Turmeric – also known as anti-inflammatory gold – is a spice that has become a popular addition to both food and dietary supplements. As well as quite literally adding a splash of gold to life, turmeric is also known for its many health benefits as both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory. Turmeric’s ability to soothe inflammations comes from its characteristic gold pigment and consists of a molecule called curcumin. However, it has been shown that curcumin has a so-called low bioavailability, meaning that our bodies have a tough time absorbing it. Luckily, there are all sorts of ways we can make it easier for our bodies to take in curcumin so that you can get as many health benefits as possible out of the turmeric you eat.
Fat and black pepper extract make it easier for our bodies to absorb curcumin
The positive health effects of turmeric piqued researchers’ interest back in the 1900s, and since then this interest has only increased. In the last decade, as turmeric has become more and more popular, the number of studies being conducted has continued to increase at a high tempo. Many studies have focused specifically on bioavailability, meaning the body’s ability to absorb curcumin. Early studies on the body’s ability to absorb curcumin indicated than an extract from black pepper, called piperine, increases bioavailability. More recent studies have found that fat can also make it easier for the body to take in curcumin, and the many studies that have been conducted in the last few years have focused specifically on fat and how it can increase bioavailability. It is thanks to these discoveries that turmeric is commonly combined with black pepper or fat.
What do the different combinations contain?
The black pepper extract, piperine, was one of the earliest methods to be discovered when it comes to improving the body’s ability to take in curcumin. As a result, this method has been in use for a lot longer than the new fat-based alternative that has been developed over the last decade. The reason why the body has a tough time absorbing curcumin is that it breaks down almost immediately and doesn’t stay in the body for very long. Piperine helps to stop the body from breaking down the curcumin molecule so that it stays in the body for longer, making it easier for the body to absorb it. However, the studies that combined curcumin and piperine were conducted on rats, not human beings, and we need significantly higher amounts of both piperine and curcumin in order to get the desired effect from the piperine. At the same time, piperine can have a negative impact on the effect of common medications, meaning we require higher doses of them.
This is the reason why fat is beneficial
As the technology has developed, all sorts of different fat solutions that increase bioavailability have come about, and combining curcumin with fat is the latest method identified by researchers. The reason for choosing fat specifically is simply that curcumin is a liposoluble (or fat-soluble) substance. If you use fat together with curcumin, the fat acts as an extra layer of protection around the curcumin that allows it to be transported to the cell membrane via extracellular fluids. This means that the curcumin is then present in our plasma. When the curcumin is encased in fat, it also becomes harder to break down, meaning it stays in our bodies for longer. A major benefit of combining curcumin with fat, especially in dietary supplements, is that you don’t need such high doses when using piperine. At the same time, it doesn’t have any impact on the body’s ability to absorb other medications, meaning there’s no need to increase their dosages.
Eat your turmeric fresh, as a powder or in dietary supplements
Turmeric is part of the ginger family and, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Eating turmeric, and therefore taking in curcumin, comes with a whole host of health benefits – especially if you eat it regularly. So, what’s the best way to get turmeric into your diet? If you want to add turmeric to your food, you can buy it fresh or as a powder. Why not try the Professor’s anti-inflammatory turmeric shot, a tasty drink and a great way to get some powdered turmeric into your body. The recipe recommends adding a table spoon of turmeric powder, which is the equivalent of around 250 – 400 mg of curcumin. If you prefer fresh turmeric, it’s easy to work with and really great for mixing into a tasty soup or salad. Turmeric is also available as a dietary supplement which is a nice and simple way of getting your full dose of curcumin every day. As a dietary supplement, the most effective method is to combine curcumin and fat – this will increase the bioavailability significantly, meaning you don’t need such high doses of curcumin. In dietary supplements that combine curcumin with fat, the bioavailability is often so high that it’s enough to take just one tablet per day.
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Sidney J. Stohs., Oliver Chen, Sidhartha D. Ray, Jin Ji, Luke R. Bucci and Harry G. Preuss. Highly Bioavailable Forms of Curcumin and Promising Avenues for Curcumin-Based Research and Application: A Review. Molecules. 2020 Mar; 25(6): 1397.
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