeric (also known by its most active medicinal ingredient, curcumin) for joint pain. The recommending physician is Dr. Minerva Santos, director of integrative medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York:

“I use a lot of turmeric in my practice,” she said. “It’s an amazing spice. Usually what I do is I make sure nothing else is going on, that it’s just plain old inflammation from wear and tear.”

While many people may encounter turmeric only in curry dishes and South Asian restaurants, Dr. Santos advises her patients to find it in health food stores in pill or capsule form. She recommends a dose of 1,000 milligrams a day. The benefit of buying it in a bottle, she said, is that it’s usually combined with a compound called piperine, which aids absorption.

NYBC stocks Curcumin (Jarrow) in two formats:

Curcumin 500mg/60

Curcumin 500mg/120

As new studies of Curcumin have emerged, NYBC also began stocking additional forms from Vibrant Health, which add bioperine (black pepper extract) for enhanced absorption:

Curcuminoids 1000 mg/30c w/bioperine

Curcuminoids 1000 mg/60c w/bioperine

Read the full story at http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/19/the-doctors-remedy-turmeric-for-joint-pain/?hp

Curcumin: An Old Spice Performs New Tricks

Curcumin is one of the main components of the Indian spice turmeric, and gives the spice its characteristic yellow color. Aside from its use in cooking, curcumin/turmeric also holds a position of esteem in the ancient Indian medical tradition called Ayurveda, where it is most frequently recommended to treat gastrointestinal disorders.

In recent decades, this old spice has drawn the attention of a large crop of US-based scientific researchers, who have focused on its powers to address illnesses including cancers, liver disease, and Alzheimer’s. A 2007 review of research concluded that curcumin could protect against skin, oral, intestinal and colon cancers by inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells, by restricting blood supply to tumors, and by other mechanisms as well. As a researcher at the M. C. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas has put it: “The reason curcumin is so effective against cancer is that it hits not just a single target or cell signalling pathway but dozens of targets implicated in cancer.”

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin has also been adopted as a potential therapeutic agent by scientists investigating difficult-to-treat liver disease. Preliminary research published in 2010 found that curcumin blocks several types of inflammation that can lead to cirrhosis (=scarring of tissue and destruction of liver function). The study authors suggest that the botanical, as a natural substance with few side effects, may ultimately prove a better treatment than currently available medications for some liver disease.

Frequently, supplement research looks for refinements and synergies in investigating the medicinal powers of traditional botanicals like curcumin. That’s been the case with a recent study involving Vitamin D3 and derivatives of curcumin known as curcuminoids. This combination of supplements, remarkably enough, proved helpful in clearing the kind of plaque in the brain that is associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Of course the University of California researchers who conducted this study are now looking for further confirmation of D3/curcuminoids as a preventive and as a therapy for Alzheimer’s.

NYBC stocks Curcumin (Jarrow) in two formats:

Curcumin 500mg/60

Curcumin 500mg/120

As new studies of Curcumin have emerged, NYBC also began stocking additional forms from Vibrant Health, which add bioperine (black pepper extract) for enhanced absorption:

Curcuminoids 1000 mg/30c w/bioperine

Curcuminoids 1000 mg/60c w/bioperine


References:

Surh YJ, Chun KS. Cancer chemopreventive effects of curcumin. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007.
Champeau, R. Vitamin D, curcumin may help clear amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s. Press release, UCLA, July 15, 2009.
Baghdasaryan, A et al. Curcumin improves sclerosing cholangitis in Mdr2-/- mice by inhibition of cholangiocyte inflammatory response and portal myofibroblast proliferation. Gut, 2010.

Supplements for the Brain (and Nerves)

“For Your Peace of Mind…”

Recent research on supplements for memory, cognition and other neurological functions
You may remember (we hope you remember!) the Scarecrow’s petition to the Wizard of Oz for a brain. Be advised–we at NYBC do not stock new brains, so don’t come to us with that request.

However, we do follow the sometimes startling new research on supplements, brain function and related neurological issues. In this department, there’s special cause for concern for people with HIV. According to a Canadian study released in 2010, in a group of 1615 people receiving treatment for HIV during the decade 1998-2008, one fourth had neurological problems, including memory loss, cognitive impairment and peripheral neuropathy. Of course being worried about brain function–and neurological function in general–is not unique to people with HIV. As people age, they are more likely to experience memory loss or forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s. And the nerve condition called peripheral neuropathy (pain, tingling in the feet and hands) is found not just in people with HIV, but also among the growing population with Type 2 diabetes.

Now, on to what we see as some of the most valuable recent findings about supplements and brain or neurological function:

B vitamins can be considered a foundation because they are needed in so many processes essential to the brain’s operation, from energy supply and healthy blood flow, to the formation of neurotransmitters (=chemical messengers of neurologic information from one cell to another). Furthermore, there is evidence that several groups of people, including those over 60 and those with HIV, have a greater risk for Vitamin B deficiencies. So supplementing with a B complex vitamin is a sensible start to cognitive health. More specifically, there is good research linking deficiency of vitamins B12 and B6 to mood disorders like depression—and depression earlier in life is associated with higher risk of dementia in later life. Last, there is also some evidence that B vitamins may reduce stroke risk in older people.

Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) support cognitive health in a variety of ways. In 2008, UCLA researchers reported on a lab study showing that the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, together with exercise, improved cognitive function. This caught our attention, because there is wide agreement that regular exercise strongly supports brain function as we age, and here the suggestion is that omega-3 fatty acids multiply that known benefit. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids/fish oil has also been linked to lower risk of depression—another plus. And still more: recent research found that omega-3 fatty acids block the development of retinopathy, a chief cause of blindness as we age. (The retina of the eye is actually part of the brain–it is full of nerve cells essential for vision.) All in all, the neurological benefits of omega-3 fatty acids seem both wide-ranging and quite convincing, so it’s high on our recommended list.

The amino acid acetylcarnitine has shown benefit for brain function in a number of studies with humans. In the last decade, acetylcarnitine has also been investigated for peripheral neuropathy in people with HIV. (Some recommend using it with evening primrose oil and Vitamin C.) A 2008 study found that acetylcarnitine influences a chemical process in the brain that triggers Alzheimer’s, so researchers are continuing to puzzle out how this supplement produces its neurological benefits.

Antioxidants. There’s much suggestive research about how antioxidants counter destructive oxidative processes in the brain, thus blocking memory loss and cognitive decline. For example, a 2003 report found that the antioxidant combination alpha lipoic acid and NAC reversed memory loss in aged laboratory mice. And there’s also been a lot of attention to the combination acetylcarnitine and alpha lipoic acid for memory impairment. Furthermore, other antioxidants such as curcumin are under study for their potential to fight the processes that lead to declining brain function.

Acetylcholine. The first neurotransmitter to be identified, acetylcholine is closely associated with memory, with lower levels linked to memory loss. NYBC currently stocks two combination supplements that support acetylcholine levels in the brain, while also providing other nutrients for neurological function: Neuro Optimizer (Jarrow), which includes acetylcholine enhancers, acetylcarnitine, and alpha lipoic acid; and Think Clearly (SuperNutrition), which includes B vitamins, as well as acetylcholine enhancers and a botanical traditionally used for cognitive support, ginkgo biloba.

Resveratrol. In the past decade, there has been intense scientific interest in this compound, most famously found in red wine. While some research ventures have hoped to find in resveratrol a life-extending supplement (a capacity demonstrated in animal studies), others have focused on its therapeutic value for conditions like diabetes or cognitive decline. For example, Cornell researchers reported in 2009 that resveratrol reduced the kind of plaque formation in animal brains that causes Alzheimer’s. And a year later another lab investigation, this one at Johns Hopkins, found that a moderate dose of the compound protected animal brains from stroke damage.

Ginkgo biloba, a botanical derived from Earth’s most ancient tree species, has been widely used for cognitive function. In the late 1990s, two reviews of dozens of ginkgo studies concluded that it could improve symptoms of dementia. However, a long-term trial of ginkgo published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2008 found that the supplement did not prevent development of dementia in a group of more than 3000 older people who had normal cognitive function at the start of the research. One possible conclusion: ginkgo may help symptoms of cognitive decline, but doesn’t address underlying causes.

NYBC’s RECOMMENDATIONS: A B complex supplement (like Jarrow’s B-right) and fish oil (like Jarrow’s Max DHA) are foundations for maintaining cognitive health, especially important for people with HIV or people over 60. There is some evidence for acetylcarnitine, alpha lipoic and acetylcholine supplementation for memory impairment and possibly for cognitive decline. Acetylcarnitine and other supplements can be used to address peripheral neuropathy. And stay tuned for emerging research on preserving brain function with compounds like resveratrol, NAC and curcumin.

Curcumin for strokes?

An article over at the BBC underscores a potential new use for curcumin, the substance derived from turmeric, in helping stroke patients. One thing would be nice is if they recognized the way it is used in Ayurvedic medicine. I.e., many formulas in traditions like Ayurveda (or Siddha) include honey, ghee or black pepper. These all can enhance the bioavailability of curcumin. Some may even help it to cross the blood-brain barrier. By contrast, it may merely need to reduce systemic inflammatory responses among cell types that do cross the BBB, thus reducing neuronal damage.

Coltect for Colon Cancer

Israeli scientists are describing results of early studies of a combination of curcumin, green tea polyphenols and selenium on colon cancer cell lines and in animal models. The early research is promising and the animal model testing suggests the combination can act to substantially reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. Human trials are needed to confirm the effect, of course. Read about it more on Ralph Moss’s website.

Curcumin and Fatty Liver

Yet another study finds a potential benefit for curcumin, one of the active constituents in the spice, turmeric. In this test tube study, they found a mechanism that explains how it may be of benefit in treating a fatty liver disease called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). This is a disease that can develop in people who are obese, have type 2 diabetes and is sometimes seen in people living with hepatitis C infection. It appears to interfere with the activity of a molecule, leptin, that, when levels are increased, can causes stellate cells to increase production of molecules (collagen) that result in scarring (fibrosis) of the liver. They also observed other potential mechanisms for action for curcumin.

As the authors say, it is about time for some clinical studies among humans! It is a safe, well-characterized agent and many humans have been using it for a long time. Does it work? Should it be prescribed?