Supplement: Curcumin – the #1 anti-cancer spice

Turmeric

Curcuma Longa aka Turmeric (from which Curcumin is extracted). Photo credit: http://www.eatlivegrowpaleo.com

 

Updated 17 August 2016:  This is a tip from a reader of this blog (thank you, Benoit!):  if you live in the European Union, there is another supplier of Nutrivene’s curcumin (the one that Dr Josh Trutt MD prefers).  This is a French company, Optim Curcuma.  I have done the sums (I will post the calculations), and unfortunately with Brexit, the GBP pound (£) is weak and this poor exchange rate means that you will end up paying more than if you bought off Amazon for Nutrivene Longvida.  Also, Optim Curcuma only has 400mg per capsule vs Nutrivene Longvida’s 500mg.  But if you are in a non-UK country, then Optim Curcuma might be a good option.

Updated 13 November 2014 with my cheapest source of Nutrivene curcumin:  this is the cheapest source of Nutrivene curcumin – eVitamin.com:  Now Foods CurcuBrain – it costs £13.14 (plus £4.95 for shipping – 5-7 business days).  Each capsule only contains 400mg of curcumin vs Nutrivene’s own-brand Longvida which contains 500mg/capsule.  However, Nutrivene Longvida in the UK costs £37.  So the cost savings is amazing.  Use this code 960497 and get US$5 off your order.

Curcumin has been touted as one of the best anti-cancer supplements.  It has the ability to suppress proliferation of a wide variety of tumour cells and has remarkable anti-inflammatory action.

According to the prestigious MD Anderson Medical Centre:  “there is no cancer that is not affected by curcumin.”

For that reason, curcumin is the #1 anti-cancer spice.

There is a host of curcumin supplements on the market.  So which one should you be using?  And how much should you be using?

The confusion often occurs when the terms curcumin and turmeric are used interchangeably.

Curcumin is the active ingredient of the spice, turmeric.  Turmeric itself is ground from a rhizome (a type of root), Curcuma Longa.

Curcumin is more concentrated and therefore potent than turmeric.  Curcumin is also more readily available (bio-available) to the body.  Turmeric isn’t.

I’m sure there are arguments in favour of using turmeric as it’s a whole food, whereas curcumin is just an extract and possibly missing a few tricks, but when we’re into therapeutic dosing for cancer, you can’t pussyfoot around with prophylactic dosages only suitable for flavouring a curry – curcumin is what you need, and most of the studies into turmeric are conducted using curcumin.

Furthermore, curcumin is a standardised extract, so you know exactly what you are getting whereas there are no guarantees what level of curcuminoids are in turmeric.

So when you choose a supplement, make sure you are choosing one which contains curcumin and not turmeric.

However, it is not enough to buy a supplement with “contains curcumin” on the label.

As with all other supplements, there are many brands of curcumin; however, not all of them are equal in terms of potency and bio-availability.

So which brand of curcumin should you choose to get the best value for your money, and more importantly, potency?

(after all, no use paying peanuts and getting something that just passes through your body without doing anything).

In my search for the best curcumin supplement, I was grateful to find that others had done all the hard work for me:

1. Margaret’sCorner is a blog by a woman who has myeloma and she has done an amazing amount of research and included scientific references, into curcumin. I would say she has one of the best reference sites on curcumin on the web – thank you for your wonderful work, Margaret!

http://margaret.healthblogs.org/life-with-myeloma/discovery-of-curcumin/bioavailability-of-curcumin/

2.  Dr Trutt MD runs an age-management practice and started researching curcumin and its use in Alzheimer’s.  Again, he’s done the research, and I highly-recommend his site for its clarity and integrity.

http://truttmd.com/curcumin-caveat-emptor-not-all-brands-are-created-equal/

Here’s what I’ve learned so far, and will hopefully help you to choose what curcumin to buy, and how to use curcumin to get the most bioavailability out of it.

How can I increase the bioavailability of curcumin?

Apparently, most of the curcumin we swallow goes into the intestinal tract and gets excreted by the body.

In order to increase the ability of the body to absorb curcumin you should:

  • take curcumin with fat because curcumin is fat-soluble (e.g. coconut milk, olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, fish oil).
  • take curcumin with a warm drink or mixed into a warm drink.
  • take curcumin which has been mixed with piperine (an extract of black pepper) or bioperine.  Warning re piperine:  some websites claim that this is not a good thing because (1) it irritates the digestive system and (2) it can also increase the bioavailability of other supplements (3) it can also decrease the bioavailability of other supplements (cf article:  “Piperine multiplies the strength of many supplements and drugs – Sabinsa claim that the biopeperin in their C3 complex is too low to cause such an effect]
  • take curcumin with quercetin.  Quercetin apparently inhibits the sulfotransferase enzymes which render curcumin relatively inactive. Take the quercetin 10-15 minutes before you take the curcumin.
  • take curcumin in several doses a day – curcumin when ingested reaches peak concentration (and this is a low concentration) within the first hour and this then decreases rapidly.  You want to ensure your tissues are constantly bathed in curcumin. 8g over 4 doses would be an ideal.

Debatable [your comments are welcome]:  you should NOT take curcumin with:

What brand of curcumin should I buy?

Sabinsa vs Meriva

Sabinsa CurcuminThe mainstream commercial shootout seems to be between Meriva and Sabinsa, both manufacturers of curcumin.

Meriva is the manufacturer of a phytosomal curcumin formulation.  Sabinsa of a Curcuminoid C3 complex.

Meriva state that their formulation is more bioavailable because their curcumin is embedded into phospholipids so that it passes through the cell membranes of the body more easily, into the cells.

Sabinsa uses piperine to enhance the bioavailability of their curcumin.

Furthermore, Sabinsa argue that its formulation reflects the unmodified and natural composition of curcumin, unlike Meriva’s.Meriva Curcumin

My interpretation is that Sabinsa believes that their curcumin is more of a wholefood, and it is possible that using unmodified curcumin has other health benefits for the body not available in Meriva’s version.

Sabinsa’s C3 complex has been used in several clinical trials. The blogger of Margaret’s Corner uses Sabinsa’s C3 complex.

Longvida vs Meriva vs BCM95 (super Biocurcumin, Curcugel)

Just when I was thinking: aha! Sabinsa is it! And about to place an order for 1kg of the powder, I came across research by Dr Josh Trutt into curcumin and Alzheimer’s.

According to Dr Trutt, there are only three brands of curcumin for which he has seen human pharmacokinetic studies (i.e. measuring the serum levels of the substance in blood):  Meriva (by Thorne), Longvida (by Verdure Sciences), and BCM-95, made by Arjuna Natural Extracts.

TwinPackBCM95

The full shoot-out is on his site, but the gist of it is that he favours Longvida over any other brand for its strength of research.

Note:  Dr Trutt’s speciality is anti-ageing medicine and he prefers Longvida because it has been clinically proven to bind to amyloid plaques (which are present in Alzheimer’s disease).  So whether Longvida works the same way with cancer is not something he covers in his talk.  But at least it can be shown that it can breach the blood-brain barrier, so it gets to the brain.  Meriva’s curcumin is used mainly for osteoarthritis trials, and that’s how it’s been marketed.

Is BCM-95/Curcugel liposomal curcumin?

I recently met a woman who said she was on liposomal curcumin.  Of course I got excited – wow, liposomal curcumin – imagine the bio-availability!  When I asked what sort of curcumin, she replied Curcugel.  I wasn’t aware then that Curcugel was BCM-95, so I looked further into it.  Now, BCM-95 works by binding curcumin to the essential oils of curcumin.  This is not the same as being a liposomal product.  A liposomal product, in my understanding is a bi-layer product, bound to phospholipids, which allow the product to better penetrate cells.  In this sense, I think Meriva is more liposomal in action than BCM-95.  I’d be interested to see what other practitioners have to say about the efficacy of BCM-95.

I looked at what Dr Trutt had to say about BCM-95:  At the date of his article, he claims that there are only a few human PK studies for BCM-95, and those are for small sample sizes.  Also, the results of one of the tests was in his opinion, ambiguous.  I will post more when I’ve managed to distill his talk

This is Dr Josh Trutt’s talk on vitamins, curcumin and Vitamin D.  I highly-recommend it for its clarity and depth:

At the end of the day, in order to determine what’s the best curcumin for you, you have to look at your blood tests before and after a 3-month trial of whatever brand you are using.  Look at the levels of CRP, CEA or whatever measure is used for your type of cancer, and see whether they go up or down.

1 November 2013:  well, I’ll be darned … just when I thought I’d sussed out all the brands of curcumin, along comes Theracurmin.  This works by grinding up the particles of curcumin finer, which in theory should make it more absorbable.  So what does Dr Trutt have to say (read the comments section):

“It looks like Theracurmin seriously misleads with the way they present their data. The short version is, they give you the impression that their awesome absorption is of free curcumin, when actually it is of curcumin metabolites– which are much easier to measure from any brand. Furthermore I have now seen a Theracurmin trial in pancreatic cancer which shows no activity despite the tremendous “absorption”– and in the (very) fine print it turns out that it’s not free curcumin at all… which is probably why there is no effect. So I’m now back to recommending Longvida instead… certainly for Alzheimer’s and probably for cancer prevention too.”

http://truttmd.com/curcumin-update-theracurmin/

The most bioavailable form of any supplement is given intravenously – Intravenous Curcumin:  It is possible to get intravenous curcumin in some German clinics.  Siebenhuner Clinic in Frankfurt offers IV C – but it’s very expensive around Euro 200 per infusion.  You can also get intravenous curcumin from Florian Schilling’s clinic in Munich.  This is the MOST bioavailable form of curcumin.  If you can afford it, do it!

Where can I buy curcumin?

In the UK, you can find Meriva and Sabinsa curcumin in the Doctor’s Best brand – the cheapest so far seems to be on Amazon.co.uk – here are the links to buy:

Meriva Curcumin

Sabinsa C3 Curcumin

BCM95 – there are several brands utilising BCM95, but Life Extension Foundation are reasonably priced, and the best deal I’ve found so far is an amazing twin-pack offer on Amazon.uk:  Life Extension Super Bio Curcumin 400 mg Caps, 60 ct (Pack of 2)

Longvida curcumin (UK) – Special Health Store (£37.51) or Detoxpeople.eu (£37.99) – please note, discounts may be available on bulk orders.

Or cheaper still: the US vitamin retailer – eVitamin.com:  Now Foods CurcuBrain – it costs £13.14 (plus £4.95 for shipping – 5-7 business days).  Each capsule only contains 400mg of curcumin vs Verdure’s Nutrivene Longvida which contains 500mg/capsule.  However, Nutrivene Longvida in the UK costs £37.51.  Here’s the cost breakdown:

NowFoods CurcuBrain – 400mg x 50 capsules = 20,000mg @ £18.09 = 0.09p/mg

Special Health Store – Longvida Nutrivene – 500mg x 60 capsules = 30,000mg @£37.51 = 0.13p/mg

Use this code 960497 and get US$5 off your order at eVitamins.com.  Please make sure you only order one bottle at a time otherwise you will incur customs duty and VAT on orders over £17.

Longvida curcumin (US)

AOR – Advanced Orthomolecular Research – also manufature a curcumin containing Longvida –  AOR Curcuviva.  However, each capsule of 348mg curcumin only contains 80mg of Longvida optimised curcumin.  And in the UK, they cost about the same, so you might as well go for Longvida proper.

In the US, check out Don’s excellent blog for best buys:

http://myelomahope.blogspot.co.uk/2007/05/curcumin-sources-in-usa.html

CameraZOOM-20140811133938137

Intravenous curcumin in light-proof sleeve. Taken at the Siebenhuhner clinic in Frankfurt.

Intravenous curcumin

I’m thrilled – I’ve found a source of intravenous curcumin.  However, it’s a compounding pharmacy near Frankfurt, Germany. They may not sell/ship to someone who is not a practitioner.  The pharmacy is Apotheke Koenigstein.  Please note:  the intravenous curcumin comes in 150mg vials.  It is not cheap.  Approximately Euro80 to Euro100 per vial, not including shipping.

The intravenous curcumin has to be diluted 1:10 at least in saline, and a special filter used to sift out any particles.  Also, intravenous curcumin is light-sensitive and has to be infused using a special light-proof infusion set (it’s black), and the infusion bottle covered in light-proof material. I’ve found that it sometimes “burns” the veins, and causes mild phlebitis.

How much curcumin should I take?

Dr Lise Alschuler, a naturopath, says that doses of 250mg to 8,000mg have been used in human studies for tumeric.  For standardised extracts like curcumin, it’s 250mg to 2,000mg.  Break the dose into different doses throughout the day.  Some people take up to 8 or 9 g, and take it all at once in a single dose.

http://www.drlise.net/attachments/tumeric.pdf

Side-effects

There can be side-effects with curcumin on high doses, including diarrhoea and skin rashes.  Also, if you are on blood-thinning drugs, or have an ulcer or gall-bladder problems check with your doctor if you should take curcumin.

If you are on chemotherapy, curcumin is an iron chelator, so could lead to an iron deficiency if you have marginal stores of iron.  Curcumin can lessen the side-effects of doxorubicin and cytoxan (cyclophosphamide).

http://margaret.healthblogs.org/life-with-myeloma/discovery-of-curcumin/curcumin-side-effects-and-warnings/

http://foodforbreastcancer.com/foods/turmeric

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Here is an excellent monograph on turmeric and curcumin, with an overview of how it works and other research:

http://www.drlise.net/attachments/tumeric.pdf

Here is a white paper from peer-review research into Longvida curcumin:  “WHITE_PAPER_-_Optimized_Curcumin_–_Myth_Versus_Fact“, from the Longvida website:

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Websites of curcumin manufacturers

In the interests of fairness, I include the websites of curcumin manufacturers so that people can make their own minds up about which brand suits them:

Sabinsa C3:  http://www.sabinsa.com/products/standardized-phytoextracts/c3/

Meriva curcumin:  http://www.indena.com/news/indena-wins-best-new-product-award/

BCM95:  http://www.bcm95.com/

Longvida:  http://www.longvida.com/index.php

Theracurmin:  http://www.integrativepro.com/About-Us/Press-Releases/Introducing-Water-Dispersible-Curcumin

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Research on curcumin and cancer:

Curcumin targets breast cancer stem-like cells with microtentacles that persist in mammospheres and promote attachment

http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2013/12/24/0008-5472.CAN-13-1778.long

– discusses curcumin’s anti-metastatic ability in breast cancer.

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