A Question About Curcumin (found in curry) - November 18, 2010

I got a question from Mike in South Carolina regarding curcumin consumption: "I have started taking Curcumin 95% total curcuminolds (rhizome-curcuma longa) (18:1) derived from turmeric . I was wondering if you know anything about whether it is beneficial in the fight against bladder cancer?"

Taken from "Foods to Fight Cancer" by Belivau and Gingras, curcumin as consumed in foods with curry (primarily in India) has been postulated (but not proved in peer-reviewed study) to be a factor in the dramatic difference in the rates of many types of cancer between India and North America/Europe. For men the rate of bladder cancer in India is 1/8 the rate in the USA.

The anti-promotional benefits (meaning it does not prevent cancer triggers, but impedes cancer formation) of curcumin are pretty well studied. It has a well demonstrated anti-inflammatory effect, which is vital for those with cancer tendencies. The link between consumption in pill or food has not been studied as well. In the US we are pre-disposed to isolate and deliver in pill form, such as you are taking. In general, it is not certain whether isolating the pure compound (curcumin in your case) is truly beneficial versus consuming it as food along with potentially beneficial corrolary compounds. In fact, as in the case of soy extracts, it may well be too much of a good thing and potentially harmful.

In the case of curcumin, it may not be so much harmful as a waste of time. Pure curcumin is not readily bio-available (your digestive system does not pass it readily into the bloodstream). But curcumin in curry form adds the synergistic compound piperine, which increases curcumin bioavailability by a factor of 10. Piperine is found in most forms of pepper - always an ingredient in curry mixes.

In summary, for bladder cancer: Curcumin good, taken regularly as a food along with piperine (most commonly in curry) very good, taken as an isolated chemical in a pill - not so much, albeit very convenient.


Anonymous said...

Yes, you are right - there is a mass of evidence that curcumin with biperene/black pepper is very helpful for BC. I take it myself - 6gms/day (2 x 3 x 1gm).

Here's some of the refs:
Cancer Research 68, 5345-5354, July 1, 2008. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-07-6805
International Braz J Urol Vol. 35 (3): 354-361, May - June, 2009

Good luck, Ian

Mike said...

I read a lot of positive research on this.It so happens that I also like black pepper and eat very much of it. I think that the two of them may be beneficial and I don't think they would cause any harm.
What about soy and is it harmful or helpful Steve?

Steve Kelley said...

Soy? Short answer:
Soy eaten as food -> no problem. Soy isolated as isoflavone supplements -> potentially dangerous, especially for women.

A good summary is provided in the Belivau book linked above, or tons of hits if you do a web search...

Rapid Iq said...

Did not know that it helps to fight BC. Thanks Steve. We, in India consume turmeric in various forms almost daily.

Anonymous said...

There is a supplement form that has been formulated to increase bioavailability. The formulation is called BCM-95 and several companies use this formulation in their supplement. One brand is Curcugel and there are others.