As curcumin becomes more popular, ingredient suppliers and manufacturers are making quality and research priorities.
A chemical compound found in turmeric (Curcuma longa), curcumin has been utilized for thousands of years as a spice in food and is known as a principal healing agent in ayurveda. Further, curcumin’s powerful antioxidant factor and anti-inflammatory effects have made it a rising ingredient on the market. According to Pete Maletto, president and senior scientist for New Jersey-based PTM Food Consulting, a company that has formulated a number of products with curcumin, the market for this active ingredient continues to grow as more scientific data continues to build about its benefits.
Maletto noted that “turmeric is so promising there have been more than 3,100 medical reports on animals and humans that show amazing promise in preventative medicine and has been found to have the following effects:
• Antioxidant: scavenges free radicals and inhibits lipid peroxide formation, especially in the liver
• Antitumoral: inhibits the formation of tumors, including cancerous ones
• Antimicrobial: inhibits the action of microorganisms such as bacteria
• Antihepatotoxic: has a protective effect on the liver
• Antihyperlipidemic: inhibits the excessive buildup of lipids in the blood
• Anti-inflammatory: reduces inflammation
• Anti-amyloid: destroys the deadly brain plaque beta amyloid.”
“Curcumin has been widely researched for its anti-inflammatory mechanisms. As we know, inflammation is the underlying cause of many diseases and ailments,” added New Jersey-based DolCas Biotech’s Lauren Goldberg-Samot, RD. “Curcumin’s chemical properties allow it to impact the body in such a way that gets to the root cause of these issues. For example, there is research that indicates curcumin not only affects neurotransmitters in the brain but can also disaggregate beta-amyloid plaques that cause cognitive issues.”
A Wide Range of Benefits
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin is beneficial to a number of the body’s systems. “Curcumin now has a place in supplements for joint health, inflammation, sports nutrition, liver support, healthy cholesterol support, general health and wellness and as an antioxidant,” explained Anurag Pande, PhD, vice president of scientific affairs for New Jersey-based Sabinsa Corporation. “There have been some interesting recent developments showing positive effects beyond curcumin’s joint health benefits, such as on lipid levels in obese and metabolic syndrome subjects.”
According to Pande, while the joint health supplement category was once limited to glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, curcumin can help reduce inflammation in the joints, helping to improve joint function and mobility and reduce stiffness. Additionally, curcumin can be used in place of NSAID drugs because it is unlikely to cause side effects. “Curcumin is an excellent free radical scavenger, which helps in maintaining the redox balance in the body and reduces oxidative stress,” Pande said.
While curcumin is well known for benefiting the joints, research has shown that it is being utilized for healthy aging and cognition as well. And with approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching retirement age each day, the demand for ingredients and products that will help them age gracefully is in high demand. “Healthy aging continues to be a focus for consumers, with brain aging gaining in importance,” said Jennifer Atkinson, marketing coordinator for Verdure Sciences in Indiana. “We see a demand for consumers to find supplements with the same clinical dose of supporting studies, in addition to the ability to want to learn more about ingredients, and the differences among different curcumins.”
DolCas Biotech’s Goldberg-Samot agreed that many curcumin supplements are being geared toward healthy aging and cognitive health. “The brain controls so much of the body that providing this type of support can help improve over all well being,” she explained. “We have concentrated our research on common diagnosed diseases, arthritis, cancer and depression, which can be brought on by stressful lifestyle habits and an aging population.”
Cardiovascular health is another promising area for curcumin. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, curcumin has been found to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels and to prevent the blood from clotting. “With increase in cardiovascular problems arising from dietary habits with high lipid levels and/or obesity, the use of the curcumin in management of healthy lipid levels has been of increasingly great interest,” Pande noted. “Several mechanisms related to its lipid management activity have been cited such as stimulating biliary excretion of lipids, down regulating the de novo lipid biosynthesis, etc. Clinical studies on curcumin in obese subjects as well as subjects with metabolic syndrome have shown its potential in management of lipid levels.”
Issues and Concerns
While curcumin does offer support to a number of the body’s systems, there can be issues such as quality, bioavailability and delivery that ingredients suppliers and manufacturers face head-on. “Consumers are concerned about a variety of issues concerning curcumin. They are concerned about pesticides, where the turmeric is grown, metal content, additives and solvent use,” said Goldberg-Samot. “They are also concerned about adulteration and use of synthetic compounds.”
DolCas Biotech’s curcumin, BCM95 is grown in India with minimal pesticide use and organic growing practices. BCM95 is 100 percent turmeric derived with no additives or fillers. “Manufacturers receive our documentation and know that we use equipment such as ICP-MS to test for heavy metals,” Goldberg-Samot said. “We only use class 3 solvents (the safest category) and use GC Headspace to test for residual solvents to ensure each batch is compliant with USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia) standard, ensuring a safe product.”
Formulation difficulties are another concern. According to Sabinsa’s Pande, curcumin is not easy to formulate for a number of reasons, one of which is the staining nature of the ingredient. “Understanding the need of the market, Sabinsa introduced various grades of Curcumin C3 Complex, such as HBD (high bulk density) and DC (directly compressible) versions.”
The company also recently introduced the water-soluble version, uC3 CLEAR, which supplies more curcumin to the body than ever in water-soluble form and can be formulated into a liquid dietary supplement without any unsavory appearance. “There has been a lot of demand from consumers for curcumin in beverage grade form, however owing to its poor solubility and staining nature it has been quite a challenge to provide beverage-grade curcumin,” Pande explained. “Using the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) ingredient Curcumin C3 Complex, scientists at Sabinsa formulated a beverage grade form of curcuminoids under the brand name of uC3 CLEAR which can provide them for beverages with stable formulation and good taste without compromising the quantity or quality.”
Verdure’s Longvida Optimized Curcumin was developed by neuroscientists approximately 10 years ago to answer the bioavailability issues associated with 95 percent curcumin to pass the blood-brain barrier and assist in healthy brain aging. According to Atkinson, Longvida’s SLCP (solid lipid curcumin particle) promotes absorption by lymphatic uptake of free curcumin on first pass metabolism, which allows Longvida to be better absorbed, maintain a higher half-life and is supported by several clinicals which ensures formulators of their choice. “There is a lot of chatter about bioavailability, but our foundation is based on bioavailability so there is not a need for us to develop a new curcumin product,” Atkinson said.
Research is Key
These days, research is incredibly important for both an ingredient and finished product to be successful. People want to know that the product they are purchasing is not only safe, but does what it claims to. “Manufacturers need to be sure to do their homework when it comes to claims that producers are making to ensure that the claims are backed by solid research (pre-clinical and clinical),” said Atkinson. “They need to ensure traceability of ingredients are equally important to the research and safety data.”
Sabinsa’s Pande agreed, noting that it is important for manufacturers to understand the needs of the market and provide products, which are not only safe and efficacious but also affordable for common person. “Sabinsa has been supporting clinical studies from independent researchers and universities by providing them quality ingredients and formulations on curcuminoids and thus enhancing the knowledge base of curcuminoids for whole dietary supplement industry. These efforts have resulted in the top-notch research on curcuminoids and results published in international journals bringing the benefits of curcumin to light.”
And while research is a vital part of gaining trust and educating the consumer, it has to be authentic. Verdure’s Atkinson said that the market is often tainted with companies trying to borrow science and technology from other companies, which can confuse consumers. “There are many more studies continuing which is great, however many companies do not have the understanding or desire to truthfully compare the data on the scientific merit,” she explained. “In addition, many consumer media places continue to write about the health benefits of turmeric from a generic standpoint however with optimized curcumins available, it is not apples to apples and we need to better educate.”
While the road may not be an easy one, the future seems to be bright for curcumin. “Today, the curcumin market is tipping toward becoming the next omega-3 of the dietary supplement industry with loads of new evidence pointing toward health benefits of this versatile natural compound,” Pande concluded. NIE
For More Information:
DolCas Biotech, (973) 347-1958
PTM Food Consulting, (888) 736-6339
Sabinsa Corporation, (732) 777-1111
Verdue Sciences, (317) 776-3600